An Intern’s Career Path

Former Restoration Scholar Demonstrates Power of Internship Program in Launching Careers with Impact

River Partners Restoration Biologist Francis Ulep got his start at River Partners as a Restoration Scholar. His internship led to the beginning of his career, and now Francis will be attending UC Davis as a PhD student to continue studying one of his conservation passions: understanding plant health in the face of climate change.

For anyone considering a career in conservation, River Partners’ Restoration Scholars program can foster the growth of California’s next generation of restoration and conservation leaders.

In 2018, Francis Ulep was trying to discover what he really wanted to do in within environmental sciences as a student at UC Merced. He knew he wanted an internship that would get him out in the field.

“I got an email about River Partners, saying they were looking for summer interns, and that I should apply,” Ulep said. “So, instead of studying for finals, I polished my resume and applied.”

2022 Restoration Scholar Applications are open until April 29th! Apply today.

During the summer, Francis worked on what would become the largest floodplain restoration in California’s history. He said, “I had no idea work was happening in the Central Valley at that scale. What really caught my eye was standing on the levee, and seeing the contrast of a three-year-old restoration next to bare dirt we were about to plant. I was in awe of the work that could be done.”

Francis’ Restoration Scholar internship led to the beginning of his career. Now, he’s worked with River Partners as a field biologist for nearly four years, contributing to our science team with improvements to our digital data management and remote monitoring techniques. This boosts our ability to collect, synthesize and report on the impacts of our projects in a cost-effective manner.

In the fall, he will start his PhD at UC Davis, conducting field research with various types of remote sensing platforms, advancing methods for understanding the carbon capture of plants, and hopefully, illuminating how drought can influence fluctuations in global carbon dioxide levels. The staff at River Partners will be sad to see Francis go, but thrilled that he was able to start his career with us, and that he’s found his passion for fulfilling work that will have a lasting impact on the world.

Francis takes a selfie while drone monitoring at Dos Rios Ranch Preserve. He discovered his passion and knack for remote data collection and synthesis while improving River Partners’ project monitoring practices.

“Interning with River Partners gave me the exposure to understand what line of work I wanted to do, and what it means to conduct work that’s actually meaningful,” Francis explained. “I felt a sense of accomplishment that the efforts I was putting out were for the greater good.”

Restoration work isn’t always easy, but it can be very rewarding. On days when he measured spacing between plants in triple-digit heat in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the idea that he was contributing to something greater helped keep his spirits high.

Francis Ulep, Restoration Biologist, and Emma Havstad, Southern California Ecologist, in the field observing monarch butterflies and other pollinators on stands of restored milkweed at Hollenbeck Canyon in San Diego County. Francis notes that knowing his work is contributing to something greater brings him a feeling of meaning to the everyday tasks of field work.

Francis’ friends and colleagues have struggled to find full-time employment in the environmental field, and often ended up in positions that weren’t the right fit. Interning, and then getting hired full-time with River Partners, showed Francis that there’s a path for full-time, meaningful conservation work.

Offering paid, real-world experience, an opportunity to build relationships with our knowledgeable and friendly staff, and unique insights into the day-to-day operations of an organization with the largest restoration footprint in the West, the 2022 Restoration Scholars internship program with River Partners is an unparalleled experience for innovative young scientists looking to start their careers off on the right foot.

For more information, visit River Partners Careers. Applications will be accepted until April 29, 2022.