Invasive Species Strike Team

Arizona Conservation Corps

Ajo, Arizona

Job Type Paid Internship
Salary Details $600 per week plus AmeriCorps Education Award & housing provided
Deadline Jan 13, 2024
Required Experience 0 - 1 years

Start/End Dates: February 19, 2024 – May 10, 2024 (anticipated dates)

Stipend: $600 per week living stipend +Education Award.

Term: 12 weeks, Full-Time (40 hours per week)

Reports To: Matthew Wilcox (USFWS Wildlife Refuge Specialist)

Location: Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge office (1611 North 2nd Avenue, Ajo, AZ 85321)

Status: 450-hour AmeriCorps Service Term

Benefits: AmeriCorps Education Award $1,718.25. On-site housing is available.


Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC):

Arizona Conservation Corps, a program of Conservation Legacy, aims to continue the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930's. AZCC is focused on connecting youth, young adults, and recent era military veterans with conservation service work projects on public lands. AZCC operates programs across Arizona that engage individuals and strengthen communities through service and conservation. AZCC has program offices in Flagstaff and Tucson. 

United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS):

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working with others, is responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people through Federal programs relating to migratory birds, endangered species, interjurisdictional fish and marine mammals, and inland sport fisheries. As part of its mission, the USFWS is charged with enforcing Federal Wildlife Laws and Protecting Endangered Species.

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is named after Cabeza Prieta Peak, a granite peak topped by basalt. In 1936 there was a large effort put forth by the BSA and conservation groups to preserve the desert bighorn sheep. In 1939, FDR created the Kofa and Cabeza Prieta Game Ranges, both of which became Refuges in 1975. The primary wildlife management today focuses on the endangered Sonoran pronghorn though there is still focus on the bighorn through wildlife waters and aerial surveys. The refuge itself is 860,000 acres with 803,000 acres of designated wilderness. The southern border of the refuge, approximately 56 miles, straddles the international border with Mexico. The Sonoran Desert is the most biodiverse in the world and looking at the whole desert you’ll see Cabeza Prieta NWR is right in the heart. Keeping invasive species from these fragile and precious landscapes is a priority.

Visitors can be limited by their vehicles in being able to reach the furthest extents of the refuge on public use roads and visitation usually only reaches around 2,500 annually. Range of temperatures throughout the year can dip to 20 degrees at night in the winter and up to 120 degrees in the summer during the day. The Refuge is headquartered in the small community of Ajo, Arizona.

Position Summary:

The Invasive Species Strike Team Interns will be focused primarily on conducting early detection surveys for an invasive winter annual, known as “stinknet” (Oncosiphon pilulifer), that has recently arrived on lands surrounding the Cabeza Prieta NWR. Interns will regularly survey and map high priority vectors, noting any infestations that are detected. Additionally, interns will conduct mechanical and/or chemical treatments on any populations found either on the Refuge or within the greater landscape in order to bolster regional control measures and prevent the establishment of this highly invasive species on Refuge lands. When not conducting stinknet surveys, interns will be contributing to the ongoing systematic mapping of other high priority invasives on the landscape, including buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and fountain grass (Cenchrus setaceus). This data will inform the development of an invasive plant management plan for the Refuge.

Stinknet is capable of displacing winter annual vegetation at an alarming rate and reducing the quality of habitat for trust species across the NWR, as well as impacting the health of visitors to the Refuge. The proximity of stinknet to Refuge lands and the suitability of habitat on the Refuge put the refuge ecosystem at risk. Additionally, buffelgrass and fountain grass are large perennial species that bring wildfire to an ecosystem not adapted to fire, thus threatening the plants and animals that live there.

Training will be provided in GIS; relevant databases; navigation; plant identification; herbicide use and handling; safe hand tool use and manual removal techniques; 4x4 driving. The interns will have the opportunity to take part in the Tri-National Sonoran Desert Symposium, which is a great opportunity to engage and discuss desert issues and accomplishments with others. Housing is provided for the interns during their term.

Essential Responsibilities and Functions:

  • Locate and positively ID populations of stinknet either on foot or by vehicle (site dependent) and collect samples for verification.
  • Immediately report and as soon as possible assist in the manual or chemical treatment of stinknet populations, either on the refuge or in surrounding
  • Track areas surveyed, document stinknet and other invasive plant detections and treatments performed in the NWRS Management Actions database.
  • Hike or drive to treatment sites as needed.
  • Treat invasive plants with refuge staff, regional land managers and/or fellow intern (depending on size and location of infestation).
  • Safely and effectively carry out treatment method prescribed for the target species and site. This may entail use of hand tools and/or herbicide.
  • Track treatments in the NWRS Management Actions database.
  • Conduct buffelgrass inventory in prioritized washes throughout the refuge with intern
  • Navigate to survey locations by both vehicle and foot; remote locations may entail backcountry camping.
  • Systematically survey for and locate invasive plants of interest, including buffelgrass, fountain grass, Sahara mustard, wild arugula, and sow thistle (among others).

