Skip to Main Content
Home >> Working with Us >> Citizen Science >> CH 3: Build Your Team

CH 3: Build Your Team


To successfully launch a citizen science project, you may need help from a variety of personnel. Not all of them may be necessary depending on the design of your project.

Staff positions

  • Program Manager/Lead Scientist – Every project will need at least one person who develops and runs the program. It is recommended to have two staff members in order for the program to be resilient and sustainable during times of turnover, extended staff time off, and other possible delays in the project. A lead scientist would have expertise about the species or program needs.
  • Partnership Coordinator – This position coordinates with partners and the project head and has the most current information on how to develop partnerships.
  • Volunteer Coordinator – A key position for large or lengthy projects is a Volunteer Coordinator, who recruits and communicates with volunteers, manages their schedules and training, updates volunteer resources and information to the website, and recommends volunteers for awards or other recognitions. This could be a staff member from the Forest Service or a partner organization. Coordinators and others should utilize the “Volunteers in the Forest Service: A Guide for Coordinators” as additional guidance for program administration.
  • GIS Specialist – If you are considering developing a custom app or using ArcGIS Online, a GIS Specialist may be able to advise you. Your local GIS specialist can teach you how to collect spatial data in a way that meshes with existing Forest Service data and databases.
  • Data Manager – A data manager may be necessary to enter and upload data into a usable format.
  • Resource Specialist – This person is an expert in the subject area. They identify the questions most useful to the Forest Service and the information your volunteers will collect. They also play a role in analyzing and using the data collected.
  • Team Leaders – A Team Leader instructs and accompanies volunteers on the field. For example, in citizen science projects involving youth, local science teachers often lead and assist students in collecting data. A team leader could also be a staff member from the Forest Service or a partner organization.
  • Grants & Agreements Specialist – The G&A specialist best understands which partnership tools and methods will contribute to a successful project. They can advise on negotiating the terms of contracts, agreements, and grants and is the expert in policy requirements.
  • Public Affairs Officer – This person gets the word out about a citizen science project both for enlisting engaged and enthusiastic volunteers as well as promoting the results of a successful project. They could be a staff member from the Forest Service or a partner organization, well-versed in the talking points of the project and sensitive to potential misinterpretations of issues covered in the research.
  • Line Officer and Leadership – Ensure project success by providing the needed time and resources to the project leads and relevant staff that support the project.

Internships & student programs

You might consider hiring a temporary employee to fill in some of the roles above. The Forest Service has several internship programs to bring in new employees, listed below. Note: since they are being financially compensated for their time, these employees would not be considered citizen scientists.

  • Resource Assistant Program – Resource Assistants are employed by partner organizations, but work on Forest Service units or projects under the supervision of agency staff. Types of work include monitoring species and conducting research, coordinating volunteers and leading Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crews, and supporting agency operations.
  • Job Corps – Job Corps is a voluntary program that prepares young people ages 16-24 with education and hands-on career training for entry-level positions that lead to careers in today’s job market.
  • Student Conservation Association – SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.
  • GeoCorps America – The need for geoscience expertise in America's public lands is great. In many cases, geoscience is not adequately addressed in education, resource management, geological hazards mitigation, and research on public lands. Through partnership with USDA Forest Service, under the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, the Geological Society of America’s GeoCorps program strives to increase the number of geoscientists on-the-ground, contributing to the research and protection of geologic resources and developing education and outreach activities.
  • Celebra las Aves (Celebrating Shorebirds) – This is a Latino student internship specific to bird research and grassroots bird education that is administered by Forest Service through our partner at Environment for the Americas (EFTA). EFTA coordinates International Migratory Bird Day.
  • Great Basin Institute The Institute recruits research associates and AmeriCorps fellows for conservation projects across the west in partnership with the Forest Service and other western land management agencies.



Vital to any citizen science project, partnerships are formal agreements between the Forest Service and non-Forest Service organizations. There are many benefits to establishing partnerships, such as strengthening financial and technical support, linking the agency and stakeholders, educating the public, and increasing common activities across land ownerships. Partners also play a variety of roles including recruiting and managing volunteers, developing research questions, and analyzing data.

