Sierra Nevada Rosy-Finch Project

Mentor & Lab: Tim Brown – Zavaleta Lab

Positions: 2 interns

Tentative dates: Early June – July

Project Location: High Sierra (Sierra Nevada)

Project Background: The most vulnerable wildlife on Earth to climate change includes migratory, mountaintop animals. We focus on the Sierra Nevada Rosy-finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis dawsoni) to answer two critical questions: what limits its breeding distribution to extreme elevations, and how does understanding these limits inform its conservation under climate change? California’s Sierra Nevada subspecies is the southernmost Rosy-finch breeding population left in North America. In summer 2022, our team will survey breeding Sierra Nevada Rosy-finches and their environments throughout the high Sierra, mainly by hiking and backpacking to a number of sites over the summer to survey vegetation, insects, birds and habitat variables like snowfields, cliff nesting areas, and talus.

Intern duties: Survey Rosy-Finch breeding sites as described above. Additionally, interns will aid in capturing, measuring and banding birds at several sites and drawing blood samples for genetic and genomic analyses. Their work will include data collection and recording, data entry and exploration, and opportunities for analysis of data subsets to generate final projects or posters. The position is full-time in the true sense – with long field days and with days off taken partly while in the field and partly while in a town. Interns will contribute to field logistics (team meals, menu planning and resupply) and will rotate involvement in the different data streams (e.g. bird point counts, plant identification and vegetation sampling, insect sampling). In the final week(s), interns will work with their mentors to develop research posters/talks (either jointly or individually) and present findings from the summer. The internship is physically demanding, calling for backpacking with a loaded pack (40-70 lbs.) on trails for up to 8-10 miles, to sites at 10,000-14,000’ in elevation, and camping and working for up to several days at a time in settings that can be cold or hot, windy, and exposed to intense sunshine. The sites will be stunning from start to finish, and the project provides a chance to become part of a tightly knit team in the mountains and to contribute to the conservation of wild vertebrates endemic to this corner of the world.

Intern qualifications: Bird ID (sight & sound) and handling skills a plus. Experience following/adhering to detailed research protocol, quantitative skills, data entry, organized and highly detail-oriented, working long and strenuous days carrying heavy equipment, great attitude in inclement weather and strenuous, prolonged working conditions.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.