U.S. nationals: Internship: Surface water and groundwater of Salt Plains NWR

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Albuquerque, NM, United States
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Apply By: 
15 January 2021

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Project Title: Surface water and groundwater of Salt Plains NWR, Oklahoma

Project Description: The Division of Water Resources (DWR) of the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) National Wildlife Refuge System (System) seeks a student who is a rising senior or senior in an undergraduate or graduate degree program with strong quantitative hydrology / hydrogeology skills and an interest in conservation to characterize hydro-climatic factors affecting surface water and groundwater inflows to Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in Oklahoma. The DWR assures that the Southwest Region—which consists of 47 refuges in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas—have enough water of sufficient quality to conserve water-dependent terrestrial and aquatic habitats of biological priority species, realize the purpose of the refuge, and fulfill the mission of the System. Salt Plains NWR (Refuge), which was established in 1930 as breeding ground for birds and for use as a sanctuary for migratory birds.  The refuge hosts the largest salt flat east of the Rocky Mountains (~25 mi2), which contains Quaternary sedimentary deposits saturated with brine upwelling from an artesian zone.  In 1941, an impoundment was constructed which flooded native grasslands on the Refuge.  Federally endangered whooping crane (Grus Americana), threatened piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus), and endangered least terns (Sterna antillarum) depends on surface water inflows from the Medicine Lodge River and Salt Fork Arkansas river, shallow groundwater that saturates sediment of the flats, and brine discharge from an artesian zone to maintain shallow groundwater salinity and limit vegetation encroachment.  With goal of understanding factors affecting surface water inflows to and groundwater on the Refuge, the student will work with DWR hydrologists, Refuge staff, and state/federal partners to: (1) Evaluate streamflow metrics of USGS gages, (2) Generate hydrographs of groundwater monitoring wells, (3) Evaluate climate data, (4) Map oil and gas wells, groundwater production wells, and dams in contributing watershed, (5) Map surface area of Great Salt Plains Lake and vegetated portion of salt flats (time permitting), and (6) Generate a final written report and presentation. The ideal candidate will have at least 6 semester hours in calculus and at least 6 semester hours in physics, experience with ArcGIS (ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro), and data analysis/visualization experience (Excel, R, Python).  The position will be in the Southwest Regional office in Albuquerque, NM.

Minimum Education Level and Major Requirement: All degree levels will be considered beginning with rising seniors up to Masters and PhD level graduate students.

Working Conditions/Requirements: Valid driver’s license (needed to drive a Gov’t vehicle), Ability to conduct field work involving hiking and carrying equipment, Ability to lift/carry 50 lbs.

Desired Qualifications: Hydrology, hydrogeology, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, physical or natural science, or engineering degree program with at least 6 semester hours each in calculus and physics desired. ESRI Arc GIS (ArcGIS Pro, ArcMap) and data analysis and visualization skill desirable (R, Python, etc.). Technical writing.

Location: FWS Legacy Region 2, Southwest Regional Office, Albuquerque, NM

Housing: Supported, Non-FWS Housing Options, Albuquerque, NM, ($750/month allowance)

Application Deadline January 15, 2021:  Apply at:


For more information, contact:

Brad Wolaver, Ph.D., Supervisory Hydrologist and Chief, Division of Water Resources

National Wildlife Refuge System, USFWS

Southwest Region / Interior Regions 6 (OK & TX), 7 (NM) & 8 (AZ), Albuquerque, NM