How to find a partnership

Talk to your partnership coordinator to find partners who may be interested in joining your citizen science project as well as existing agreements held by your Forest that could help implement it. The Forest Service website has a page on partnership contacts in regional offices and research stations, Tribal points of contact, and a list of non-governmental organizations the Forest Service often partners with. The Forest Service also works with three congressionally-chartered nonprofit partners:

Successful partnerships

Partnerships thrive on mutual benefits and objectives, so first, make your goals and intended outcomes clear. Focus on those similarities and work to understand their perspectives. Plan regular meetings with your partners and stakeholders to evaluate your work and solve problems—the more communication and feedback, the better. Prepare to adapt to changing needs and goals of your partners. See the Partnership Guide – a 2014 draft document with comprehensive information on what partnerships are, roles within partnerships, instruments and authorities, working with Indian Tribes, volunteer agreements, and other topics.



The Forest Service is committed to strengthening its working relationships with federally recognized Indian Tribes. The agency could partially fulfill this responsibility by partnering with Tribes in citizen science projects. Such partnerships can create a mutually beneficial relationship where Tribes have more opportunities to benefit from Forest Service programs and the agency benefits from tribal guidance and knowledge, specifically Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). TEK, like Western science, rests on the collection of observations. Citizen science projects working with Tribes and using TEK can harmonize the two knowledge systems. TEK may provide new insights into how ecosystems respond to human intervention and changing climate conditions and suggest new strategies to manage forests and grasslands for a variety of economic services, cultural uses, and environmental benefits.


The Forest Service may enter into agreements, grants, or contracts with tribes, just as it can with other organizations or agencies. It is important to remember, however, that when a tribe joins a partnership or collaborative process, it still maintains a separate governmental relationship with the Forest Service; the partnership or collaborative process is always conducted in addition to the separate process of consultation between the agency and the tribe. It is important for members participating in a collaborative process or partnership to understand and respect this unique relationship federal agencies have with tribes.

The following are partners of the U.S. Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations:


Below is a list of Forest Service tribal liaisons:

  • Washington Office: Carl Lucero, Director, Landscape Restoration & Ecosystem Research
  • Southern Research Station: Serra Hoagland, Biological Scientist
  • Rocky Mountain Research Station: Alison Hill, Research Program Manager
  • Northern Research Station:
  • Pacific Northwest Research Station: Linda Krueger, Research Social Scientist
  • Pacific Southwest Research Station: Peter Stine, Director of Partnerships & Collaboration
  • Forest Products Laboratory: Tom Schimdt, Assistant Director, Research

You can also contact the Office of Tribal Relations Staff.

Tribal Leaders Dictionary

To help identify Tribal partners, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has the Tribal Leaders Directory. The electronic, map based, interactive directory provides contact information for Indian Affairs leadership and each federally recognized tribe.

 Additional Resources 

  • Resource Assistants Program – A collaborative effort between the U.S. Forest Service and Salish Kootenai College, the Resource Assistants Program is a paid internship opportunity for those interested in natural and cultural resource careers. These positions are fully funded by the Washington Office and recruitment outreach preference is given to current students especially from minority-serving institutions, recent graduates, and underrepresented populations.
  • Tribal Engagement Roadmap – The Tribal Engagement Roadmap outlines an agenda for Forest Service Research & Development staff regarding services to, engagement with, and learning from, Indian Tribes and other indigenous groups. A goal of the Roadmap is to advance research on topics of joint interest, such as climate change, fire science, TEK, water protection, fish and wildlife, forest products, restoration, social vulnerability, and sustainability. Learn more through the 2016 Highlights Report.
  • FS National Resource Guide to American Indian and Alaska Native Relations  – The focus of this book is to help Forest Service line officers and employees gain a clear understanding of how to implement the U.S. Government’s and the Forest Service’s American Indian and Alaska Native policies.


Grants & Agreements

If your project will include the exchange of something of value (i.e. funds or services), then you will need to develop an agreement. Agreements with your partners document roles, responsibilities, and the intent and scale of your project. Detailed guidance and information about establishing agreements with partners can be found in the Partnership Guide.

