GSA Online Application System



Public Land Name:
Superior National Forest and Northern Research Station

Position Title:
CLOSED Assisting Soil Science Technician

Agency: USFS

Position Type: GeoCorps

Position ID Number:
2024616, 2024617, 2024618

Minnesota, Ely (2 positions) and Grand Rapids (1 position)

Accepting Applications? No

# of current Applicants: 45

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.

For the Ely location - These two positions will be working out of the Kawishiwi Ranger District office, with a local, USFS soil scientist mentor. Primary duties will be largely field-oriented, evaluating the effects of timber harvest on forest soils and vegetation using standardized sampling and data collection protocols (e.g., Dynamic Soil Properties and Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring Protocol). General data entry/management will also be expected duties of the positions. Other duties may include fire-related studies in peatlands, assisting Natural Resource Conservation Service partners with soil pit descriptions, rutting recovery evaluations in black spruce lowlands, or trail and recreation site rehabilitation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

For the Grand Rapids location - This one position will be working out of the Northern Research Station chemistry lab (on the Itasca Community College campus) with a local, USFS lab mentor. Primary duties will be largely lab-oriented sample processing including grinding and sieving samples, washing labware, and analyzing soil, plant and water samples for carbon, nutrients, cations, and anions. The participant will learn analytical techniques and how to troubleshoot instruments such as the total elemental analyzer for cations (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy), total carbon and nitrogen analyzer, auto-analyzer for nutrients, and ion chromatograph for anions. Field work would include working on long-term environmental experiments at the Marcell Experimental Forest and the world renowned SPRUCE climate change experiment as well as other soil, forest ecology, and watershed studies.

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.

Commitment to Inclusion:
The Forest Service is made up of many employees from very different backgrounds, all working toward the same agency goals. Diversity in the Forest Service is more than ethnicity, gender, or culture, it is the inclusion of diverse perspectives to help solve problems more effectively. The Forest Service maintains an environment in which people from different backgrounds feel comfortable and free to express their opinions and share their viewpoints. The agency also has an organizational commitment to diversify the Forest Service and strengthen the diverse population of employees it already has. The more diverse the organization, the more effective it can respond to the needs of the diverse public it serves.

Goals, outcomes, and deliverables:

For the Ely location - The primary goal of the assignment is to measure the effects of pre- and post-timber management activities (e.g. harvest, site prep, and fire) on the soil using the Dynamic Soil Properties and Forest Soil Disturbance Monitoring protocols. Other goals include assisting in other fire-related studies in peatlands, controlling soil erosion at rec sites and trails, monitoring other soil disturbances, writing soil descriptions, describing landforms, identifying plants, data entry, and assisting other natural resource disciplines as needed. The participants will gain valuable insight into some of the complexities of natural resource management on a National Forest and explore various career opportunities. The data collected and information provided 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. Clearly written and properly stored project data is expected.

For the Grand Rapids location - The primary goal of the assignment is to utilize standardized laboratory procedures to assess the effects of forest management activities on dynamic soil properties that is quantitative and repeatable across a gradient of soils, vegetation, and disturbance conditions. Secondly, comparing results from reference to post-harvest conditions will help determine if changes to soil properties have negatively affected site productivity or ecology, and if so, how long it may take soils to recover to reference conditions.

Agency involvement (project oversight, mentoring, team building, etc.):
Forest Service management and research and staff will be overseeing the project. The participant will be working largely with local mentors at the Kawishiwi Ranger District Office or Northern Research Station. They will also have opportunities to work with soil scientists, geologists, hydrologists, botanists, ecologists, and other management or research staff on the Superior National Forest, Northern Research Station, or possibly other national forests in the Lake States Region. Both in the lab or the field, participants will be working mostly in a team environment.

Professional development & learning opportunities: (trainings, certifications, networking, etc.):

Participants will have ample opportunity to work with Forest Service management or research staff with a wide range of resource specializations.

For the Ely location - At the beginning of the term of employment, the local, USFS soil scientist mentor will work with the participants to identify projects of interest to further pursue and incorporate into the overall work plan as time allows. Hydrology, recreation, and wildlife have been other resource areas explored in past pursuits.

