Volunteer Internship Program

Do you need some hands-on field experience with forestry practices? The UBC Malcolm Knapp Research Forest (MKRF) in Maple Ridge, B.C. and Alex Fraser Research Forest (AFRF) in Williams Lake, B.C. each offer opportunities for students from Canada and abroad to join in with our activities on a daily basis so as to become familiar with practical skills such as navigation, mensuration, and data collection. This unpaid opportunity aims to increase awareness about introductory field skills to 2nd, 3rd and 4th year forestry students or students in related fields.

Each year between May and October at AFRF and March to November at MKRF, up to two internship positions are available at each Research Forest for a minimum of one month and a maximum of four months, depending on capacity and interest. For stays two months or longer volunteers may be able to split their time between the two Research Forests — this option must be arranged during the application process.

Gaining field experience

Gain Introductory Forestry Field Skills

Participating in research projects

Knowing that forestry employers seek to hire people who have the skills to safely and competently conduct field work, we aim to provide volunteers the chance to learn some of those basic skills. You will learn how to read maps, use a compass and GPS unit, collect and manage a variety of data, and spend lots of time gaining familiarity with various terrain and forest conditions. Come prepared for rain, heat and mosquitoes – our Canadian forests are beautiful but sometimes challenging! Volunteers are expected to commit to a regular weekly schedule under the  supervision of Research Forest staff. Volunteers can expect to spend most days in the field, shadowing both junior and senior staff with silviculture, harvest planning, operations and research duties (e.g. measuring trees, assisting with silviculture surveys, mapping and marking operational boundaries, entering data into databases and GIS, assisting with road layout and maintenance, or some manual tasks).

We aim to provide as broad an exposure as possible. Please note that forestry does have elements of seasonality and repetitiveness. For instance, in the spring planting season, the focus will be on conducting planting surveys and overseeing planting contracts. Then during the rest of the summer and fall, kilometers of harvest block boundaries, skid trails, and new roads get transposed from our GIS onto the ground. Interspersed through the field season, will be other projects such as inventory or research measurements or looking for forest health problems that need to be managed. So while the methodology for each type of experience will be similar, the locations, ecological settings and terrain will vary. The Volunteer Program at the UBC Research Forests will provide participants with introductory forestry field skills and an opportunity to see first-hand the processes involved with forest management in British Columbia.

We are flexible in accommodating volunteers’ needs for related experience and personal travel outside of the Research Forest. Additionally, volunteers are welcome to visit research sites of interest and will be invited along on tours we host. If students are required by their home university to prepare reports about their experiences, some scheduled time may be provided, although personal time should also be used.

Volunteers will need to provide proof of medical coverage, a valid driver’s license, and ability to drive a manual transmission vehicle. Hiking boots with lugged soles and ankle support, plus good quality rain gear is required. We also recommend volunteers have their own rugged- or caulk-soled waterproof boots. All other forestry field equipment will be provided.

Accommodation for Volunteers at AFRF

Setting of UBC cabin at Gavin Lake Camp

The Alex Fraser Research Forest offers free accommodation in our researcher cabin at the Gavin Lake Forest Education Society Camp approximately 1 hour’s drive away from the Research Forest office in William’s Lake. This facility has electricity, three bedrooms with two beds each, a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities and is situated in the wilderness setting of the Gavin Lake Block of the forest. It even has internet service (it’s satellite Internet without enough band-width for video streaming, but occasional Skype use is possible). The kitchen is fully stocked with dishes, cooking appliances and utensils, but interns provide their own food. Although at times interns may be alone in this cabin, they should expect to share it and its facilities with visiting researchers as they come and go throughout the field season.

The Gavin Lake Camp overlooks its namesake lake, and is frequently booked by school and family groups. Canoes at camp are available for intern use, and numerous hiking and biking trails are nearby.

Transportation for Volunteers

The Research Forests provide vehicles and equipment only during the daily schedule. Volunteers must have their own vehicle for personal purposes such as grocery shopping, socializing, and travel. Whether you are based at the Alex Fraser Research Forest, which is completely inaccessible by public transportation, or the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest, which is also poorly served by the bus service, a car or small truck will give you the freedom to make the most of your volunteer experience. Therefore, a valid driver’s license is mandatory if you want to participate in the program.

Information for international students:

Renting a car is possible for about CDN $1500.00 per month, including insurance. A used car may be purchased for approximately $1500.00-$4000.00, with an additional cost of approximately $100.00/month for insurance and $100-$200 for gas. Interns are responsible for all arrangements regarding acquiring vehicles.


Volunteers may learn how to do the following skills:
• research project site maintenance, sample and data collection
• trail maintenance
• information management with databases, including our image database
• planting
• silviculture surveys
• external and internal cutblock boundary marking and access road traverses
• mapping using GIS and GPS technology
• forest health surveys, e.g. bark beetles

Work Permit Requirement

International volunteers must be from countries having reciprocal agreements with Canada under the International Experience Canada Program (https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/iec.html) and must obtain a “Working Holiday” Open Work Permit in order to be accepted in our Internship Program. The numbers of young people accepted from each country is decided by random draw from the pool of applicants. As such, there is no guarantee that an applicant will receive the opportunity to apply to receive a work permit. There are application fees. If applicants are not selected to proceed or need to cancel the process, that money can be reimbursed. The details are on the website.

Note: The application process for the International Experience Canada Program may begin during the autumn before the year a volunteer may wish to participate in our Program.

Canadian Immigration and Citizenship require non-Canadians to have this work permit for volunteer activities exceeding two weeks where the objective is to gain skills that are relevant to their career goals.

Interested in more information?

If this program sounds interesting to you, contact David Hamilton for an application form for the program. The deadline for the application form to be submitted is February 15 of the year you wish to volunteer, though you are welcome to apply earlier too, especially if you are actively seeking a Work Permit described above. Applications after Febuary 15th may be considered on a case by case basis. We select candidates and internship durations based on our particular capacity in a given year.