The flowchart below illustrates which kinds of agreements you should use in a Forest Service citizen science project. It can be a useful tool to start out with, but should not replace discussions between the partner, program staff, and G&A specialists. Those discussions should be ongoing and start early on in the partnership negotiation and continue even after the agreement is executed.

Citizen science agreements flowchart

Memorandum of Understanding

If the project does not include the exchange of funds, services, or something of value, then you may want to develop a Memorandum of Understanding. Memoranda of Understanding are used to document a framework for cooperation between the Forest Service and other parties for carrying out activities in a coordinated and mutually beneficial manner, though each party directs its own activities and uses its own resources. No specific authority needs to be cited, but all activities should be within the Forest Service mission.


If the project primarily benefits the Forest Service purpose and no cost sharing is anticipated, it may be a procurement.

  • Contract – A contract is used when a private vendor does a service for the agency and can be used by any deputy area. Contracts are not covered under Forest Service Manual (FSM) 1580. Visit the Forest Service website for more information.
  • Interagency Agreement – This agreement is used when one federal agency provides materials, supplies, equipment, work, or services of any kind that another federal agency needs to accomplish its mission. Some people refer to these as Intra-governmental Orders (IGOs). Do not confuse Interagency Agreements with Intra-agency Agreements between two FS units, which FSM 1580 does not cover.
  • Cost Reimbursable Agreement – Cost-reimbursable agreements are used when Forest Service research units acquire goods or services, including personnel services, from state cooperative institutions, or other colleges and universities, without seeking competition, to conduct agricultural research of mutual interest. For example, a citizen science project can order services like DNA sequencing from a university lab. Research & Development dollars must be used in a cost-reimbursable agreement.

Partnership agreements

If the project is of mutual benefit to the Forest Service and a non-federal party, and if there is an exchange of something of value that meets the purpose of both parties, it may be a partnership agreement. Cost sharing should be commensurate with benefits received and a minimum 20% match should be negotiated, unless otherwise stated.

  • Participating Agreement – Participating Agreements are used when there is mutual benefit, mutual interest, and cost sharing. Often, the project covers pollution abatement, man power/job training, publication of forestry history materials, interpretative association, forest protection, prescribed fire, or watershed restoration and enhancement. In citizen science, participating agreements may also be used to hire Resource Assistants or other staff to assist in running citizen science projects. Typically, NFS dollars are used. If other appropriations are use, it must fit within program funding direction.
  • Challenge Cost Share Agreement – Challenge Cost Share Agreements are used when there is mutual benefit, mutual interest, cost sharing, and the Forest Service works cooperatively to develop, plan and implement the project. Challenge cost share agreements usually afford more flexibility than participating agreements in that funds can be added when new activities evolve, without having to submit additional paperwork for approval each time a change is made. Challenge Cost Share agreements must emphasize monitoring—not applied research. There is a 20% match required by partner organizations. This cannot be made up of a majority of indirect costs, however, consult with your local grants & agreements specialist since there are no strict rules for the balance between direct and indirect costs. Volunteer hours can be counted as part of a partner match, but there must be a volunteer program in place at the host institution that recognizes them as official volunteers and officially records their hours. National Forest System monitoring dollars must be used.
  • Joint Venture Agreements – Joint Venture Agreements are used to pool resources in support of agricultural research activities of mutual interest. Parties must share costs and R&D dollars must be used.

Federal financial assistance

If the project serves a public good and meets the intent of a specified assistance authority, then it may be a grant or cooperative agreement. State and private forestry is the deputy area that contributes money to grants and cooperative agreements.

  • Grant – Grants are used to transfer money, property, services, or anything of value to an outside group for a project of mutual interest where substantial Forest Service involvement is not anticipated. You can apply for a grant through, a centralized source to find and apply for federal grants.
  • Cooperative Agreement – Cooperative Agreements are used to transfer money, property, services, or anything of value to an outside group for a project of mutual interest where substantial agency involvement is anticipated, such approving the next phase of the project.
Skip to Main Content
Jump to Top of Page