Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Summer Intern Position through the American Chestnut Foundation - Virginia Chapter

Background Information:  American chestnut (Castanea dentata), was once a dominant tree in the Eastern forest of the United States.   Virginia is located at the center of the specie’s historic range. Chestnut was an extremely important tree—as lumber and as food for wildlife—in the Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Appalachian forest communities. Unfortunately, its historic greatness was catastrophically compromised by a fungus, Asian chestnut blight, which was accidentally introduced in the early 1900’s.  Since 1983, The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) has carried out a six-generation backcross breeding program to produce blight-resistant chestnuts that otherwise exhibit characteristics of American chestnut.  The Virginia Chapter of TACF was formed in 2006 in order to:

  • Develop blight-resistant American chestnuts that are adapted to the geographical regions of Virginia; 
  • Preserve wild, surviving American chestnuts still found in the state;
  • Educate Virginians about the values of American chestnut and efforts to develop blight-resistance; and
  • Prepare for restoration of American chestnut trees in Virginia.

Blight-resistant American chestnuts are grown using a multi-step process.  In late May and early June, we hand-pollinate surviving American chestnuts will pollen from trees that have blight-resistance from a Chinese chestnut ancestor. Next, the seed produced from these efforts are planted in breeding orchards. Trees in breeding orchards are grown for several years, then tested for blight-resistance by inoculating them with chestnut blight.  Those trees that did not inherit sufficient blight-resistance are removed from the breeding orchard; and the remaining trees are left to interbreed.  The chestnuts produced by this stage of interbreeding are then planted in a new orchard, called a seed orchard, for the next generation of breeding.

Position Description:  The summer intern will primarily assist in the breeding program by helping to maintain breeding orchards by weeding, mulching, and fertilizing seedlings.  He or she will also be removing trees that are not blight resistant from the orchard.  In inclement weather, the intern will help maintain tree data by logging survival, growth and removal data and mounting herbarium specimens.  The intern may also assist in ceremonial plantings and other events that may arise to publicize the efforts of TACF in Virginia.

Opportunities for the Intern:    Interns will have an opportunity to learn applied science.  In the field, he or she will learn to identify various other types of chestnuts, how to plant and care for trees, and carefully monitor chestnut seedlings and growing conditions.

Qualifications:  Interns must have a keen interest in biology, ecology, horticulture, or forestry and be able to work with little supervision.  Interns also must be physically fit to participate in heavy outdoor activity.  Finally, the intern must have access to his or her own vehicle to travel to orchard sites.

Location:  The intern will be working out of an office at 8266 E. Main St., Marshall, Virginia, and in orchards located in Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier and Loudoun Counties.

Compensation: The Chapter will pay $2,500 as a stipend for 8 weeks or work, 5 days/week.  Start date and vacation breaks are flexible.  In addition, the chapter will reimburse the intern for mileage at the rate of 40 cents/mile.

Additional Information:  Contact Catherine Mayes, President, Virginia Chapter of TACF, P.O. Box 158, Marshall, VA  20116, (540) 364-1922, vachestnut@verizon.net.