Become part of Hawaii’s conservation story

4-month Biological Volunteer Position at 

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is seeking two volunteers available from January 14th 2019 through mid/late May2019 to perform both terrestrial and marine biological monitoring surveys at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  Palmyra Atoll is located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.  It is uninhabited except for a small crew who manage a Nature Conservancy field station and nature preserve and Service personnel who manage the refuge resources.  Volunteers will have the rare opportunity to live in this remote setting surrounded by rainforest, seabirds, coconut crabs and rich coral reefs.

Duties and Responsibilities: Volunteers will be expected to work 40-50 hours per week 6/days per week for the entire ~4 months without any chance of leaving the atoll.  A major project will include efforts related to forest restoration that will involve invasive plant control using both manual techniques and herbicide applications, native tree propagation as well as setting up and monitoring plots designed to learn more about each.  Some experimental work involving invasive marine species may be conducted which will require basic snorkeling skills and the ability to work from a boat.  Biological monitoring of seabirds, shorebirds, sea turtles, mosquitoes, starfish and corallimorph are conducted on a regular basis. Volunteers will also be responsible for data management and report writing as well as the cleaning, maintenance, and repair work needed to keep equipment running in a remote tropical environment.  All FWS station personnel are part of the atoll community and work hours may include up to 8-hours a week contributing to basic station chores such as laundry, cleaning, trash collection etc.  Refuge personnel work closely with The Nature Conservancy and volunteers will be interacting with a variety of people.  Volunteers will be expected to represent the US. Fish and Wildlife Service in a mature and professional manner which may include providing interpretive tours and presentations to visitors. 

Palmyra is a thickly forested set of islands with abundant rainfall; hot, humid temperatures; and rustic living conditions. Definitive medical care facilities are 1,000 miles away and critical care may take up to 4-days to be received.  There is no cell reception on the atoll and opportunities for mail are very limited.  Volunteers must be prepared to not have any resupplies during their time on the atoll.  Most work days will involve motor boat or kayak operations.  Palmyra’s marine environment is dominated by apex predators and reef sharks are present and will be seen on a daily basis.


Volunteers must be:

  • Must possess a current passport that does not expire for at least 1-year
  • Physically and mentally fit for living and working on a remote atoll.  Strong, healthy bodies are critical. 
  • Able to lift and carry 50-lbs, ride a bicycle, kayak up to 6-miles round trip, and be able to perform repetitive stooping, twisting and bending motions throughout the day.
  • Able to pass a snorkel/swim fitness test and be able to engage in snorkel surveys for up to 6 hours per day.
  • Able to walk at least 5-miles a day over variable terrain including water-covered sand flats, thick rainforests and open beaches.  
  • Candidates must be able to perform all duties in equatorial weather conditions including high heat and humidity, strong winds, and rain.
  • Able to supply their own mask, fins, snorkel and wetsuit tops if needed.

Volunteers must be able to work well independently as well as side-by-side for extended periods of time.  The best-suited candidates will be easy-going with a good sense of humor, display a mature and professional persona, be flexible under changing conditions and possess a strong physical and mental constitution. Possession of a valid U.S. driver’s license is preferred. Prior experience in the following is preferred, but not required: remote long-term camping or rustic living; operating small motorboats and kayaks; invasive plant control (terrestrial); shorebird and seabird identification and monitoring; familiarity with computer software such as Google Earth Microsoft Word and Excel; and general maintenance of equipment and facilities.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide:

  • Transportation to and from Honolulu, HI from major US cities or neighboring islands.
  • Housing in Honolulu before and after the trip for the days required for work purposes.
  • Food, housing and quarantine clothes while on Palmyra.

Honolulu is expensive and volunteers will need to have sufficient finances to provide for their own food for up to 1 week of time that they will be in Honolulu both before and after their time on the Refuge.

To Apply

Please send a resume/CV with at least 3 references and a single page cover letter to

Application deadline will be Dec 5 but interviews will begin as soon as suitable candidate applications are received.


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