2024 Field crew positions in wildfire, forest resilience and prescribed fire monitoring with the UC Davis Safford Lab (keep checking back, as more positions will be added):

Field crew positions in 3D forest fuels characterization with terrestrial LiDAR and prescribed fire monitoring

Seasonal forest ecology and botany field crew members in collaboration with the US Forest Service Region 5 Ecology Program, southern Sierra Nevada

Are you a student interested in learning more about fire and forest ecology, or in summer field positions? Read on.

Why consider field work?

– If you already know that you want to be a field biologist, or a forest or fire ecologist, or want to test it out

– If you are interested in other types of ecology, you can still gain valuable experience learning about vegetation and working on a field crew (for any future position, your ability to work well with crew members will be an asset)

– It’s fun, challenging, and you’ll learn a lot

– You’ll work in beautiful, sometimes hard-to-reach parts of California and the West

Common requirements for hiring and how to prepare for them

We don’t usually require fieldwork experience for student assistant positions, but obviously it is a plus. You can fulfill many of our job requirements through coursework, outdoors experience, and through other jobs and volunteer work. Undergrads who have interned in our lab are also given preferential consideration (assuming they meet basic qualifications).

Common requirement How to prepare
Demonstrated interest in ecology
  • We often give preference to students who are in ecology-related majors.
  • Take lab courses that have some element of data collection. We want to see that you are able to follow directions and collect reliable data.
  • Undergrads are always welcome to join our lab meetings and see what we’re about! See below for info.
Attention to detail and work ethic
  • There are many ways to demonstrate attention to detail and strong work ethic. For most positions we offer, you can describe job experiences that are unrelated to field ecology or data collection.
Specialized knowledge in botany, fire ecology and/or forestry (for some positions)
  • California Floristics (or equivalent training) is a prerequisite for botany positions
  • Fire ecology and Trees and Forests will introduce forest mensuration techniques, which are a critical part of general forest ecology positions.
  • Several other classes teach plant sampling techniques; be on the lookout for these!
  • Some positions may require knowledge of fire behavior and management. This can be obtained by obtaining a federal fire fighter’s Red Card and/or attending a training, such as the two-week Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX)
Outdoor experience
All of our field positions involve hiking across rough and steep terrain. It is essential that you have experience hiking off-trail and feel comfortable being in places far from a marked path or road. Many positions require experience with dispersed camping (camping in remote areas outside of an official campground). Some positions also require experience backpacking (and for you to have at least some of your own gear).
You do not need to have grown up doing remote wilderness trips in order to become qualified! In fact, some members of the lab had never gone camping until undergrad. The UC Davis community offers many ways to pick up these skills:

  • Outdoor Adventures offers guided trips, including backpacking. OA provides you with gear and a guide who will plan everything, helping you to get comfortable. There is a fee for trips, but also a fee waiver program.
  • Ask around to join trips planned by experienced hikers/campers. The outdoors community is often very welcoming of new people, and someone is bound to have extra gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc.) that you can borrow. Though it may seem insignificant at the time, every trip you take will increase your comfort level with being in the backcountry.
  • For many of our positions, we offer sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and tents for use.
  • For backpacking crew positions, you would need to have also gone on multi-day backpacking trips that you have planned, to be able to prove self-sufficiency in the backcountry.
  • Joining a campus club could help you gain experience in the outdoors, and/or meet people who would like to adventure outdoors with you – e.g. Davis Hiking Club, Entomology Club at UC Davis, Society for Conservation Biology. There are more – search UC Davis clubs here.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training 

We require field crew members to have WFA training so that they can attend to their fellow crew members should the need arise. If you are hired to a crew, we will often be able to pay for your WFA course. However, the best thing to do is to take advantage of free WFA trainings when they are made available by UC Davis. This will strengthen your application and help your eligibility for projects that don’t have funding for training.


Current Opportunities:

  • Check back in winter and early spring quarter for summer positions with the Safford Lab. We typically post our job openings in early February and hire by early March.
  • This link includes examples of past job postings
  • We recommend the following websites to find additional job/internship postings from other labs and institutions:
    • UC Davis research opportunities for undergraduates list. Grad students, post-docs, and faculty at UC Davis post paid and unpaid positions on this list.
    • Ecolog listserv This is the major listserv for ecologists – research technician jobs/internships, graduate student positions, faculty positions, etc. are all advertised on this list. We recommend receiving these emails in digest form, otherwise it will clog your inbox (there are 10-30 messages/day). No need to be an ESA member!
    • Texas A&M job board Job openings for field technician, research scientist, graduate student, postdoctoral, faculty, etc. with a wildlife/fisheries focus.
    • Student Conservation Association These are volunteer positions, but usually include a stipend, housing, and/or additional expenses.
    • Americorps: These positions are not always ecology-oriented, but there are some positions that are (e.g., tracking tortoises in the Mojave Desert). These are usually volunteer positions (with small stipends) within the USA, and you receive an educational stipend for use towards your educational endeavors.
    • Federal Jobs: Student-intern or recent graduate positions are part of the Pathways Program, and are a great way to start working with the federal government.
    • The Great Basin Institute: This group has positions throughout the Western United States, including Nevada Conservation Corps, a Research Associates Program, Americorps Intern Program, and more.

Safford Lab Meetings:

If you’d like to get involved in the lab, attending lab meetings is a great way to meet us and learn more about the lab with no experience necessary. Our lab meetings are open to all and we welcome all interested undergrads! You can sign up for the safford-lab-affiliates listserv on sympa to hear about lab meeting times and topics.


Outdoor safety is of the utmost importance in field work. This can have many meanings, including having first aid training, being a safe driver, being aware of your personal abilities and limitations when off-trail, and – unfortunately – being prepared for potential hostile interactions with strangers. Many people, including some Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and women, may feel less safe in the wilderness or in rural areas (see resources above). We recognize that some people may have less experience doing solo trips or backpacking because of systemic barriers, lack of access to outdoor recreation opportunities, and/or fears about personal safety. There are university resources such as Outdoor Adventures and the Field Safety office that can help you gain some experience in the outdoors if you would like to pursue field ecology and don’t know where to start to get the required experience. If you join one of our crews, we as a lab will do all that we can to ensure every crew member is safe and secure in the field.