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Mosaics in Science Program - Position Description

Public Land Name: Denali National Park and Preserve
Position Title: Paleontologist / GIS Technician (2 positions)
Agency: NPS
Position ID Number: 2012025
Location: Denali National Park, AK
Position Description: In 2005 a dinosaur (theropod) track was discovered in Denali National Park. Since that time, many thousands of tracks have been found (numerous by previous GeoCorps participants), including a world-class trackway that preserves skin impressions and plant fossils. The primary task of the participant will be to identify, document, and monitor fossil sites and specimens within the lower Cantwell Formation. Specifically, approximately 50% of the time will involve searching bedrock on steep mixed soil and rock ridges for fossil material. This work will involve single or multi-day field traverses of target areas with one or two field partners. Once a specimen is discovered, it will be described on a locality checklist with parameters such as dimensions, lithology, structure, condition, GPS coordinates, and appropriate photographs. The participants will sometimes prepare sketches of stratigraphic sections to document the fluvial sequences and note unconformities and/or paleosols. Participants will be responsible for entering data recorded in the field into an Access database, composing field reports and producing maps using GIS. Optional paleontology-related tasks may include assisting with multi-day field seminars, assisting with youth summer camps run by the Murie Science and Learning Center (MSLC), and other education and outreach activities. The participants will also assist with several other tasks within the Physical Sciences Group that may include, but are not limited to: differential GPS surveys, geotechnical or mining reclamation activities, remote camp (wall tent and weatherport) mobilization and demobilization, and equipment maintenance. While the two participants will work closely together, they will undertake individual summer projects that will be developed based on interest and need. Participants will also collaborate extensively with the park geologist, physical science technicians, and two other GeoCorps participants focused on geologic education. This position is offered through the Geological Society of America's GeoCorps America Program in partnership with the National Park Service’s Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Program.
Materials to be produced by participant: 1) An inventory sheet for every documented site complete with physical descriptions, photographs, diagrams, maps, etc. 2) A well-organized Access database of fossil sites. 3) Maps of fossil sites made using GIS. 4) An individual, summer-long project - participants may choose to be involved in developing, preparing, or delivering outreach or educational products through the MSLC. This may include geology or paleontology posters or display material, geologic material for the website, talks on geology or paleontology, or other materials. Creativity is highly encouraged. 5) A final summary report is required for both the park and GSA.
Qualifications: Applicants must have completed at least three years toward a degree in the geosciences and required coursework in sedimentology, stratigraphy, structure, field methods & mapping. Additional coursework in GIS, historical geology, paleontology, geomorphology, engineering geology or environmental geology will make the applicant more competitive. GIS and database skills are required whether they are gained through coursework or applied experience. The applicant should be able to work well independently both in the office and in the field with little supervision, have advanced map reading and GPS orientation skills, must be able to interpret aerial photos, and be very comfortable hiking off trail in a rugged mountain environment. Applicant must have a valid driver’s license and a good driving record. Prior to starting this position a government security background clearance will be required.
Position Dates: Summer, start/end dates flexible
Position Duration: 12 weeks
Stipend: $2,750
Travel Allowance:
(For non-local candidates)
Housing Allowance: $0
Housing Details: Housing and most meals will be provided at no cost to the participant. Housing and dining facilities are located immediately adjacent to the MSLC. Housing consists of many small condominium-type units in which participants will have a private room with 2 bunk beds. Bedding is provided. Showers/restrooms are communal. The dining hall provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as bagged meals when you are away for the day. Some food and community services are available in Nenana Canyon outside the park entrance and in Healy (10 miles north of park). City services are located in Fairbanks, 120 miles north of the park entrance. There are limited shopping opportunities after arrival, so it is very important to come prepared. Commuting options include bikes (available for loan), walking along a roadside trail, and a free shuttle system. Some field work will involve remote site camping in wall tents. Portions of the work will involve backpacking for multiple nights. Backpack camping gear (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, stove cooking pots, etc.) can be supplied by the park.
Denali is a 6 million acre park with the Alaska Range as a backbone. The park is replete with extensive glaciers and braided rivers, miles of tundra plateaus, and countless glacial lakes and ponds, all capped by the magnificent 20,320’ Mt. McKinley. The geologic core of the park consists primarily of Paleozoic and Mesozoic marine sedimentary rocks, with some Cretaceous and Tertiary plutonic intrusions and volcanic episodes. Rock formations in the park have been modified by near-continuous tectonic compression and extensive glaciation.
Work Environment: Field work will be performed in a park environment where the terrain is steep, uneven, and rocky. Approaches are frequently lengthy and covered with thick vegetation. Some tasks may require travel on snow or ice (glacier) conditions. Assignments involve backcountry camping in all varieties of weather, and tasks may include moderate to strenuous physical exertion (long periods of standing, hiking, or climbing). Exposure to wildlife (i.e. grizzly bears and moose) is common, and precautions when hiking or camping is emphasized. A bear safety orientation course is required at the park. Weather is unpredictable, but summer usually has some days of dry, relatively clear conditions with intermittent and sometimes lengthy periods of wet, drizzling conditions. Good personal raingear is a must, with under layers (like fleece) for colder and windier conditions. Much of the paleontological search is on exposed ridge or mountain tops where conditions are often wet, windy and cold. Relatively water resistant hiking boots are good for most of the mountainous work, while some switch to rubber boots for river bar or tundra travel. Don’t forget the bug repellant; Interior Alaska’s mosquito reputation is not a trivial issue. Denali, Alaska – 250 miles north of Anchorage, 120 miles south of Fairbanks. Park headquarters is accessible by auto, bus or train.
# of current Applicants: 28

If you have questions about the application and selection process, please contact Matthew Dawson.  If you have questions about any aspect of the position — description, qualifications, housing, dates — please contact the primary or secondary contact below. The Primary and Secondary Contacts will not accept application materials sent to them via e-mail, mail, fax, etc. See the full Mosaic program details at the Mosaics in Science home-page.

Contact Name: Denny Capps
Title: Geologist
Street Address: Denali National Park and PreserveP.O. Box 9
City/State/Zip: Denali National Park, AK 99755
Phone: (907) 683-9598
Contact Name: Sierra McLane
Title: Education Coordinator
Street Address: Denali National Park and PreserveP.O. Box 9
City/State/Zip: Denali National Park, AK 99755
Phone: (907) 683-6436