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To provide Cal Poly students, faculty, staff and the public with a unique interdisciplinary environment in which to foster the Learn by Doing philosophy by providing educational experiences on a working ranch, supporting diversified agriculture and forest resources while maintaining the integrity of ranch operations.

  —Our Mission

Internship Information

Internship Application Form

Join us at Swanton Pacific Ranch where you will gain hands-on skills and training. Intern positions prepare emerging professionals for the daily tasks associated with their discipline. Interns spend their time working and learning including training as well as researching, creating a poster, and making a presentation about a “Career Project.” 

These internships provide well-rounded work and educational experience in an amazing setting with a professional staff and fellow students from a variety of majors. Typical weeks include a mix of learning and field work.

The learning and work internship experiences are especially valuable because they take place in one of the nation's biological diversity hotspots. Interns work and learn alongside many rare species in diverse and highly threatened ecosystems; these species and systems have long thrived in this working landscape because of the practices employed and developed by Swanton Pacific Ranch. 

Each of the types of internships available are described below. The work, research, and other opportunities vary per internship area, as the focus is to focus and prepare an intern on a specific career pathway. Facility cleanup day is every Friday when students and staff give back to the ranch to keep it running and looking great.

The 2019 Swanton Pacific Summer Internship will be a 12-week program beginning June 17th and ending September 6th. Applications for the 2019 summer internship program will open the finals week of Fall quarter. 

The internship position requires enrollment through Cal Poly Extended Education. Further details will be provided through the application process.

Learning Outcomes

Each intern will:

  1. gain hands-on training in technical and analytical skills involved with sustainable resource management
  2. experience how other disciplines approach sustainable resource management
  3. recognize how their hard work contributes to responsible resource production and the conservation of ecosystem processes and/or threatened/endangered species found within the Santa Cruz Mountains.


Early in the program, interns may be trained in the basics of:

  • off-highway vehicles,
  • tractors and implements,
  • radio communications,
  • small engine equipment,
  • truck load tie-down,
  • CPR/first aid,
  • hazardous materials,
  • land orientation, and
  • ranch emergency management.

Career Project

The Swanton Pacific Ranch Career Project provides interns the opportunity to investigate an assigned project in their area of interest while benefiting the Ranch’s mission. The main goal of the Career Project is to help interns understand the mechanisms, logistics, and policies involved with sustainable resource management of a working ranch that is located in an area of ecological sensitivity.

    In order to receive academic credit, interns are required to develop and complete a final poster which describes all components of their project in detail, as well as give a presentation that will be delivered to ranch staff, employees, and members of the community. Interns will be responsible for meeting deadlines and will work closely with education and research support staff. Failure to meet deadlines could result in termination from the internship.


    Available Positions



    The purpose of this internship is to increase baseline botanical data for Swanton Pacific Ranch, focusing especially on vegetation associations of the Swanton Pacific Ranch. Click here for job description.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Become proficient in recognizing the plant species of the Swanton Pacific Ranch
    • Learn how to sample plant species frequency in quadrats along a transect
    • Gain skills at botanical data collection
    • Learn to operate a drone to collect high resolution photographs
    • Process drone imagry for vegetation analysis
    • Process plant species frequency data for vegeation analysis
    • Gain additional training in tractors and implements, safety around heavy equipment, Off-highway vehicle use, 2-stroke and 4 stroke small engines, CPR/first aide certification, chainsaw safety and maintenance and many other ranch related operations that will help any students understanding of how things operate at a working ranch

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    The purpose of this internship is to expose students to construction as well as portable sawmill operations to produce needed material for the upcoming Swanton Pacific Education Center and Field Camp. Click here for job description.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Become proficient in operating a Woodmizer LT-50 sawmill to produce 2nd growth redwood beams and slabs. (
    • Learn to operate other equipment associated with sawmill operations such as chainsaws and a Case 580 Super L backhoe for log movement
    • Understand the dynamics of cutting 2nd growth redwood logs into lumber, i.e. identifying stress in wood based on tree ring growth and adapting your cutting strategy to yield the best possible product
    • Identify wood drying techniques to ensure that milled correctly dries correctly for building purposes
    • Gain additional training in tractors and implements, safety around heavy equipment, Off-highway vehicle use, 2-stroke and 4 stroke small engines, CPR/first aide certification, chainsaw safety and maintenance and many other ranch related operations that will help any students understanding of how things operate at a working ranch

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    Watershed Management

    Learning may include: photo-monitoring methods, hydrologic instrumentation, survey channel morphology and analyze acquired field data. Project work can include in-stream flow measurements, geomorphic data collection and analysis, sediment source surveys, stream channel surveys, water temperature data collection and analysis, maintenance or decommissioning of flumes and equipment, water quality and weather data processing, and GIS mapping. Click here for job description.

