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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 2020 Swanton Pacific Summer Internship applications have closed. Please check this page again in December 2020 for updates on 2021 Swanton Pacific Summer Internship applications.

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.

Internship 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 Internship 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 handout which describes a particularly poignant component 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



    Note: these internships are only available to students in the College of Science and Mathematics and includes financial support to assist with expenses and as a lump sum; this is different then the hourly wage, fees, etc., that apply to all other types of internships offered at the Ranch. The application process is different, too: contact professors Jenn Yost and/or Matt Ritter for application details.

    The main objective of this internship is to increase baseline botanical data for Swanton Pacific Ranch, focusing especially on vegetation associations of the Swanton Pacific Ranch. Another component will be to strategize and implement an invasive species control program.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Become proficient in recognizing the plant species of the Swanton Pacific Ranch
    • Gains skills at rare plant monitoring and inventory
    • Gain skills at invasive species mapping and control
    • Gain skills at botanical data collection
    • Process plant species frequency data for vegetation 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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    Forest Watershed 

    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.

    Forest Watershed Career Projects may include:

    • Complete channel cross sections, longitudinal profiles and pebble counts to analyze the geomorphic change.
    • Assess the geomorphic change in Little Creek as part of an ongoing monitoring project in the Little Creek Watershed
    • 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:

    • Cattle movement.
    • Monitor and improve rangeland condition. 
    • Manage cattle grazing patterns, including moving cattle between pasture. 
    • Maintain ranch infrastructure including fencing, animal handling facilities, and ranch roads.

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    Meal Preparation/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.

    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. For summer 2020, we have more limited meal preparation opportunities than in the past as there is only one summer course, for 4 weeks. The remainder of the experience will focus on special events. The remainder of the internship will include work largely described in the crops internship area. Click here for a job description.

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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.
    • Maintain professionalism and courtesy
    • Maintain orderly work environment 
    • Assure proper functioning equipment and setting – inform supervisor if additional help is needed
    • Assist staff in maintaining facilities throughout Swanton Pacific Ranch
    • Perform other duties assigned


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