Crew Member: Ecological Monitoring in Las Cruces, NM
(Vegetation & Soil Survey)
Southwest Conservation Corps
in partnership with
The Bureau of Land Management
Position Title: Crew Member
Number of Positions: 4
Location: Las Cruces, NM
Program Dates: July 10-Dec 21, 2023
Living Allowance: $600-$640/week depending on experience
Plus Housing Allowance: $120/week
Weekly Schedule: Mostly 8 days on, 6 days off with lots of camping. Possible 4 on, 3 off.
- AmeriCorps Education Award of $3,247.50 (depending on term length and upon satisfactory completion of term)
- Paid attendance to Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder Recertification
- Or reimbursement if course was paid personally and taken after March 2022
- Or reimbursement up to $375 for attendance to Wilderness First Responder on personal time before start date
- $16/day food allowance if camping
- Uniform field shirt
- Other supplemental development funds
Hiring Benefits: Public Land Corps hiring authority: eligible to use, for two years upon completion of term, a noncompetitive hiring status for consideration when applying to competitive service positions for a federal agency. See below. Must be under age 31 upon issue of certificate.
Southwest Conservation Corps’s Mission
It is the mission of the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) to empower individuals to positively impact their lives, their communities, and the environment.
Bureau of Land Management’s Mission
The Bureau of Land Management's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Crews conduct vegetation monitoring using the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Terrestrial Assessment, Inventory, & Monitoring (AIM) methodology. More information on the BLM’s AIM strategy can be found on the AIM website: http://aim.landscapetoolbox.org/. Crews typically consist of three individuals: two crew members and one crew lead. Together, they monitor land health (i.e., soil and vegetation) on BLM lands including National Monument lands, vegetation treatments, burn scars, rangeland allotments, or reference areas using AIM methodology.
Crews undergo extensive technical training and orientation to SCC culture for the first 4+ weeks in the Field Office and at sites within Colorado. The rest of the term is typically routine, with the goal to sample a target number of plots using the AIM methodology. Within all plots, the crew identify vegetation to species, gather species cover and composition data using line-point intercept and gap measurements, measure soil stability, and describe the site and soil pits (50%). Data are georeferenced and entered into an ArcGIS database on site with ruggedized tablets, to be later synthesized into various reports for future land management planning.
Crews will maintain and track botanical specimens of known and unknown species throughout the field season and keep records updated as needed. The crew member will continuously learn the local flora and build botanical knowledge. The crew member should be curious about the natural systems they encounter and have a passion to grow and share that curiosity and knowledge with their teammates. Crews are based out of BLM Field Office buildings and will be under the direct mentorship and technical guidance of BLM staff personnel. This position uniquely provides the opportunity to develop relationships within and become familiar with the workings of the agency.
Fieldwork is in remote areas across a diversity of ecotypes. Crews are required to drive a company or government vehicle to several different areas of the Field Office and hike several miles per day, off trail, carrying equipment (25%) throughout a “hitch”. Hitches are typically 10-hour days, either 8 days on/6 days off or 4 days on/3 days off. They usually camp multiple nights and share camp meals and chores. One should be personally prepared to occasionally visit the field only for a day trip, returning to town that night in preparation for the next workday. Camping out as the default is expected. Gunnison’s temperatures will drop quicker than our other locations, so be prepared for colder weather during the fall.
With the unconventional and sometimes unexpected schedule, a level of flexibility is necessary to be successful. Fieldwork, by nature, is challenging, and we need folks who can be taken outside of their comfort zones. Especially while camping, crews should be willing to cultivate a positive, functional crew culture both during and outside of project hours. Because of the amount of time spent together, crew members should maintain awareness of their personal needs, too.
Crews return to the office for equipment and data management, unknown plant identification, and field work planning (20%). The crew may also assist with other public land management projects involving wildlife, range, recreation, rare plant monitoring, or forestry (5%), contingent on sampling productivity and BLM staff availability.
Housing is not provided, but we are glad to talk through your options with you in the interview and onward. Certain BLM FOs have limited partially subsidized housing or domicile parking available. For those lacking personal camping gear, we may be able to loan you gear. As we are a partnership with a federal agency, we are subject to halting work and pay in the case of a government shutdown, and backpay is not typical.
Crew Member’s Responsibilities
Participates in and contributes to all aspects of data collection, management, and quality control. Participates in and contributes to hitch preparation and planning, transportation of crew in the work vehicle, navigation to plots, equipment maintenance, and time tracking/management. Continuously learns the local flora and soils and builds botanical, soils, and landscape knowledge. Takes an active role in communicating their personal and professional development goals throughout the season.