For the Grand Rapids location - Local chemistry and environmental science mentors within the Northern Research Station will be assigned to the participant to provide necessary laboratory training, establish a network of professional contacts, improve interpersonal skills, and discuss opportunities for pursuing their career interests.

As time allows, all participants may be offered opportunities to attend local workshops or conferences, pertinent to the duties of this position and/or their long-term career development. Safety is very important to the Forest Service, so all participants will be enrolled in and expected to complete all locally required safety training. As time allows, other safety training opportunities may be available (e.g., First Aid/CPR, laboratory safety training).

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 a better understanding of how government agencies function. These positions will be expected to largely assist with the field and laboratory needs of the projects. However, depending 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:

For the Ely location - Boreal forest-mixed conifer/aspen/birch with many lakes, streams, and wetlands. Post glacial terrain is rugged, sometimes hilly, with areas of rock outcrops (Canadian Shield). The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is about a million acres, and one-third of the Superior National Forest.

For the Grand Rapids location - The Northern Research Station Center for Research on Environmental Change and associated chemistry laboratory is in Grand Rapids situated between the Chippewa and Superior National Forests, about 200 miles north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Water is abundant in the mixed conifer-deciduous forest, with several lakes, streams, and wetlands. Hiking, fishing, canoeing, and camping are popular recreation activities in the area.

Work Environment:

For the Ely location - The project includes driving forest roads and hiking in remote areas over rough terrain. Conditions can be humid and buggy at times. The Forest has mixed cell phone coverage. The participant will be supplied with an In-reach Garmin device and a radio to communicate, and for emergencies.

For the Grand Rapids location - Much of the duties of the position will occur in a laboratory setting. For times the participant may work in the field, driving forest roads and hiking through sometimes dense forest, remote areas, or rugged terrain may be necessary. Working outdoors in inclement weather is not uncommon.


For the Ely location - Some soil education and plant identification is preferred. Applicants should be able to work in the field with little supervision and have an ability to work independently and with others. Applicants must be able to demonstrate an awareness of safety (e.g., driving on rough gravel forest roads). Applicants must have basic computer skills. Knowledge of Word, Excel, Survey123, and ArcMap 10.8 or ArcGIS Pro is also preferred. Applicants must have an ability to communicate verbally and listen well. The project involves outdoor work in all kinds of weather, buggy at times, and hiking in rugged terrain.

For the Grand Rapids location - Past academic or work experience in a laboratory setting, specifically some familiarity with equipment and standardized procedures for measuring physical and chemical properties of soils is preferred. Any academic and past work experience related to soils and natural resource management in a forested setting would also be prioritized. The applicant must have basic computer, word processing, and spreadsheet skills (e.g. Microsoft Office Suite) to be considered. An applicant must have the ability to communicate, adapt, and function well in a team environment where priorities may change frequently. Although much of the work will occur in a laboratory setting, the applicant should be able to work well outdoors in a predominantly forested setting. Past academic or work experience in inclement weather, rugged terrain, or buggy conditions would be prioritized.

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. Government vehicles may be made available to facilitate field-based work trips (only during work hours). The Forest Service will also provide all locally required training and certification to operate them. The selected participant will need to complete all requirements specified by the Forest Service Fleet Manager before driving a government vehicle.

Position Dates:
6 May–31 December, 2024 (with some flexibility on start/end dates and weekly hours)

Position Duration: 12 weeks minimum (with possible option to extend longer as funding allows)

Hourly Wage: $20.00/hour; $3,375 in reimbursements for eligible expenses (negotiable within funding limits)

Housing Details:
Partially subsidized housing may be available. Options may include government housing in Ely or Deer River, MN (about 20 minutes by vehicle from Grand Rapids, MN). Vermillion (in Ely, MN) and Itasca Community Colleges (in Grand Rapids, MN) have also been options for past participants.

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.

David Morley
Forest Soil Scientist
8901 Grand Avenue Pl
Duluth, MN 55808
 (218) 308-1211

Randy Kolka
Supervisory Research Soil Scientist
1831 Hwy 169 E
Grand Rapids, MN 55724
 (218) 301-6564