    Watershed Management Career Projects may include:

    • Assess the geomorphic change in Little Creek as part of an ongoing monitoring project in the Little Creek Watershed

      • Complete channel cross sections, longitudinal profiles and pebble counts to analyze the geomorphic change.

      • Compare data to previous years and conduct analysis

    • Monitor the change in fish habitat quality associated with a habitat enhancement project in Lower Scotts Creek. 

      • Use various surveys and monitoring methods to assess geomorphic change in the channel, in-stream habitat quality, stream-flow in off channel features and extent of floodplain activation. 

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    Livestock & Range Management

    Learn to apply principles from Holistic Management: work with livestock, install and maintain water systems and fencing, and learn planned grazing practices. Project work can include: rangeland and livestock maintenance, monitoring health and condition of horses, cow-calf herd and stocker cattle, planned grazing implementation, plan and install permanent and temporary fencing, maintain riparian fencing, wildlife and livestock water development, range survey and improvement, maintenance of animal handling facilities, and range road improvement. Click here for job description.

    Livestock & Range Management Career Projects may include:

    • Soil monitoring 

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    Sustainable Forestry 

    Join forestry as part of a greater intern team working on different resource and research challenges at Swanton Pacific Ranch (SPR). Following training (mentioned above), the forestry team will be prepared to work with Ranch Staff on one or more of the following:

    • Gather field data through the Continuous Forest Inventory system at SPR to evaluate changing forest conditions from forest management and wildfire.
    • Produce firewood and lumber under the Non-industrial Timber Management Plan ( with heavy equipment including but not limited to hydraulic wood splitters and SPR’s Woodmizer LT-50 Super Hydraulic Sawmill, and timber harvest operations.
    • Maintain seasonal roads and trails by managing encroaching brush, erosion control, and drainage mitigation.

    Members of the forestry team will be expected to work in challenging conditions in the Santa Cruz Mountains requiring positive attitudes with the ability to work and support others in a team intern environment. Click here for job description.

    Forestry Management Career Projects may include:

    • Continuous Forest Inventory- Students will conduct forest measurements on SPR's long term monitoring system. Utilizing laser range finders and other forest measurement equipment, students will measure or evaluate tree heights and diameter as well as other forest variables such as understory, downed woody debris, Brown's fuel transect, canopy, and regeneration, etc.

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    Sustainable Crop Production

    As a crop intern, you will learn about the fundamentals of sustainable agriculture in our CCOF certified organic cropland.  After completing the listed training areas above, you and your peers will work as a team to help manage our organic apple orchard and pumpkin field through the summer months. Daily activities and projects will include running irrigation, irrigation system maintenance, soil moisture monitoring, apple thinning, pest management, pruning, branch training, weeding, supporting branches with stakes, under story management and more. There will also be a career project portion of the internship where each intern will focus on a specific area of crop production that has meaning and purpose in bettering our current operations or promoting future research opportunities at the ranch. Click here for a job description.

    Sustainable agriculture career projects this coming summer may include:

    • Yield tracking in organic apple orchard systems
    • Irrigation efficiency monitoring and drip emitter trials


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      Holistic Management

      Gain comprehensive hands-on experience in many of the other focus areas, including: livestock, crops, forestry, and watershed. This cross-disciplinary internship will assist other intern teams in various disciplines. See other job descriptions for more information on associated work and learning.

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      Meal Preparation

      Gain comprehensive hands-on experience in the culinary arts, nutritional meal planning and preparation, food safety techniques, food product sales and regulatory affairs, and product development using CCOF certified organic apples, organic culinary herbs, and Swanton Grass Fed beef. Click here for a job description.

      Career Projects may include:

      • creating/updating a cyclical meal plan
      • creating an informational chart with local/in season foods


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      All interns should be able to:

      • Navigate over steep and or uneven terrain,
      • Communicate effectively and get along with others in a live/work situation, and
      • Lift heavy objects such as: bales of hay, bags of feed and seed, chainsaw, fencing wire, and lumber.


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