scanning trees on the FERP

FERP Internships are available to all UCSC students

The UCSC-FERP is a living laboratory that provides opportunities for experiential and inquiry-based learning.  A beautiful 25-min walk takes students from Science Hill classrooms through forest and chaparral habitats to the FERP.   Class field trips, senior theses, independent studies, and internships are all welcome and encouraged on the FERP.   For questions, contact FERP and Campus Natural Reserve Manager Alex Jones  or FERP Director Greg Gilbert.

Internship opportunities
FERP interns get hands-on experience doing field ecology while contributing to the  long-term ecological monitoring of the forest, including growth, recruitment, and mortality of trees, spatial and temporal patterns in understory vegetation, forest phenology, population dynamics of herps and small mammals, trait-based ecology, soil, water, light, and meteorological monitoring, etc.  We are able to take up to 40 interns every quarter, and have some paid positions available for experiences FERPers to take leadership roles.

For Winter Quarter 2020, the available shifts are currently  Monday 8-2; Tuesday 10-4, Wednesday 10-4, Thursday 10-4, and Friday 11-5. 

How to enroll in an ENVS184 FERP Internship (2 units, 6h/wk)

FERP internships are available to all UCSC Students, with credit given through the Environmental Studies internship program.
Fill out this form to submit your internship contract to the ENVS internship office.
That form will generate two forms, with links you receive by email:
1. Agency Sponsor form: send to Alex at the Campus Natural Reserve at
2. Faculty Sponsor form: send to Professor Greg Gilbert at
If you run into any problems, or have any questions, contact the ENVS Internship Office at Email:   Phone: (831) 459-2104   Internship office: 491 ISB
Complete instructions on internship enrollment here

Internship overview and expectations:

A FERP internship will allow you to learn about your local environment, participate in ecological research with global impact, meet new friends and make connections. We are here to mentor you, and the more you interact with your crew mates, crew leader, Greg Gilbert, and your agency sponsors at the Campus Natural Reserve, the more you’ll get out of your experience.

Your crew leader will train you in the specific duties you’re expected to perform. Expect that you will be challenged with a wide variety of tasks and conditions while out in the field. Some areas we’ll be working in will have very dense vegetation, uneven terrain (downed logs, steep slopes), wet ground if it rains (puddles, mud, saturated soil), lots of poison oak, etc. It might be wet, cold, or hot, there may be spiders, ticks, vegetation in your face. We don’t mean for any of this to scare you away, because it will also be gorgeous. You will see something new each time we’re out there, especially if you’re paying attention and looking outward beyond yourself and into the wild, with your wild and open ears and eyes!

We expect you to:
•Show up on-time to 490 Natural Science 2 (= 5 minutes before shift starts), prepared with everything you need for your shift (appropriate clothing, food/water, etc.) and having already used the restroom.
• Communicate with your crew leader.  Text/call/email to communicate absences in advance. If you have to cancel at the last minute, e-mail and call or text your crew leader so that we don’t wait for you or think something happened.
• Collect accurate data.  Ask questions when you have them
• Be a good team player
Review our safety protocols and tips.  Be safe.  If there is a doubt, then there is no doubt.
• Take the initiative to make up missed shifts
Complete your three assignments on time and attend a talk (see below)
Complete 54 field hours and 6 assignment hours by the end of Week 10.  Alex will certify your hours when you turn in your time sheet.
– That means that you only need to attend 9 of the 10 required field shifts. Beware, while it is tempting to sleep in and miss a shift towards the beginning of the quarter, many of you will likely miss shifts towards to the end for holidays, strikes, or inclement weather. If you miss more than one shift, you need to make up those hours before the end of the quarter.
In addition, the ENVS Internship Program requires you to (1) attend an orientation seminar, (2) keep a weekly journal (~500 words a week), (3) Keep track of your time on this time sheet, (4) a midterm report (doc) (pdf), (5) attend a midterm seminar, (6) turn in a final 4-page analytical paper, and (7) complete and Evaluation of the Agency. Detailed information on these expectations is available through the Internship Handbook.   Due dates are here.
•Let us know if you’re having any issues that we might be able to help with.

Three FERP internship assignments and a talk

Post all assignments under miscellaneous assignments on Canvas:
Assignment 1: FERPonometry.    The FERP is about triangles and circles.  Learn how the FERP is set up while dusting off your trigonometry. Due Friday 5pm of week 2.
•Watch the FERPonometry training video.
•Complete the FERPonometry worksheet  and post it to Canvas
Complete the Responsible Conduct of Research handout and certification.  (use ucsc login)

Assignment 2: Scientific reasons for the FERP.  Learning to reading scientific papers is an important skill to develop. Please read one of these two peer-reviewed journal papers, come up with three thoughtful questions that are triggered by your reading, and post them to the miscellaneous assignments on the Canvas site. Due Friday 5pm of week 2.
•Gilbert, G.S. et al. 2010. Beyond the tropics: forest structure in a temperate forest mapped plot. Journal of Vegetation Science 21:388-405    appendices
•Anderson-Teixeira, K. J. + 107 coauthors. 2015.  CTFS-ForestGEO: a worldwide network monitoring forests in an era of global change. Global Change Biology 21:528-549.

