GSA Online Application System



Public Land Name:
Ottawa National Forest, Ontonagon Ranger District

Position Title:
CLOSED Assisting Soil Science Technician

Agency: USFS

Position Type: GeoCorps

Position ID Number:

Michigan, Ontonagon

Accepting Applications? No

# of current Applicants: 37

Position Description:

Each project can accept up to 100 applicants. GeoCorps applicants can apply for multiple projects per season. Applicants must complete a cover letter for each project for which they apply.

For current applicants: You are considered a project applicant once you have successfully added the project to your profile while you are logged into your application form. The added project would appear under “POSITIONS YOU HAVE ADDED” for the GeoCorps America Program. You are encouraged to add projects before you complete your application components. In order to be fully considered for any position, you must complete all application components before the application deadline passes on 28 January. Login to your GeoCorps application profile to check the status of your application components, and make sure to complete any remaining items before the deadline passes.

The GeoCorps participant will assist in the field data collection for a multi-year study of soil resources within the Ottawa National Forest and the upper great lakes. This field position will provide an opportunity to do important field work in beautiful and remote regions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The participant will be a part of the soil resource team collecting field data on forest management sites. Primary duties will be largely field oriented. The participant will be working with Ottawa National Forest Soils Staff and others to evaluate the effects of forest management on soil and vegetation using standardized sampling and data collection protocols (i.e., Dynamic Soil Properties and Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol). Work includes the collection of soil samples, assessment of soil condition and ecological site information including vegetation, performance of basic monitoring, and other conventional physical soil sampling techniques required to assess soil and site conditions. General data entry and management will also be required. As time allows, other duties may include: preparing soil samples for additional lab analysis, non-native invasive plant treatments, trail work, aquatic organism passage assessments, and more. This project is offered through the Geological Society of America's GeoCorps America Program, in partnership with the Lands, Minerals, and Geology Washington Office of the USDA Forest Service.

The program encourages participants to follow the same guidance provided to all USDA Forest Service employees and partners, which is to follow CDC guidance and stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters that protect against the new and most prevalent variants.

Goals, outcomes, and deliverables:
The participant will conduct work supporting a standardized protocol for Lake States National Forests for assessing the effects of forest management activities on dynamic soil properties that is quantitative and repeatable across a gradient of soils, vegetation, and treatment conditions. Data collected will provide a comparison of reference to post-treatment conditions over time and space to help determine if changes to soil properties have negatively affected site productivity or ecology, and if so, how long it may take them to recover to reference conditions. This assessment will be used to guide the future of forest management impacts on soils. Although the project is specifically designed for Lake States National Forest participation, it is intended to be adapted to regional or national conditions on other National Forests throughout the US.

The primary goal of the assignment is to measure the effects of pre- and post-forest management activities (i.e., timber harvest, site preparation) on the soil using the Dynamic Soil Properties and Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring protocols. Secondarily, the participant may be requested to complete data entry and assist other natural resource areas as needed. The participants will gain valuable insight into some of the complexities of natural resource management on a National Forest and will be able to explore various career opportunities within the Forest Service. The data collected by the participants will be used for monitoring reports, accomplishment targets, and vegetation management projects. The participant will share and discuss the information gathered with their local, USFS soil scientist mentor(s). Expectations include clearly written and properly stored project data.

Agency involvement (project oversight, mentoring, team building, etc.):
Oversight and guidance of the participant will primarily be taken on by Ottawa Soil Scientists. The Soil Scientists will initially spend time training the participant in the field and then will transition to data collection and oversight. The participant will work together with the Soil Scientist(s) to resolve data conflicts and issues when they arise. A greater amount of independence toward achieving project goals will be allowed once the participant demonstrates an understanding of the work, but there will always be oversight and collaboration throughout the project duration. The Ottawa is committed to providing participants with mentorship and support. There may be opportunities to work with other resource staff on the Ottawa National Forest. The Forest will provide the selected individual with an overall facility orientation, project briefing, and safety session before work begins. A Forest Service vehicle will be available to the individual for work after successful completion of defensive driving training, which will also be provided by the unit. A workstation will also be designated for the selected individual.

