COAST Student Internships Summer 2016

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service West Coast Region Protected Resources Division Abalone Conservation and In-Situ Abalone Behavior Analysis Internship


Host: NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, fisheries management, enforcement, and habitat conservation. The NMFS West Coast Region works to conserve, protect, and manage resources under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and sustainably manage West Coast fisheries as guided by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act. The Protected Resources Division works to conserve and restore marine resources on the West Coast and is the region lead for ESA policy and coordination, recovery planning and implementation for marine species other than salmon and steelhead, and management and conservation of marine mammals under the MMPA.

Location: Based at either the NMFS West Coast Region Office in Long Beach or the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla depending on intern’s preference and capabilities; intern may be asked to travel between Long Beach and La Jolla initially; there may also be occasional travel to field sites throughout Southern California as needed.

Internship Dates: June 6 - August 19, 2016; start and end dates flexible with regard to student’s academic commitments.

Stipend: $4,000.00

Time Commitment: The internship is a full time, 11-week commitment. Over the 11 weeks, the intern may take up to five days off for personal reasons, vacation or illness. If participation is less than 100%, the stipend will be pro-rated.

Internship Focus: NMFS works in collaboration with many partners to protect and conserve abalone species along the U.S. west coast, by monitoring and evaluating the status of species, developing and implementing protections, and carrying out on-the-ground conservation efforts. Currently, white abalone and black abalone species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and green abalone, pink abalone, and pinto abalone species are listed as NMFS Species of Concern. This internship has two components and will involve working in an office setting and in the field:   

  1. The intern will evaluate the status of white abalone in southern California and Baja California. NMFS listed white abalone as federally endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2001 after conducting an in depth status review of the species. A federal recovery plan was issued for the species in 2008. Since that time, more published and unpublished information has become available on the species’ status. The ESA requires NMFS to review the species’ status every five years, so the intern’s first responsibility will be to gather, evaluate, and synthesize the best available data on the status of white abalone since 2008 and assist in the development of an informal status review document.
  2. The intern will assist NMFS scientists with analysis of still camera images of white abalone and pinto abalone in coordination with other members of our research team. The goals of this project are to review and record ecological and behavioral data extracted from two in-situ time-lapse cameras that began taking pictures every 10 minutes of white and pinto abalone in kelp beds off San Diego in January 2015. The results will help us better understand the movement and feeding patterns of these two extremely rare species in response to environmental (e.g., day versus night, temperature, lunar phase) and biotic (e.g. presence/absence of particular organisms) factors. This information will support informed decision-making regarding future abalone recovery activities. The intern will assist with the design and creation of a database for ecological and behavioral data extracted from imagery, will review data extracted from the cameras, and will enter those data into the database.

Depending on the intern’s experience and interests, the intern may participate in field activities, including deployment, retrieval and maintenance of the cameras and/or SCUBA diving to monitor wild white and pinto abalone in kelp beds along the southern California coast.

At the end of the internship, the intern will be expected to provide the following to NMFS:

  • A draft status review report for white abalone;
  • An organized in-situ camera database and metadata on data included in the database; and
  • A summary of the ecological and behavioral patterns observed in white and pinto abalone based on camera footage and monitoring efforts.

Project Responsibilities:

  1. Conduct a review of peer-reviewed and gray literature published since 2008 on the status and biology of white abalone.
  2. Work with biologists at local universities, non-governmental organizations, and state and federal agencies to gather the best available data on white abalone in southern California and Baja California.
  3. Evaluate and synthesize the best available data and information for white abalone into a draft informal status review document.
  4. Work with research team members to assist with the development of a database and develop metadata for metrics comprising the database. At a minimum, extract ecological and behavioral data for white and pinto abalone from the in-situ camera imagery and enter data into the database on a regular basis.
  5. Duties may also include deploying, retrieving and maintaining in-situ cameras.
  6. Optional (depending on experience and preference): Assist with SCUBA diving operations for southern California abalone monitoring projects.

Preferred Experience and Capabilities: This internship will require excellent verbal, written, and organizational skills. Experience with data management (Microsoft Office including Word, Excel, and Access) is desired. Fluency in Spanish is desired, but not required, since the intern may be contacting Mexican scientists as well as U.S. scientists for data. Dive experience and previous experience working with abalone conservation, monitoring, or image analysis is a plus. Intern must have the ability to participate in a team-oriented process while taking initiative and working independently. This internship may be based out of Long Beach, CA, San Diego, CA or both locations depending on the candidates’ logistical constraints.
NOTE: Scientific diving is NOT required for placement in this internship. However, if you are a current scientific diver, you may have the opportunity to participate in NOAA-led dives as part of this internship.

Skills Gained: The intern will gain perspective on science, management, and policy issues related to NMFS, the ESA, and abalone conservation in California. The intern will gain experience working with a small team and working independently to gather, evaluate, and synthesize information into a comprehensive status review document for white abalone. The intern will also gain hands-on experience working with a dynamic group to learn more about rare and imperiled abalone species and better understand how that ecological and behavioral information may be used by managers to implement on-the-ground abalone conservation efforts. The intern will learn how to operate in a professional office environment and interact with NMFS colleagues and partners at conservation organizations, universities, and state and federal agencies while contributing to abalone conservation efforts in southern California.

Eligibility/Requirements: The internship is intended for upperclassmen (juniors/seniors) and graduate students. Intern must be 18 years or older. Applicants must be able to work independently and interact in a professional manner with the project partners, the public, researchers, and other NMFS staff. Interns must be able to keep excellent notes and organize various streams of information into technical reports. Travel may be required aboard research vessels to execute this project. Applicants who wish to participate in SCUBA diving operations must include with their application: 1) a letter of reciprocity from their university’s dive safety officer (DSO) indicating that they are certified and authorized as a scientific diver (and will be for the duration of the internship) and 2) a short paragraph detailing their diving experience in temperate kelp forest conditions. They must also meet the following requirements:

  • Current AAUS certified Scientific Diver
  • DAN Insurance
  • Minimum of 50 dives in cold water kelp forest environment
  • Excellent underwater navigation skills
  • Ability to transport self and gear to office, lab and boat sites
  • Valid CA driver’s license

A Federal background investigation, to include fingerprints and character references, is required. Applicants are also subject to additional eligibility and requirements that can be found here.

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