Field Crew Leader in Forest and Fire Ecology (UC Student or spring 2023 UC graduate)

This 2023 recruitment has closed.

Employment period

Mid-June to late September 2023 (minimum), with potential for extension


Approximately $19/hour.


This position is for current UC students (any UC campus) or fall 2023 UC graduates. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and directly relevant professional field experience, consider our non-student crew lead position.

Field location

Mountains of Northern California (including the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades)

Office location (duty station)

Davis, CA (UC Davis)

Job purpose

Lead a three- or four-member field crew in performing plot surveys to collect forest vegetation data from burned and unburned forest sites. Most plot surveys will consist of revisits of plots established and surveyed in the previous year. The data will support research aiming to improve predictions of post-fire forest recovery. The work will also include surveys of overstory stand structure in burned and unburned forest to serve as validation data for efforts to use drone and satellite imagery to map forest structure.

The fieldwork will occur across the Mosquito, Caldor, Creek, and Dixie fires in northern California (Tahoe, Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra National Forests), as well as unburned stands on the Tahoe National Forest, and provide an opportunity to observe a diversity of California mountain landscapes and post-fire conditions.

Job description

The crew leader is responsible for leading and conducting field sampling. The crew leader will be responsible for the following:

  • Field data collection (75%): Lead a crew in collecting field data, including data on post-fire regenerating vegetation. Perform work alongside the other crew members while ensuring the crew’s work meets high quality standards, correctly follows all protocols, and is conducted efficiently.

  • Data and equipment management (15%): Ensure that equipment and data are managed properly (including quality-checking data sheets, uploading photos, and submitting completed data sheets to the supervisor at regular intervals); perform data entry at an office location.

  • Logistics, travel, and communication (10%): Lead a crew of four in locating remote field sites using mobile devices, topographic maps, compass; make decisions in the field regarding the most efficient allocation of crew time (e.g., determining the order in which to visit study plots to minimize hiking and driving time); communicate crew issues or other problems to the supervisor; ensure vehicle maintenance schedule is followed.

Work location

The duty station will be in Davis, CA. During the work week, crews will primarily be car camping near the project study sites on National Forests. Camping will usually be “dispersed camping” (undeveloped areas that are adjacent to remote roads and have no facilities) but will occasionally be in campsites (with campsite fees paid by employer). Camping location will change frequently as the crew moves to different study areas.

Work schedule

The work schedule will primarily consist of eight 10-hour days, beginning and ending on Wednesdays, followed by six days off, with the potential for some hitches consisting of four 10-hour days followed by three days off. The supervisor will attempt to accommodate the scheduling preferences of the crew, but crew members and crew leader must be flexible with respect to the work schedule. During fire season, smoke and fire hazard may necessitate rapid adjustments to work location or schedule (e.g., shifting departure and/or return dates to avoid hazardous weather conditions). In the event of extended periods of fire or smoke hazards that preclude fieldwork, the supervisor will attempt to arrange office work, but continuous full-time work during peak fire season cannot be guaranteed.

The field crew leader’s work will require some logistical coordination outside of the normal 10-day field hitches (e.g., to review/prepare field safety plans, print datasheets, and coordinate crew member schedules). When this work occurs outside the normal schedule of 80 hours every 2 weeks, it will generate overtime at 1.5x the hourly rate. It will not exceed 10 hours of extra time every 2 weeks and will generally be less than 5 hours.


Field campaigns will begin and end at the duty station in Davis, CA.

The crew will be provided a vehicle. Ability and willingness to contribute to the driving duties will be viewed favorably. Travel to field sites will require highway driving as well as driving on rough, remote, poorly-signed backcountry roads.

Equipment and gear

All necessary field equipment will be provided. Communal camping gear (e.g., water jugs and cooking gear) will also be provided. The crew leader and members will be responsible for their own personal camping gear and field clothing.


Training in field methods, equipment, and safety will be provided. Valid wilderness first aid (or more advanced) certification, or willingness to complete training prior to the start of the field season, is required (registration costs will be covered by the employer).

Work conditions/physical demands

Crew leader and members must be in very good physical condition. Field conditions will often be hot with little shade, but can also be very cold and potentially wet. Work will require hiking up to 8 miles per day (though usually much less) with a pack through sometimes difficult and steep terrain, usually without trails, usually in areas burned by wildfire, and sometimes with dense and/or thorny shrub cover. Comfort working under these conditions is essential! Because work will focus on areas that burned recently, shrub cover will rarely be excessively dense, but some areas of dense vegetation will occur. Work will involve camping, often with no facilities (see Work location, above). Work requires careful, legible handwriting and careful attention to detail.

Minimum qualifications

  • Progress toward a bachelor’s degree in ecology, natural resource management, or related natural science field
  • Excellent organizational skills for logistical planning, data management, crew management, and equipment management
  • Ability to take a leadership role and make executive decisions when needed
  • Experience in vegetation data collection
  • Comfort with and ability to maintain a positive attitude in physically demanding and/or uncomfortable conditions (see Work conditions/physical demands, above)
  • Skilled in navigating on- and off-trail using topographic maps, compass, mobile devices, and handheld GPS units
  • Experience camping in remote locations with no facilities
  • CPR and Wilderness First Aid certified (certification may be accomplished after job offer is made, with registration cost paid by the employer)

Preferred qualifications

  • Skilled in identifying California trees and shrubs
  • Experience in a group leadership role
  • Experience working with complex data recording equipment
  • Valid driver’s license; willingness to share driving responsibilities
  • Experience operating a vehicle on rough, remote roads

Application due date

Review of applications will begin on January 27, 2023.

To apply

Please submit a cover letter (including your interest in the position, relevant experience, and availability dates), CV/resume, and contact information for three references (including name, organization, email, and relationship to you) using this Google form. The form includes more detailed instructions. For questions about the position, contact Derek Young,