Attend FERP overview talk FERP Founder and Director Greg Gilbert give two talks on the science behind the FERP during week 3. The two talks are the same, so you should just plan to attend one. This is a great way to contextualize what you do on the FERP, hear about what we’ve already learned from the FERP, learn about how FERPing shaped previous intern’s careers, and get answer two your three questions from Assignment 2.    Meetings for Winter 2019 will be held in 221 ISB on Wed  22 Jan from 5-6 and Friday 24 Jan from 12-1.


Assignment 3:  A FERP Field Guide  Create an illustrated field guide of at least 5 woody plant species from the FERPPost photos to miscellaneous assignments on the Canvas site.  Due by 5pm Friday of Week 4.
Each species should have its own page, and should include:
1. Sketches of the plant’s leaves, growth form, and any other unique features or plant parts (flowers, fruits, bark). Make drawings from live plants in the forest (on or off the FERP).   This is not about beautiful sketches – it is about looking closely to capture detail and information.
2. Common, scientific, and FERP 6-letter code names.  Resources include woody plant species from the FERP and calflora.
3. Identification information: Annotate the drawings the descriptions of the features that are most helpful to you when you’re distinguishing this species from others. Please don’t copy from a book or the internet—this info is often technical go from your direct observations and field training as much as possible.
4. Natural history notes: Published field guides can provide some of this info, but please use your own observations of the species. Where do you mostly see it? In sunny or shady areas? Is it an understory or canopy tree? What have you noticed about its size and distribution on the plot? Are there lots of saplings? That kind of stuff.

What to bring to your forest shifts

From home:

•Water (1 or 2 liters)
•Food (lunch and snacks)
– Layers appropriate for weather and how long you’ll be in the field. Long pants are best.
– Hat: A baseball hat or a warm hat in cold weather is a great idea.
– Footwear: FERP-specific boots or shoes will help contain poison oak oils.

If it’s raining or if it might rain
•Rain jacket (a must) and rain pants (less of a must, but still important)
•Rain boots (trails and the FERP can get very wet and muddy—12” deep puddles)
•Avoid cotton: Wet cotton clothing drains your body heat and can bring on hypothermia.
•You can get cheap rain gear downtown at Outdoor World or online (<$20 for cheap PVC gear). More expensive but more durable options are available online from REI or at the Patagonia outlet on River St. in Santa Cruz.

What we will provide

•Cotton coverall suits for poison oak protection
•Nitrile gloves
•Tools (calipers, compass, ipads, DBH tape, tags, etc.)
•Technu to wash off poison oak oils

Note on jumpsuits/coveralls: If we are working in an area with poison oak, you are required to wear a suit, even if you think you are immune. This is partly to protect you, but mostly to protect the large number of highly sensitive people across campus from the oils that would be on your clothes. We’ve already sent at least one person to the ER with systemic reaction to PO through secondary contact. Take off your cotton jumpsuit before coming back to the lab or office. Peel off your suit from the inside, so as not to let the outside touch your hands and clothes, then fold it up (inside out) and put it in the hamper in 490 Nat Sci 2 (FERP lab). Use Technu to wash exposed skin if you’re worried about contact with poison oak oil.

FERP Protocols and training materials

FERP Standard Recensus Protocol

Herps on the FERP Monitoring Protocol

Phenology LitterTraps_Protocol

FERP Phenology Litter Trap Field Guide

FERPonometry training video

FERPonometry worksheet

Measuring trees training video

Overview of the FERP video

Responsible Conduct of Research
handout and certification

time sheet

Trail map with Herp and Litter Traps

FERP Trail map with Herp and Litter Traps






FERP contact information

Agency sponsor

Alex Jones, UCSC Campus Natural Reserve Manager   831.459.5798

Faculty sponsor

Greg Gilbert, ENVS Professor & FERP Director  831.459.5002

Winter 2019 Crew Leaders

Monday 8:00 am-2:00 pm: Ishana Shukla
Tuesday 10:00 am-4:00 pm: Antonia (Toni) Jaroszewska
Thursday [TBD]: Patrick Lee
Friday 1:00 am-5:00 pm: Linnea Gullikson

Missing work and making up time

Canceling shifts

Though we work in the rain, we will occasionally have to cancel workdays due to high winds. If extremely stormy weather or other issues require that work be canceled, a supervisor will email all crew members, so please check your e-mail in the morning before heading to the lab. If you don’t receive an email and the weather is uncertain, we will still meet at the normal meeting place at the scheduled time and make our final decision then. We’ve called off too many shifts in advance only to have the sun come out and the wind die down a half hour later! We typically offer FERP shifts on Strike days for those who choose to come, but make sure to check your email prior to your shift to hear about the plan and your options.

If you can’t make your shift

If you know in advance that you cannot make a shift, please e-mail the shift leader as soon as possible. If you have to cancel at the last minute, you should e-mail and call or text your crew leader so that we don’t wait for you or think something happened.

Making up time

Between weather, illness, and all those other things that come up in life and prevent us from interning, there is a fair chance that you’ll miss a shift sometime during the quarter. You have several options to ensure that you get enough hours to complete the requirements of your internship. For any and all of these, make sure to communicate with your shift leader and keep track of your hours on your time sheet.

  • Don’t fall farther behind—keep going to your scheduled shift
  • Join another scheduled shift on another day (email Alex for help with coordinating this)
  • Data entry
  • Talk to Alex about other projects that could use your help
  • Ask Alex about connecting with Younger Lagoon Reserve or the UCSC Greenhouses to make up extra hours
FERP interns take a break for lunch

FERP interns take a break from mapping trees