Volunteer opportunities exist on Tern and Laysan Islands. Each year a total of 15-20 applicants are selected for 6 month (minimum) assignments on Laysan and Tern. There are no internships, as such, although we are happy to assist volunteers with their paperwork for obtaining university credit for volunteer service. The schedule for recruiting is irregular with opportunities coming up throughout the year. Because of the variable lengths of stay for our volunteers, and the few numbers of flights and ship sails to the islands, our timing needs for volunteers rarely matches university summer break periods.
Biological Monitoring and Alien Plant Control on Laysan Island
Volunteers normally begin assignments which last for approximately 6 months beginning in either March or September of each year. However, some flexibility may be required.
Laysan is extremely isolated. You will be living under field camp conditions with a staff of two biological research technicians during a four-month stay on Laysan. No telephone or mail service, and contact with outside world is limited to regular radio contact with refuge personnel.
The following amenities are provided:
Requirements: University level background in wildlife biology or a related field (most successful applicants have a bachelors degree or higher); previous volunteer or job experience with wildlife fieldwork, preferably with birds; an ability and willingness to work in a remote field situation conducting repetitive surveys, and assisting with a wide variety of non-wildlife tasks such as maintenance; must be able to swim; 18 years of age or older only; must be relatively fit and able to work long days including considerable amounts of walking and standing on uneven ground in a hot, humid climate; ability to lift and carry moderate loads up to 50 pounds.
To apply, submit a cover letter and resume with the names, telephone numbers and addresses of three references, at least one of which must be from your previous volunteer or job experience with wildlife; your social security account number (required for U.S. citizens); and when you could be available to begin an assignment. Unless you request otherwise, your application will be kept on file for one year. Thus, it is important that you provide either a telephone number at which you may be contacted or the telephone number of someone through which you may be contacted in a reasonable period of time. Please send notices of any changes in your telephone number or address.
The top 4-5 candidates for each vacancy will be interviewed by telephone. You may call at any time for an update on the status of your application. Feel free to update your qualifications with additional letters describing new education, experience, achievements, and references during your year of eligibility. You may renew your application with a letter at each 1-year anniversary. Please track the timing of your application as you will not be contacted before being dropped after a year of eligibility.
Volunteering at Tern Island Field Station, French Frigate Shoals Atoll
French Frigate Shoals is the largest atoll in the Hawaiian Island Chain, and includes eleven sand islands, one basaltic island, shallow reef and deep water. The only human habitation is at Tern Island Field Station, built in the 1940’s for use as a naval air strip. U.S. Fish & Wildlife has managed the atoll as a refuge since the early 1980’s.
Tern Island is extremely isolated with limited contact with the outside world; although we sometimes have internet service, it may also be out for months at a time, when our only regular contact with the outside world is sparse use of satellite phones. There is no mail or shipments in the winter months between September and March, so we have limited fresh food. There is usually 4 to 6 people on the island in winter, and 9-11 people in the summer, although this can vary.
We need both Biological Volunteers (usually 3-4 per season) and Maintenance Volunteers (usually 1 per season). Biological volunteers spend about 50% of their time doing seabird monitoring; maintenance volunteers spend the majority of time doing equipment and facilities maintenance. Most 6 month volunteers have a special project that they develop and implement on their own, in addition to their regular duties. Everyone is expected to pitch in where needed, and everyone does a little bit of everything: biology, maintenance, cleaning, boating operations, logistics, outreach to Hawaiian classrooms, and support of visiting researchers and scientists. Click on the following links for position descriptions for Biological Volunteers and Maintenance Volunteers.
Biological volunteers are expected to have university level background in wildlife biology, native plants ecology, or related field. Maintenance volunteers are expected to have experience and skills in one or more of the following: small engine repair, boat repair, electrician work, plumbing, carpentry. Previous extended backcountry or remote location experience is preferred. Because of the remote location and possible long response time to an emergency, we require that all volunteers have a clean bill of health, good to excellent physical condition, and no mental or medical conditions which require regular treatment or are likely to require emergency treatment. You must be able to perform certain physical requirements such as heavy physical labor in the hot sun, and being able to lift yourself from the water onto a boat without assistance. No alcohol is allowed at FFS. Safety is number one at all times. Volunteers must have a passport, current TB test and tetanus inoculation. International volunteers are responsible for obtaining proper visas or other required permissions. Click on the link for a complete list of volunteer requirements.
Our field seasons run from March to September, and from September to March. Volunteers generally stay in Honolulu for about 2 weeks prior and up to 2 weeks upon return from Honolulu, to help with logistics and loading. While you are in Honolulu, we provide lodging at the FWS bunkhouse. Per diem for your time in Honolulu will be reimbursed after the end of your volunteer commitment, but will not be available while you are in Honolulu, so you must be able to buy your own food during that time (usually 2 weeks before departure, and up to 2 weeks after return). We provide all food and lodging on Tern Island.
To apply, please submit an application and resume. We generally review applications 6-9 months before the start of each season – about Feb/March for the winter season, and around Sept/Oct for summer season. If you are among our top candidates, you will be contacted for a phone interview. Final candidates will need to submit the names and contact information for at least three references.
Please understand that these positions are very competitive, and we must pick the best match of people for the team – There are many, many people who are fully qualified to serve, but cannot be chosen simply for lack of space, or for physical or health reasons. Do not be disappointed if you are not chosen; try again next season!
Volunteering on Tern is hard and long work – but it is also an exciting and life-changing experience! We live with hundreds of thousands of birds – the densest bird population in the Hawaiian Islands. We spend our days side-by-side with albatross, boobies, noddies, terns, seals and turtles. We work all day, six days a week, with only Sundays off. Entertainment is a quiet walk on the island, exercising, playing music, reading, or enjoying a game with the crew. Life on such a remote island is not for everyone. Is it for you?
For summer season: Meg_DuhrSchultz@fws.gov
For winter season: Chad_Bell@fws.gov