Ecological Monitoring Lead

University of Montana & Bureau of Land Management

Bozeman, Montana

Job Type Temporary
Salary Details $20-23 per hour

The University of Montana (UM) O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West (OCRMW) is partnering with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement their Terrestrial Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) strategy. This protocol is targeted at collecting standardized inventory and long-term vegetation and soils data at multiple scales across BLM Districts in the Western U.S.  

We are currently recruiting Crew Leads/Botanists with experience in botany, ecology, and soil science for data collection in Bozeman, MT. The in-person start date is May 5, with two days of virtual training before that. Data collection occurs through August/September but some flexibility in end dates is possible.

The Crew Lead/Botanist will lead 1-2 technicians to collect vegetation and soils data in desert, sagebrush-steppe, and grassland ecosystems. Crews work eight-day hitches: 10-hours/day, from Tuesday-Tuesday, with a six-day break between hitches. All positions are field-based and require working and camping in isolated regions. We ask seasonal staff to commit to the entire field season, practice safety awareness, safe driving policies, and contribute to building a healthy, productive and enjoyable work environment. 

Applicants should understand that this is physically demanding work. Crews often work and camp in inclement weather conditions, frequently navigating rough, unpaved roads in 4x4 vehicles, and carrying heavy loads (40 lbs.) by foot over rugged desert and mountainous terrain. Sampling locations are occasionally near a small town, but these towns often have few amenities. Primitive camping is required. Cell phone service is limited. 

UM supplies all necessary monitoring equipment, including vehicles, to carry out the work. We provide some group camping gear (stoves, coolers). Individuals are responsible for their personal camping gear (tents, sleeping bags) but UM has camping gear available to borrow. 

The University of Montana is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer and has a strong institutional commitment to the principle of diversity in all areas. Applicants with diverse backgrounds, experiences, ability and perspectives are encouraged to apply.

Position Details 

  • Position is full time, temporary (< 4 months). 
  • Compensation is $20-$23 per hour, based on qualifications and experience. 
  • All positions include (tax-free): 
  • $268 meal per diem per 8-day hitch 
  • Field/Camping Equipment (kept by employee upon completion of field season, up to $600 value) 
  • Benefits include Worker’s Compensation coverage, three paid holidays and accrual of sick leave. 


Education and Experience 

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in biology, botany, soil science, range ecology, natural resources management, or related subject. 
  • A minimum of two full field seasons or one full year collecting vegetation and soils data in desert, sagebrush-steppe, grassland or similar plant community (BLM Terrestrial AIM experience preferred). A completed master’s degree with field work can satisfy this requirement. 

Preferred Technical Skills 

  • Experience identifying rangeland plants to species in the field using a dichotomous key (e.g., Flora of the Pacific Northwest, Hitchcock and Cronquist), including challenging taxa, such as Poaceae and Asteraceae. Crews may encounter 60-90 plant species in a single plot, in various phenological states.  
  • Familiarity with commonly accepted plant nomenclature and taxonomy. 
  • Experience preparing and organizing voucher and herbarium specimens. 
  • Ability to describe soil horizons, textures and stability and collect soil samples for analysis. 
  • Careful attention to detail. 
  • Experience carrying out data quality checks. 
  • Experience following established field protocols to conduct sampling and field data collection. 
  • Experience with data entry and management using electronic devices. 
  • Experience navigating off-trail with compass and GPS. 
  • Experience with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel) and preferably with Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123. 
  • Experience driving 4WD trucks, especially on rough and unmaintained roads. Valid driver’s license and clean driving record (DUI or other serious convictions need not apply).  
  • Certification in CPR and Wilderness First Aid. 

Professional Skills 

  • Experience supervising technicians, volunteers or undergraduate students. Leadership in a volunteer or community organization, or in the military, can satisfy this requirement. 
  • Demonstrated ability to resolve interpersonal conflict during stressful situations. 
  • Ability to interact with stakeholders and partners in a professional manner. 
  • Experience managing gear and equipment for a crew, lab class, team, etc. 
  • Demonstrated ability to work productively as part of a team to accomplish mutual goals and to work independently as required. 
  • Commitment to an entire field season. 

Physical Requirements 

  • Ability to carry 35 pounds in a backpack over rugged mountainous terrain, off-trail, for up to eight (8) miles a day, gaining up to 2000 ft. of elevation per day.  
  • Ability to dig soil pits in rocky and dense clay soils (70 cm deep). 
  • Willingness and ability to maintain a positive attitude in field conditions that include exposure to inclement weather, cold or hot weather (20°F–110°F), rugged terrain, mosquitos, venomous snakes, bears and other wildlife, lightning, wildfire, etc., all while maintaining a strong commitment to team safety required. 
  • Willingness to work irregular hours in harsh environments and challenging weather conditions. 


These positions are ideal for people who are committed to ongoing learning and development. You will receive paid training on AIM protocols and associated methodology. UM ecologists will also provide additional training on safety protocols and plant identification for the area in which you will be working, and ongoing field-based support and training from specialists during the field season. You will have the opportunity to interact with seasoned staff scientists from both the BLM and UM throughout training and field work.  

Employment Eligibility.  All New Employees must be eligible and show employment eligibility verification by the first date of employment at UM, as legally required (e.g., Form I-9). 


Hiring for this position is still ongoing!

Please submit the following documents to lauren.sinclair@mso.umt.edu. The subject line of the email should read "2024 Crew Lead Application”. 

Please combine all application materials into 2-3 documents. 

  • Letter of Interest
  • Detailed resume listing education and describing work experience 
  • Names and contact information for three (3) professional references 
  • Transcripts (Unofficial Transcripts are acceptable) 

When you apply, please indicate that you are responding to the posting on Conservation Job Board.

Category Botany , Ecology , General / Stewardship
Tags GIS , Soil Science