Grand Canyon National Park: Be Part of Something Grand! Explore Climate Change Interpretation thru Plant Phenology

NPS Unit: Grand Canyon National Park
Location: Grand Canyon, AZ
Project Title:   Be Part of Something Grand! Explore Climate Change Interpretation thru Plant Phenology
Pay: Interns will be paid $12/hour for a total of 480 hours.
Position Description: This project will establish a citizen science phenological monitoring program for the Division of Interpretation and Resource Education in partnership with the Division of Science and Resource Management. Phenological monitoring has become widely accepted as one of the most effective ways to detect initial impacts of climate change on species, communities, and ecosytems. In addition, because of the simplicity of its methods, phenology provides an ideal means for engaging visitors and students as citizen scientists in the collection and interpretation of scientific data. Recent developments in the Department of the Interior indicate that a coordinated effort to design and implement phenological research and education in the national parks is timely and would contribute greatly to scientific and public understanding of long-term effects of climate change on natural resources.   

The Grand Canyon itself serves as a symbol of natural climate change as evidenced by the rock layers. The GMW Climate Change intern will develop program materials for the visiting public and school groups that juxtaposes naturally occurring climate change with accelerated climate change due to anthropogenic factors. Current pack rat midden research illustrates a change in flora at various elevations throughout the park over the last 40,000 years. By developing a plant phenological monitoring program, the park will then have a baseline for identifying climate change impacts on specific species at three elevations (along the Colorado River, in the inner canyon, and on the south rim) inside the park.


Program materials developed by the intern will provide the visiting public and students participating in in-parks education programs with the opportunity to observe, touch, and examine plants throughout the park, direct experiences that will enhance their understanding of climate change’s impacts. Further, it will contribute to the next generation of park stewards and contribute to a nation-wide plant phenology database while encouraging individuals to look beyond the park boundary and begin recording observations in their home communities.


Grand Canyon National Park does not currently have a climate change program. The climate change intern will develop the foundation on which to build a formal program that will serve the visiting public as well as student groups participating in in-park field trips, classroom based programs, and the park’s new distance learning program.

Learning goals: The incumbent will learn about the mission of the National Park Service and Grand Canyon National Park through a one-day workshop. Throughout the internship the student will visit multiple districts and become familiar with the great diversity that reaches from the depths of the river corridor to the canyon rim. In addition, the climate change intern will engage in an intensive 1-week training program. The intern will have one-on-one training with the Vegetation Program Manager and/or staff members to learn plant identification and phenophase development in each plant being monitored. The intern’s supervisor and District Interpreter will provide training in interpretation and curriculum development. The supervisor, in collaboration with the National Phenology Network’s outreach and education coordinator, will also provide training in phenology as a tool for monitoring species responses to climate change, site designation and data recording in Nature’s Notebook, and protocols for identifying and capturing phenophase data.  The intern will have a field day with the air quality specialist and the park’s Physical Science Program Manager to help them understand what external impacts are affecting park resources. Lastly, the intern will be provided with a resource manual of scientific publications/resources that capture climate change research that has been conducted or is ongoing in the Grand Canyon and on the Colorado Plateau.
Mentoring: The intern will be supervised by Stephanie Sutton, Village District Interpreter and Science Liaison. Stephanie has a master’s degree in Environmental Studies and her thesis work evaluated a citizen science, plant phenological monitoring program’s effectiveness at raising science literacy among English language learners. She is also a graduate advisor and will be directly involved in the student’s professional and educational development. Stephanie will play a critical role in training, establishing priorities, and providing day-to-day support, supervision, and direction for both the project and the intern.
Qualifications: Qualified candidates will possess:

  • General knowledge of the National Park Service mission and of the relationship of the Division of Interpretation, Education, and Partnerships to fulfilling the mission.
  • Coursework and/or experience in developing and presenting interpretive programs as well as K-8th grade education programs for diverse audiences.
  • Knowledge of or experience with the National Park Service Interpretive Development Program, the National Association of Interpretation Certified Interpreter Program or similar professional interpretive development program.
  • Coursework and/or experience in plant identification and/or plant ecology. Knowledge of the natural  resources of the Grand Canyon or Colorado Plateau helpful but not required.
  • Experience effectively handling a high volume of personal contacts .
  • Knowledge and skill in effective communication, both oral and written.
  • Ability to work effectively and harmoniously with diverse staff and visitors.
Position Dates: March 1, 2013 – May 30, 2013 (Dates are flexible)
Housing Available: Government housing is limited and is shared occupancy and/or rustic in nature. Shared quarters may require sharing kitchen, bathroom, and living space and/or may require sharing a bedroom. No pets, family members, or significant others are allowed in shared quarters. 

Housing will be paid for by GRCA’s Division of Interpretation & Resource Education’s VIP program

Vehicle/License Required: A vehicle can be useful but not required, however the intern must have a valid state driver’s license in order to operate a government vehicle.
Work Environment: These positions are located in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in northwest Arizona approximately 82 miles northwest of Flagstaff at an elevation of 7,300 feet. Temperatures range from approximately 85 degrees in the summer to 17 degrees in winter. Work is accomplished both indoors and outdoors, and may require standing, walking, or sitting for extended periods of time.  Outdoor terrain is often rough and uneven.  Schedules require working weekends, nights, and holidays. Grand Canyon Village has a school serving K-12, daycare facility, post office, banking facilities, general store, medical clinic with resident physicians, churches and various restaurants. Complete shopping, education, medical, and professional services are located in Flagstaff.