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Willing and able to represent Arizona Conservation Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a professional, positive, and enthusiastic manner.
  • Ability to be both self-directed/work alone, and be a positive, contributing member of a
  • Must possess a valid driver's license and an insurable driving record (documentation to be provided upon request).
  • Willing to undergo and must pass required criminal history checks.
  • Ability to perform the essential duties of the position with or without reasonable
  • Experience in plant identification and/or familiarity with Sonoran Desert invasive species.
  • Ability to hike and work in hot conditions on rough, uneven terrain.
  • Effective oral and written communication skills with all ages and diverse audiences.
  • Ability to speak to the public.
  • Able and willing to perform duties outdoors in varying weather conditions, especially hot outdoor conditions.
  • Capable of participating in sustained physical labor including ability to frequently push, pull, and lift 40 lbs.
  • Ability to operate independently and in remote areas, potentially including backcountry
  • Competency in Microsoft Office.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Ability to follow assigned protocols to perform tasks with many steps.
  • Skills and ability to resolve a full range of problems or situations when performing a variety of tasks in the field or office setting.
  • Skill in maintaining and safely operating motorized vehicles and specialized equipment including highway vehicles, backpack sprayers, weed eaters, etc.
  • Experience and/or knowledge with GPS equipment and ArcGIS/ESRI products such as Field Maps.
  • Strong desire to enter the public service field as a natural resource professional.
  • Experience and/or knowledge in the mission of the USFWS and other federal land management agencies.

Physical Requirements:

  • To successfully perform essential functions, the individual is required to sit, stand, walk, speak, hear, etc. May be required to stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl for significant periods of time and be able to safely lift and carry 40 pounds on a routine basis.
  • Reasonable accommodations may be made for qualified individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. 

Participant Essential Eligibility Requirements:

Participation and Expedition Behavior:

  • Work effectively as a member of a team despite potentially stressful and difficult conditions. This may require problem solving on an interpersonal or group level as well as a willingness to accept differences. 
  • Contribute to a safe learning environment, no harassment of others for any reason.
  • Willingness and ability to complete all aspects of the program including conservation projects, education, training, and national service. Members must commit to participating in all crew/team activities, including service days in local communities where applicable. 
  • Effectively communicate ideas and concerns as they arise directly to supervisors, colleagues, and organization staff. 
  • Appropriately represent AmeriCorps, Arizona Conservation Corps, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at all times.

Safety and Judgment: 

  • Potential environmental/human risk involved activities include driving and/or hiking in remote areas, hazardous wildlife and vegetation in the area, border traffic (illegal
    immigration and Customs & Border Patrol activity), possible allergic reactions to stinknet.
  • Effectively communicate danger to others in the form of either a warning of danger others may be encountering or a notification of personal distress, injury or need for assistance. Must be able to do so at a distance of up to 50 meters and in conditions with limited visibility or loud background noise such as darkness or high winds.
  • Effectively perceive, understand, and follow direction by others so that you will be able to successfully execute techniques to manage hazards. 
  • Stay alert and focused for several hours at a time while traveling and working in varied weather conditions. 
  • Respond appropriately to stress or crisis.
  • If taking prescriptions medications, participants must be able to maintain proper dosage by self-medicating without assistance from others.

Environmental Ethics:

  • Learn and practice 'Leave no Trace' techniques.

Substance Free:

  • In accordance with a drug free workplace, alcohol and drugs are prohibited while participating in AmeriCorps and program activities and while on organization property. 

For more information on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, please visit their website at https://www.fws.gov/. Information on the Cabeza Prieta NWR can be found at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/cabeza-prieta

For more information about Arizona Conservation Corps, please visit https://azcorps.org/. Arizona Conservation Corps is a program of Conservation Legacy.


To Apply:  Please submit a resume and cover letter along with the online application at https://azcorps.org/ip-positions. If you have questions, contact AZCC’s Individual Placement Coordinator Preston Sands through the AZCC website. 

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

Category Botany, Restoration
Tags GIS