National Science Foundation/USGS Internship Opportunities

Wildlife responses to climate change

Northern New England is a fascinating landscape of conifers, unique wildlife, mountainous landscapes, and warming climates. Help us better understand whether red squirrel populations are responding to climate change and predict how that will impact the vulnerable boreal birds that they prey upon.

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Project Hypothesis or Objectives:

Little is known about how shifting small mammal populations in response to climate change will affect the bird species that they predate.  Overall, this project is relying on historical sampling as well as field surveys and live and camera trapping to examine how red squirrel populations are shifting (or not) in the mountains of the northeastern U.S.  The results of this work allow natural resource agencies to target efforts towards habitats and species of conservation concern. My near-term goal for an intern is to take all of the diverse data that we have collected over the last 3 years and help identify whether we are seeing an elevational or demographic shift in red squirrel populations.  The project, as part of the Northeast Climate Science Center, is driven by management concerns about the impacts of climate change on New England's boreal forests.

Duration: Up to 12 months

Internship Location: Amherst, MA

Field(s) of Study: Life Science, Natural resource conservation

Applicable NSF Division: IOS Integrative Organismal Systems, DEB Environmental Biology, EFMA Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities

Intern Type Preference: NSF Graduate Research Fellow (GRF) via the Graduate Research Intern Program (GRIP)

Keywords: Animal behavior, birds, climate change, conservation, ecology, field work, mammals, modeling, mountains,  natural resource management, wildlife

Expected Outcome:

Short-term outcomes from the project will include a peer-reviewed journal article and a presentation to management stakeholders as well as the regional research community.  In the longer term this work will build on a network of research that is looking at the impacts of climate change on the trailing edge of the boreal forest. Specifically for the intern, they will get an opportunity to develop not only quantitative, climate science, and field skills but also skills in knowledge coproduction, working with stakeholders, and building contacts in the research and management community.

Special skills/training Required:

The intern will be expected to be a team player and to work well with their supervisor and the rest of the research and management community.  They will need to be organized and self-motivated. There will be some field work involved, though if that is not the intern’s strong suit that does not need to be a main focus. Skills in ecological modeling are highly desirable, as is experience with R. Expertise in GIS and genetic analysis would be beneficial but not necessary.


As an intern at the Northeast Climate Science Center, you would be part of a 30+ graduate student/postdoctoral fellow interdisciplinary community that meets regularly and is provided a variety of capacity development opportunities. This includes being trained in techniques of knowledge coproduction and actionable science. You will be intellectually engaged in discussions of conservation genetics, wildlife/forest management, research design, and ecological modeling.  There will be specific training in quantitative techniques including occupancy modeling, spatial capture-recapture methods, and GIS. In addition, you will have some opportunity to conduct fieldwork in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, depending on interest. You will gain knowledge of the boreal and subboreal forests of northern New England; gain experience with live-trapping, handling, and radio-telemetry; learn how to camera trap for wildlife; develop communication skills through daily rapport with direct supervisors, local natural resource personnel, and the general public; and likely co-author a peer-reviewed journal publication.


Toni Lyn Morelli, Ph.D.

Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center
Phone: 413-545-2515