Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Climate Change without Oceans or Glaciers: Understanding Climate Change in the Great Smoky Mountains

NPS Unit: Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or Cherokee, North Carolina
Project Title:   Climate Change without Oceans or Glaciers: Understanding Climate Change in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Pay: Interns will be paid $12/hour for a total of 480 hours.
Position Description: This internship has two key foci:  maintaining and expanding a citizen science phenology monitoring program and deploying/maintaining a network of sensors that will assist with the development of localized climate models for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Monitoring of phenological events has been identified as a key part of the park’s Vital Signs Monitoring, helping to link the climatic and vegetation variables being monitored.  The intern will work with staff of both resource management and resource education to implement our phenology monitoring program in the Smokies. Portions of this monitoring will be accomplished with the assistance of citizen scientists and student groups. The intern will work with resource management and assist with fine tuning data sheets, establishing additional study plots, revising protocols, and assembling background information for training materials. The 2013 intern will work with resource education to train staff with field protocols to use with public programs, education groups, high school interns, and volunteers who are adopting monitoring plots.  Programs will be piloted during the summer with the assistance of staff at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center.  A concerted effort will be made to work with students from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, the largest underrepresented audience near the park, as well as the growing Hispanic community.  Several of the high school interns the GMW Climate Change Intern will work with will be hired out of those communities.  The intern may be asked to assist with the installation of phenology plots on tribal land adjacent to the park to facilitate involvement and learning within the tribe.The 2013 intern will also work with two university research partners who are developing a climate model for the park.  The intern will assemble, deploy, and maintain cloud water (Juvik) sensors throughout the upper elevations of the park as well as leaf moisture sensors that measure the capture of moisture from ground-level clouds, involving hiking and possible overnight camping.  Cloud cover and its moisture are the most significant factor in determining climate change in the high elevations of the southern Appalachians but are poorly understood, hampering the development of accurate climate models.  Dr. Ana Barros of Duke University feels that the greatest immediate threat from climate change in the next 20-30 years will be the decrease of light rainfall and changes in fog regimes and low level clouds. This sensor network will move us significantly closer to being able to predict how climate will impact the forest communities at different elevations and aspects within this and other montane terrain.  Other sensors deployed to assist in the development of local climate models, such as soil moisture, soil nutrient, rainfall, and air temperature probes may also be maintained by the intern.
Learning goals: The Intern will learn about the monitoring of phenology, both on the ground and with the use of satellite data.  The Intern will work with university researchers who are developing a high resolution model for precipitation and soil moisture for the park and will learn about their work.  The Intern will learn about the use of volunteer “citizen scientists” for data collection and will work with high school interns and volunteers from the general public.  Lastly, the intern will work with personnel from both the park’s Resource Management and Science branch and its Resource Education branch, learning how a large National Park protects its resources and informs its visitors.
Mentoring: Initially, the intern will get an orientation to the park and its divisions.  They will spend time learning about both Resource Education and Resource Management.  We plan to have the intern attend parts of the seasonal interpretative training which includes resource management updates.  It is anticipated that we will need to train the intern in how to use the Adobe InDesign Creative Suites to produce support materials, a basic instruction in Access for data entry and support from our data management team in developing field apps.  Drs. Ana Barros (Duke University) and Jason Fridley (Syracuse University) or their graduate students/post docs will work with the intern to prepare them to assemble, install, and maintain the sensor network, along with other park interns.  NPS staff from both Resource Management and Resource Education will work with the intern to develop any new data sheets and determine where to conduct field testing. The intern will initially work directly with NPS staff collecting data, but once he/she is comfortable, they will hopefully be able to train VIPs and others to follow the protocol, creating a sustainable data-collection environment.
Qualifications: Applicant should have had a field research methods course in botany, entomology,  climatology, forestry, ornithology or other related biological fields and an interest, if not prior experience with presenting public programs or other sorts of educational efforts.  Knowledge of desktop publishing packages, esp. Adobe InDesign, and in Access or similar database programs, would be a plus.  Ability to hike and camp overnight is required.
Position Dates: The dates are flexible, but ideally the intern would start May 21 or earlier and work 12 weeks from then.  This will allow them to participate in seasonal training.
Housing Available: Housing will be provided in the park, either near Gatlinburg, TN, or Cherokee, NC, at no cost to the participant.  It is likely that housing will be shared.  Bedding, towels and any specialty kitchen items are to be brought by the intern.
Vehicle/License Required: Vehicle is preferred since there isn’t any public transportation. Valid driver’s license is required, as intern will have to drive park vehicles for official internship business.
Work Environment: The work would be a mixture of office and field based.  It is expected that field work might include hiking on and off trail in a variety of weather conditions including rain, heat and humidity.  Nights can get very cool.  Wildlife encounters are not common but can include black bears and wasps.  Poison ivy is found in the Smokies at elevations below 5,000 feet.  The intern should be able to hike 5 – 10 miles per day on steep trails.  Position is expected to work Tuesday – Saturday from 8:00 – 4:30.  There may be a need for occasional shifts from that schedule due to long field days but intern will not work more than 40 hours per week.