Professional development & learning opportunities: (trainings, certifications, networking, etc.):
The selected individual will be working closely with the Forest Soils staff throughout the project. Their knowledge and experience, along with other staff involved with the projects, will serve as a great knowledge base for the selected participant as well as an opportunity to network and develop contacts for future project work or job opportunities. The participant will receive an exposure to GIS technologies utilized in soil science and forest management, including LiDAR data and wetland ecosystem identification and inventory. These skills are applicable toward many natural resource related professions in a wide variety of public agencies and private institutions in the US and abroad. In addition, the participant will be exposed to the work of other resource professionals, as well as provided with a thorough introduction to what working for the USFS looks like. The participant will also be exposed to various protocols used in data collection and lab processing. As they become available and are pertinent to the project, the selected applicant will be encouraged to attend local workshops or trainings. Trainings may include First Aid/CPR, computer security, safety procedures, defensive driving, and GIS. Additional training may be made available pertinent to land management.

Leadership Development:
The participants will have opportunities to work both independently and in a team environment, refining their leadership, planning, organization, and time management skills. They will get exposure to the Forest Service organization and careers, as well as a better understanding of how government agencies function. This position will be expected to largely assist with the field needs of the projects; however, dependent upon the aptitude of the applicant, a larger coordination role may be warranted.

Presenting Project Results:
As time allows, the participants may be asked to present preliminary results from their work (either in writing or orally) to one or more Forest Service staff. At a minimum, the participants will be expected to complete their required reports to GSA by the end of their assignment, before parting with the host agency. The participants are also encouraged to collaborate with their local mentors and other Forest Service staff in presenting their work or preliminary results at a GSA Annual or Section Meeting.

Physical/Natural Environment:
The nearly one-million-acre Ottawa National Forest is located in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, an area known for its remote character, relatively pristine lakes and streams, vast northern hardwood forests, and abundant wildlife. The Ottawa offers numerous recreational opportunities, including stream and lake fishing (blue-ribbon trout streams), deer and small-game hunting, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, birding, cross-country and downhill skiing, and many others. Some of the highest-quality streams and rivers in the Midwest are found on the Ottawa, with several now designated as Federal Wild, Scenic, or Recreational Rivers. Rivers on the Forest drain into both the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior watersheds, with several of the Lake Superior streams having numerous waterfalls. There are three designated Wilderness areas on the Ottawa, Sylvania, McCormick and Sturgeon River Gorge.

In the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, landforms and soils consist largely of ground moraines and other till deposits upon underlying bedrock. While these morainal tills dominate, smaller areas of sandy outwash plains and reddish, lake deposited clays exist and contribute to a wide diversity of soil types and textural groups that occur within the Ottawa. Soil textural groups represented on the Ottawa span a wide range, with approximately 10% of the area in the sand of the outwash plains, another approximately 10% of the area dominated by the very fine clays deposited as lakebeds and regionally renowned as the ‘Ontonagon clay’ and around 5% of the area as heterogeneous mix of sandy and silty lake influenced drift. The remaining approximately 75%, and the majority of the Ottawa, is the moraine deposits of till which are dominated by the soils of the coarse loamy particle size class, typified by sandy loam texture.

For bedrock geology, the Precambrian shield of the western half of the upper peninsula contains metamorphosed lava flows, Huronian iron formations, Killaney granite intrusions, and Keweenawan lava flows, conglomerates, and sandstones.

Work Environment:
The project is based out of the Ontonagon Ranger District Office, with 70% work taking place in the field. The participant will mostly be working with up to 2 Forest Service soil scientists as well as independently. Field work will involve strenuous physical activity, such as hiking in rough terrain, collecting soil bulk density samples, carrying heavy equipment, and/or working in uncomfortable weather (from hot to rainy to buggy), for many hours a day. Participant will need a sturdy pair of hiking boots, rain gear, and field clothes. Other field equipment will be provided. Work typically takes place Monday through Friday. Potential hazards include inclement weather, bugs, black bears, driving, and riding OHVs. Many areas of the Forest have poor to no cell phone coverage. The participant will be supplied with a FS radio to communicate and for emergencies.