Consistently exercises discretion and judgment. Takes an active role in identifying, communicating, and maintaining awareness of, and mitigating safety issues. Identifies, communicates, and solves problems ranging from technical, logistical, and interpersonal as they arise. Initiative and participation are expected at every step. Completes mid-term and end-of-term written evaluations for self and crew lead. Maintains adequate and professional communication and systems of feedback between fellow crew folk. The crew member should be passionate about sound science principles and have curiosity as to how the AIM data might be utilized.
- College coursework (2 years, at minimum) in ecology, botany, plant ecology, plant biology, plant systematics, soils science, geology, horticulture, natural resource management, environmental science, or a related field;
- OR previous college- or professional-level experience in the above fields, plus familiarity with data collection and sound science principles
- Eligible to accept a 900-hour service term with Americorps
- Aged between 21 and 30 (civilian) or 35 (veteran) years upon start date
- U.S. Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Residence and associated identification, including an image of a signed social security card AND another acceptable primary form of documentation
- Able to produce identification as stipulated by I-9 upon hire
- Valid US driver's license and insurable driving record
- Able to pass Conservation Legacy’s and the Department of Interior’s background checks
- Capable of standing and walking (at a minimum 6 miles/day on rough, steep, off-trail uneven terrain using a handheld GPS for route-finding), bending, crouching and stooping for long periods of time while taking precise, repetitive measurements, and lifting/carrying items that weigh up to 40 pounds, in upwards of 100-degree (F) heat while maintaining attention to detail and overall good humor
- Willing to spend multiple days (1-8 days at a time) making day trips and car-camping in remote areas
- Willing to adhere to best practices for field safety, comfort, and low-impact principles
- Can spend several hours per day and/or per week riding in, navigating with, and driving a four-wheel drive pick-up truck on- and off-highway, sometimes over/around tricky or unexpected obstacles
- Able to operate in both the office and the field.
- Experience with Microsoft Suite Software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) or other data-collection software
- Self-motivated, with strong work ethic, and able to both work independently with limited supervision and take direction and critical feedback.
- Excellent judgment in assessing physical, mental, and emotional risk
- Able to safely and effectively work in and around adverse conditions including extreme heat, sun exposure, monsoonal rains, and hazardous wildlife (i.e. rattlesnakes, scorpions, biting/stinging insects, cattle, and horses)
- Excited for the chance to have a close experience with the land while based in a federal land management agency
- Able to participate for the entire duration of the program dates
- Intentional education/experience with a formal or folk system to identify plants to species, especially in the field or from photos, pressed specimens, field guides, taxonomic keys, or other means
- Familiar with New Mexico, Colorado, or neighboring flora
- Familiar with taxonomic keys or deeper experience with floras from elsewhere in the world
- Experience working in regions with high floristic diversity
- Interest in large scale, spatially balanced monitoring designs
- Experience or education using taxonomic soil keys or equivalent mechanism to identify ecological sites
- Experience hand texturing various types of soils
- Experience digging quality soil pits to characterize and document all horizons
- Experience using soil series descriptions, web soil survey, or equivalent soil datasets
- Experience working as part of a small team and able to work well with others
- Excellent communication (including in-person, email, and phone), organizational, and planning skills
- Experience with ArcGIS Online interface
- Knowledge of downloading, using, and syncing ArcGIS Online Maps
- Experience collecting data, especially electronically
- Experience working or recreating in rangeland or desert systems
Public Land Corps:
The Public Land Corps program provides the opportunity for young people between the ages of 16 and 30 years to work on conservation projects on public lands. Participants must successfully complete 640 hours that include at least 120 hours on federal lands through the PLC. PLC members are not federal government employees, but those who successfully complete the PLC requirements are then eligible to use, for two years, a noncompetitive hiring status for consideration when applying to competitive service positions.
To apply, go to the position announcement
and click "APPLY" at the bottom.
We accept applicants with a range of backgrounds. This entry-level position is part of a developmental program that receives plenty of support. In your application, please write about how your experiences, personality, and motivations could make you a great fit, even if you don’t think you are a conventional candidate.
Select the "APPLY" button on this page to be taken to the application for this role.
Application involves 1) cover letter, 2) resume/CV, 3) at least two academic or professional, non-peer references, and 4) screening questions.
No letter of recommendation is needed. Incomplete applications are given less weight. Please apply with your full legal name, preferred name, and pronouns.
SCC offers several Ecological Monitoring crew positions across Colorado and New Mexico performing the terrestrial AIM methodology. If interested in multiple locations, please mention and rank location (dis)interest in both the application questionnaire and cover letter. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
We are accepting applications and offering interviews now. Feel free to reach out to Ecological Monitoring Program Manager Cassandra Owen (she/her/hers) at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Key words: ecological monitoring, botany, plants, botanical surveys, vegetation monitoring
This position is located in Las Cruces. View the Google Map in full screen.