Science Communication and Resource Monitoring Intern

Dinosaur National Monument
Published
December 4, 2020
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Description

This internship will provide opportunities to observe, develop, and practice science communication strategies through a multidisciplinary project that combines interpretation/education with invertebrate research at Dinosaur National Monument (DNM). The interpretation/education component of the internship focuses on researching, developing and presenting interpretive programs that integrate citizen science into the visitor experience.

Interpretation at DNM includes well established programs to communicate topics of geology, paleontology, and dark skies to a variety of audiences, especially children. This internship will include participating in the established interpretive schedule of providing visitor services and public programs at the Quarry Visitor Center, Quarry Exhibit Hall, and Campgrounds alongside other interpretive staff. This internship will also include developing new interpretive programs or products that support a new natural resource study on two butterfly species that began in 2019.

The natural resource monitoring and research component of the internship focuses on a status assessment of pollinators, in particular monarch butterflies and bumblebees. The intern will be responsible for conducting field surveys to collect baseline data on monarch butterfly and bumblebee occurrence and habitat preference. Surveys will occur at both established/designated plots and in "opportunistic" plots at both DNM and the greater Uinta Basin. Standardized citizen science-based protocols will be used for milkweed and nectar plant surveys, egg and larvae, and adults surveys, and tracking parasitism and survival. The intern will also be paired with a dedicated pollinator project intern provided by the Bureau of Land Management (Vernal Field Office) to assist other local federal and state agencies with similar data collection as requested. There may also be an opportunity to conduct these same surveys across eastern Utah in partnership with the State of Utah.

The primary final product will be the submission of all project data to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to inform listing considerations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) via the citizen science-driven Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program (https://monarchjointvetnure.org/get-involved/mcsp-monitoring/field-activities). Tagging and parasite data collected during the project is provided to Southwest Monarch Study (https://www.swmonarchs.org/) and Project Monarch Health (https://www.monarchparasites.org/).

Other final products include a summary report of monarch and bumblebee activity for DNM resource management archives and a presentation of findings to partners and staff. Background on Monarch Butterfly The monarch is a currently proposed to be listed as a federally “threatened” species under the ESA. As such, the USFWS is gathering data on the monarch’s range, population numbers, habitat, breeding success, and threats. A listing decision is expected in December 2020. However, low monarch wintering and breeding numbers in 2020 remains a cause for concern and underscores the need for continued monitoring. While monarchs in the eastern United States are well understood, less is known about monarchs west of the Continental Divide. Of specific interest is understanding where western monarchs migrate to for the winter and what route they take.

DNM is located in the easternmost portion of the western monarch population's range. DNM began limited monitoring of monarchs in 2017-2018 as a result of a new partnership with Southwest Monarch Study. A comprehensive monitoring program began in earnest in 2019 with the award of an LHIP intern to DNM in both 2019 and 2020. This 2021 internship will continue the foundational work completed in 2019/2020, with the possibility to expand surveys to more locations throughout eastern Utah, the Uinta Basin, and on private lands.

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