Watershed Specialist

Student Conservation Association - New Paltz, NY4.4

Full-time$200 a week
Expected Dates
January 14, 2020 to November 10, 2020
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Position ID
This position requires that you become enrolled in AmeriCorps. If you are selected for this program please be sure to accept AmeriCorps during the SCA offer process. No travel allowance will be offered for this position even if it is stated on your confirmation of acceptance.

SCA Hudson Valley AmeriCorps partners with State and non-profit agencies to address the conservation needs of the Hudson River Watershed region. Corps members are placed at individual host sites, where service activities range from providing environmental education to underserved youth, to restoring streambanks along the Hudson River, and beyond. Members join together regularly for trainings, service projects, or other events.

The Watershed Specialist position is located at DEC’s Region 3 Office in New Paltz, NY.

Purpose of the Program:
NYSDEC Mission: “To conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being.”

NYSDEC Goal: “To achieve this mission through the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.”

The NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program protects and improves the natural and scenic Hudson River watershed for all its residents. The program was created in 1987 and extends from the Troy dam to upper New York Harbor.

Its core mission is to:
  • Ensure clean water
  • Protect and restore fish, wildlife and their habitats
  • Provide water recreation and river access
  • Adapt to climate change
  • Conserve world-famous scenery

SCA AmeriCorps Member Duties and Responsibilities:
Assess and prioritize aquatic barriers in the tributaries to the Hudson River Estuary using established protocols. Field work and data management is an important portion of this ongoing project. (30%)
Assist riparian buffer planting project coordination (Trees for Tribs) with preparation at riparian buffer sites, educating and leading planting volunteers. (15%)
Identify target audiences, including infrastructure owners, to educate on the effects of biologically important aquatic barriers. Interact with interested landowners to encourage them to begin barrier mitigation work. (15%)
Assist in identifying the first upstream barriers from the Hudson River as well as all barriers in target watersheds, and educating the public on the importance of aquatic connectivity. Organize GIS information associated with barrier locations. (10%)
Create and update the Estuary Program’s online information dealing with impacts from culverts and other aquatic barriers and green infrastructure. (10%)
Participate in all SCA Corps-wide trainings and service projects, as well as project evaluation and reporting. (15%)
Assist with on-going water quality monitoring efforts, including field work and preparing for sampling. (5%)

Poorly designed and undersized culverts are barriers to aquatic organisms and hazards to communities during storms. Streams are linear habitats for aquatic and semi-aquatic species such as American eel, herring, stream salamanders, turtles and crayfish. Road crossings can fragment streams into small pieces, preventing organisms from accessing critical habitats. Culverts also may be infrastructure liabilities and flooding hazards for communities. During storms, undersized or improperly installed culverts can become clogged with debris or overwhelmed, leading to road flooding, stream bank erosion, or even washout of the whole road. To help communities reconnect their streams and proactively remove flooding hazards, the Estuary Program’s Culvert Prioritization Project seeks to identify road-stream crossings that are potential barriers to fish and wildlife, and hazards for localized flooding.

Riparian (streamside) buffers are a major component to maintaining healthy streams and waters and their conservation is a critical element of any holistic watershed program. Riparian areas are often severely damaged during the land development process, leading to unintended negative impacts to our streams and rivers. Composed of trees, shrubs and grasses, these buffers help to reduce pollution entering waterways by slowing down and filtering runoff, thus extending retention time and improving water quality. Buffers also help to reduce flooding and erosion by stabilizing shorelines and absorbing high velocity flows. In addition, they serve an important role for wildlife as a shoreline transition zone and travel corridor, not to mention increasing overall biodiversity and improving in-stream health. The Hudson River Estuary Program’s “Trees for Tribs” Initiative (tribs as in tributaries) offers free native trees and shrubs for qualifying riparian buffer planting/restoration projects in the Hudson River Estuary watershed.