Applicants with or working toward a BS degree in natural resources with course work that includes soils, ecology, forestry or botany will be the most competitive. Applicants with soil education and plant identification skills are preferred. The participant should be able to work well independently and with a team, both in the office and in the field with little oversight, have basic map reading and orientation skills, must be able to interpret aerial imagery, and be comfortable working in a field setting. Computer skills in Word, Excel, Survey 123, and ArcGIS Pro are preferred. Project work is largely outdoors in rugged terrain and may be buggy. Applicants must be able to demonstrate an awareness of safety. Applicant should be able to start work in early May and commit to a minimum of 13 weeks.

Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. legal permanent resident (Green Card holder). Applicants must have a valid driver's license from a U.S. state or U.S. territory (i.e., Puerto Rico) and a good driving record. Prior to starting this position, the participant will need to pass a background check either with the host agency, GSA’s staffing partner, or both.

Applicants must be eligible to participate in Public Lands Corps, which means applicants must also:

  • Be between 18-30 years old inclusive during the timeframe they would finish the project (military veterans are permitted to be up to 35 years old during participation)
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
Compliance with Public Lands Corps eligibility requirements is defined by the legislation supporting Public Lands Corps opportunities (16 U.S. Code § 1723 - Public Lands Corps program). Read more about the benefits and requirements of participating in Public Lands Corps with the USDA Forest Service.

Vehicle / Driver's License Requirement (If applicable):
Applicants must have a valid driver's license from a U.S. state or U.S. territory (i.e., Puerto Rico) and a good driving record. Personal vehicles will be required for personal errands, for travel between housing and the work site, and for exploring the area independently during time off. Public transportation in the area is not available. Government vehicles may or may not be issued to participants for field work. Regarding government vehicles made available for use (only during work hours), the Forest Service will provide all required training and certification to operate them. Experience operating four-wheel-drive vehicles and All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATVs) in rough terrain is helpful.

Position Dates:
Early May - August 2024 (start/end dates may be flexible; possible option to extend end date as funding allows)

Position Duration: 13 weeks

Hourly Wage: $20.00/hour + up to $4,000 in reimbursements (some of that funding may be reserved for use related to work/travel to neighboring forests)

Housing Details:
Free government housing is not available, so the participant will be responsible for finding her/his own housing. A higher-than-normal wage of $20.00/hour is provided to help cover some of the housing costs. Local staff are available to provide guidance in locating housing. Lodging associated with recreational areas may be a good place to start looking (Porcupine Mountains State Park and Ski Area is nearby in Silver City, Michigan; Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort in Bessemer, Michigan (note that this is a longer distance from Ontonagon). Typical rental prices for Ontonagon run approximately $600-$800/month. Located on the south shore of Lake Superior, Ontonagon, Michigan, offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the year. With miles of sandy agate beaches and fabulous sunsets, Lake Superior is a water enthusiast’s mecca! Bordering the west side of Ontonagon is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park with miles of hiking, alpine and nordic ski trails, and hundreds of acres of virgin timber. The population of Ontonagon Village is just under 1,500. Field units on the Ottawa are located in rural areas, with very small (Kenton - approx. 200 population) to somewhat larger (Bessemer/Ironwood area - approx. 6,000 population) towns. Somewhat larger nearby cities include Marquette, MI (approx. 20,000 population - 115 miles east of Ontonagon), and Houghton, MI (approx. 20,000 population – 52 miles northeast of Ontonagon). Marquette and Houghton are both college towns.

If you have questions about the application and selection process, please contact GSA's GeoCorps managers.  If you have questions about any aspect of the position — description, qualifications, housing, dates — please direct them to the contact(s) listed in the project description. Remember, application materials can only be submitted online. The project contact(s) will not accept application materials sent to them via e-mail, mail, fax, etc. See the full program details at the GeoCorps homepage.

Amy Amman
Soil Scientist
E 6248 US Hwy 2
Ironwood, MI 49938

Serena Kuczmarski
Soil Scientist
1209 Rockland Rd
Ontonagon, MI 49953