Natural Resource Interpretation and Visitor Services Assistant

Website Shenandoah National Park

Start Date: May 15th, 2023

End Date: August 4th, 2023

Compensation: $640 a week paid every two weeks. Travel costs to the site and back home are covered by the program. 

Personal vehicle is highly recommended

Application Due: February 6th, 2023

The Latino Heritage Internship Program seeks to engage ethnically and racially diverse young professionals in natural resource careers.

All interns must be fully vaccinated for covid-19 prior to the start of their internship.

Please Apply HERE

Position Description:

The majority of the intern’s time will be split between 3 major work duties: formal interpretive programming, visitor center staffing, and informal interpretation in the field.  

(30%) For formal interpretive programming, the participant will present at least one interpretive program that will be presented to visitors at least five times. This program will be an ongoing, independently researched and original, thematic interpretive program (such as a guided walk, talk, junior ranger program, and evening program) about the park’s significance to a wide variety of audiences. The program will focus on the park’s natural and cultural resources, emerging critical issues such as climate change and preservation of night skies, and other relevant park topics. Our programs are given at various park locations including campgrounds, trails, visitor centers, and historic buildings and range in length from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours. Audience sizes can vary from two to 50+ people.  

(30%) At visitor centers, the intern will help staff an information desk or station to provide orientation, education, and safety messages to visitors. (30%) The final third of the intern’s time will be spent providing informal interpretation and education during fixed station and roving assignments including on trails, picnic grounds, and visitor use areas. The intern may also participate in special programs and events and contribute to park publications and social media, depending on park needs and the intern’s interest and experience.  

Additional special projects can be designed within the intern’s abilities, time, and interest, including additional formal programming, social media contribution, or in-person or distance-learning educational programming.

The intern will receive at least 40 hours of formal training in interpretive skills, customer service, safety, park orientation and significance, and natural and cultural resources; plus 40 hours of on-the-job training in presenting interpretive programs and in visitor center, roving area trails and picnic grounds, and other park operations.  Training will be a combination of in-person and online/virtual. The intern will have the opportunity to shadow experienced staff in all major duties of the internship while their supervisor will provide one-on-one mentoring and coaching throughout the season.

The intern will be given the opportunity to include their personal and professional experiences and knowledge in developing their products, when contributing to the park’s media efforts, and while conducting educational/interpretive roving contacts with visitors in the field.  

While gaining the unique experience of working and living in a national park and learning about park operations and management, the intern will also be provided with tools for success should they wish to pursue a career in the National Park Service or similar public land management agencies. For example, they will be given the opportunity to learn about various work groups and the duties of different park staff, how to build a resume and application that conforms to NPS standards, and how to apply for park positions.

Intern Qualifications:

Interns selected for the NPSCF Program should possess:

  • An upper-level college coursework in natural and/or cultural resources and science in related subject matter like archaeology, paleontology, history, ecology, geology, wildlife biology, botany, evolution, climate change, earth science, and environmental studies
  • Good public speaking skills is crucial, as is a desire to work with the public
  • Proficiency with computers and basic office equipment is essential
  • Experience in exploring the outdoors such as hiking, camping, and backpacking is helpful.  A desire to work outside with the public, hiking trails and conducting formal interpretive programming is required
  • Spanish language fluency, although not required, would be a great benefit to the program in providing additional services and relevancy to our visitors
  • Demonstrated leadership skills and experience
  • Strategic thinking ability
  • The ability to self-start/work independently
  • Flexibility/resourcefulness
  • The ability to adapt new skills and ideas to the public sector

Physical/Natural Environment:

Shenandoah National Park lies along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in north central Virginia. The park consists of more than 197,000 acres of mountains, forests, meadows and streams including 79,579 acres of designated wilderness. The major access route through the park is the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive which provides opportunities for outstanding views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont from Skyline Drive’s numerous overlooks. There are more than 500 miles of hiking trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Historic sites in the park include Rapidan Camp, the historic “summer white house” of President Herbert Hoover.

Weather is variable throughout the season from cold, winter-like conditions in early May to hot, humid summer conditions in June, July and August. Temperatures are usually 8-10 degrees cooler on the mountain than they are in the surrounding lowland areas. Rain and thunderstorms are likely in the summer and some can be severe.

Depending on the location of the participant’s housing, the distance to the nearest large grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, doctor’s offices, etc. ranges from 5-25 miles with large urban areas within a 60-minute drive.  Although the closest local rural communities do not have large residential year-round Latino communities and neighborhoods, we do welcome many Latino visitors to the park to include visitors using English as a second language.  There are migrant-worker communities in the fruit picking areas of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and North of the park, including Latinos, and some of these families have children attending the local schools and using the park for recreation and for school educational fieldtrips. Within a 45-90-minute drive there are several large urban areas with diverse local and college-attending communities and neighborhoods to include Harrisonburg to the South and Washington D.C to the Northeast.  The intern’s ability to provide a more diverse representation of the population at visitor centers, on trails, and conducting educational programs would be helpful in welcoming our Latino visitors and other diverse audiences as well as provide our staff the opportunity to learn from the intern’s engagement with these audiences to provide better educational and interpretive opportunities now and in the future.

Work Environment: 

  • Shenandoah usually hosts several summer interns in the division of Interpretation and Education and several in cultural and natural resources, to work alongside our large seasonal staff and smaller permanent staff.
  • Once the participant has completed their initial training and orientation, they will independently conduct interpretive programs throughout the park at a variety of locations to possibly include amphitheaters, trails, visitor centers, and overlooks/pullouts.  
  • They will operate a government vehicle and load/unload their visual aids for their programs which might include a small folding table, animal props like pelts and footprints, historical artifacts, and computer equipment like laptops etc.  
  • For their some types of interpretive programs, the intern may be required to operate a projector and related equipment for illustrated evening programs using PowerPoint, for trail roves and guided walk programs they may be required to hike up to 2 miles over uneven terrain in a variety of environments to include rocky outcrops, deep forest, and open meadows.  While working at visitor center/s the intern will be required to stand for several hours at a time.
  • The participant will provide visitor center assistance at Big Meadows and/or Dickey Ridge visitor center/s, working with other staff to provide visitor assistance and information as well as basic operational duties to include light cleaning, stocking supplies, and opening/closing procedures.  
  • The location of daily shifts will vary throughout the park to include hiking trails, outdoor amphitheaters, visitor centers, Mobile Visitor Center, overlooks, etc. 
  • Wildlife and tick safety information will be provided during orientation and throughout the season. The park is home to approximately 300+ black bears, 2 species of venomous snakes, poison ivy, ticks that transmit tick-borne illness, as well as a variety of other wildlife and plants.  
  • The park enjoys the full four seasons and the intern’s work will be conducted both indoors and outdoors during occasional inclement weather (light rain or windy conditions) and regularly during hot, humid summers and crisp, cool spring/fall conditions.

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