How the SCA AmeriCorps Member’s Role Aligns with the Organization:

The health and condition of the Hudson River estuary, and the people living, drinking, and recreating alongside it is directly affected by what it receives from the tributary streams that enter the estuary south of the Troy dam. From the surrounding hills, the Hudson River is fed by thousands of miles of headwater streams and rivers that drain an ever-changing landscape. These streams provide essential fish and wildlife habitat, as well as recreational opportunities and drinking water for millions of people. The health of the Hudson River’s tributaries are identified as key priorities in numerous goals in our 2020 Action Agenda, and the work of this AmeriCorp member will help us accomplish those goals.

Hudson Valley streams are affected by a wide range of stresses, such as increases in impervious surfaces, loss of vegetative cover, agricultural and lawn runoff, failing wastewater treatment and septic systems, atmospheric deposition of pollutants, and, critical to this positions work, fish barriers (e.g., dams and problem culverts). All these stresses can cause erosion and siltation, polluted stormwater runoff, flooding, loss of groundwater recharge and unnaturally low stream flows. Streams and rivers become degraded from this myriad of stresses, no longer providing healthy drinking water, outdoor recreation or productive fish and wildlife habitats. Impacts often travel downstream, making tributary health both a local issue and a regional issue, which often crosses municipal boundaries and affects the Hudson estuary as well.

Performance Goals for the SCA AmeriCorps Member:
Goal 1: Identify, assess and prioritize road-stream crossings in at least two subwatersheds in the Hudson River Estuary watershed, following established protocols.

Goal 2: Provide essential GIS mapping and outreach support for coordination of culvert assessments, barrier mitigation, and watershed outreach efforts.

Goal 3: Help facilitate, prepare for, and conduct the planting of native trees and shrubs and engaging hundreds of volunteers at sites throughout the Hudson Valley.

Skills/Knowledge/Training Necessary to be a successful AmeriCorps Member in this position:

Familiarity with GIS software including ArcGIS and/or QGIS
Understanding of stream habitats and geomorphology
Familiarity with flora of the Northeast, especially trees and shrubs

Candidate Qualifications:
Valid driver’s license of at least 3 years with a clean driving record.
Ability to pass a federal background check.
Required: BA/BS or equivalent in environmental science, natural resource management, watershed management, landscape architecture, or related field.
Desired: a background in watershed & natural resource management with an understanding of stream ecology and practical field experience. Working knowledge of stream system dynamics and familiarity with ArcGIS and MS Excel.
Desired: able to work well in groups, to work with partners within and without the agency on ecological issues. The intern should also be self-directed and interested in tackling topics that require learning about issues, formulating outreach messages, and discussing in small groups.

All Hudson Valley Corps members receive a taxable $200/week living allowance
This position will receive a taxable $600/month housing allowance
Upon successful completion of the term, members receive a taxable Full-time Segal Education Award through AmeriCorps.
Student loan forbearance and interest repayments for federal student loan through AmeriCorps.
Eligible for free health insurance
Eligible for childcare assistance through AmeriCorps

Training Opportunities:
All Hudson Valley Corps members receive Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Hudson River Citizen Science curricula, Trail Skills, Project WILD curricula, and professional development. Optional trainings include Leave No Trace, American Canoe Association Quick Start Your Canoe, and other opportunities that arise.

Handicap Accessible?
Main Area of Focus
Geographic Info Systems (GIS, includes GPS)
Education, Training & Skills Expected
some coursework or experience
some coursework or experience
Earth Sciences
some coursework or experience
Ecology & Restoration
some coursework or experience
Resource Management
some coursework or experience
Data Entry
some experience
some experience
Community Engagement
some experience
some experience
Further Details
AmeriCorps Eligible
Driving Logistics
Valid Drivers License Needed
Personal Vehicle Required
A personal vehicle is required to access amenities such as grocery store, libraries, etc. as well as travel to Hudson Valley Corps trainings and events.
Housing or Stipend Provided?
It will be the member's responsibility to secure their own housing. Housing allowance provided.
US Citizenship