Range Ecologist

Regular, Full-Time
Job Category
Land Stewardship


Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Audubon’s mission is engaging people in bird conservation on a hemispheric scale through science, policy, education and on-the-ground conservation action.  By mobilizing and aligning its network of Chapters, Centers, State and Important Bird Area programs in the four major migratory flyways in the Americas, the organization will bring the full power of Audubon to bear on protecting common and threatened bird species and the critical habitat they need to survive.  And as part of BirdLife International, Audubon will join people in over 100 in-country organizations all working to protect a network of Important Bird Areas around the world, leveraging the impact of actions they take at a local level.  What defines Audubon’s unique value is a powerful grassroots network of nearly 500 local chapters, 22 state offices, 41 Audubon Centers, Important Bird Area Programs in 50 states, and 700 staff across the country.  Audubon is a federal contractor and an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE).



Among the most endangered ecosystems in North America are the once immense grasslands that span from Canada, through the heartland of the United States, and into northern and central Mexico. Across North America, Audubon is working with ranchers and landowners to protect the habitat grassland birds need to survive. More than 50 percent of North America’s vast native grasslands, an area that once covered roughly 585 million acres, has been developed or converted to other uses over the past century. As a result, bird species that rely on this habitat are among those in sharpest decline.

To protect these iconic American birds, Audubon has established the Conservation Ranching Program to work with private and public partners to create market-based solutions that help ranchers manage their land in ways that preserve natural grasslands. Audubon has developed easy-to-implement land management protocols that improve habitat, while creating opportunities for ranchers to reach new and growing markets for their products. Public partners and private sector experts have been enlisted to help spread and encourage these practices, and we have developed a marketing and certification program that will enable participating ranches to market their products as bird-friendly. Because the majority of grassland habitat is in private hands, we will have the greatest impact if we work collaboratively with individuals, families, businesses and consumers to identify the most effective ways to protect birds and wildlife.

Audubon is creating a “bird-friendly” certification using the Audubon brand that can be used by those who voluntarily implement land management protocols on their ranches. This “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval with the trusted Audubon brand will expand marketing opportunities for participating ranchers and help to attract buyers in a market that is expanding exponentially. In fact, over the last 15 years, the market for certified sustainable products has grown from $5 million to $2 billion. Market analyst’s project that this segment will grow to $15 to $20 billion in the next decade. If you add the fact that there are more than 46 million birders in the U.S. alone, the opportunities to generate premiums for products that display the Audubon logo and that support bird-friendly habitats is sizeable.

Position Summary

The conservation ranching program range ecologist will work closely with local ranchers to facilitate the development of “bird- friendly” grazing regimes which comply with the program protocols to benefit both birds and the ranching operation. The range ecologist will be responsible for developing the habitat management plan, an integral conservation tool which will be referenced by both the ecologist and the rancher to determine management goals and confirm protocol compliance annually. Habitat management plans rely on the designation of target grassland bird species for each ranch, therefore, the range ecologist needs to be familiar with grassland and waterfowl bird ranges and their habitat associations. Through monitoring grassland use and identifying goals, the range ecologist ensures that ranchers are compliant with the conservation ranching program and are enhancing their grasslands for the benefit of grassland birds. Additionally, the range ecologist will be responsible for identifying, developing, and implementing research needs at Audubon Dakota Wildlife Ranches and partner land. This may include vegetative, avian, and mammal surveys related to climate change, energy development, land development, etc. The range ecologist will work under the direction of Audubon Dakota’s Conservation Programs Manager in the Dakotas to meet program goals and benchmarks.

Essential Functions

Serve as an on-the-ground grassland bird conservation specialist for Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program to enhance grassland wetland habitat for a target region’s priority bird species. This will include:

Landowner Liaison

  • Provide technical assistance to enrolling landowners
  • Establish and maintain working relationships with ranchers and landowners participating in the Conservation Ranching program.
  • Communicate program goals and work with rancher/landowner to develop site specific farm habitat conservation plans for each assigned ranch.
  • Initiate relationships to recruit new program participants.
  • Assist with supply-chain coordination to benefit program enrollment 

Monitoring Coordination

  • Implement essential bird/grassland monitoring practices and/or coordinate monitoring with responsible contractors.
  • Maintain an effective working relationship with partners and Audubon state office staff.

Habitat Management/Research

  • Using ecoregion specific bird-friendly grazing standards, assist program ranchers with implementing an adaptive grazing plan that meets Audubon’s Conservation Ranching requirements, and provide essential habitat needs for one or more target bird species.
  • Identifying research needs regarding avian, vegetation, and mammalian changes, and having the ability to develop and implement research techniques to address projects related to energy production, climate change, and surrounding land development.

Qualifications and Experience

  • Bachelor’s degree or advanced degree in range management, ecology, natural resources in management or related field, preferred

  • 1+ years’ experience with similar work within the target area

  • Experience working with local agencies and organizations to help ranchers secure cost-share and incentive program funding to implement improved rangeland management practices

  • Must possess excellent verbal and written communication skills and be able to work effectively with producers and a variety of partners

  • Must possess an advanced ArcGIS, GPS, or other GIS technology aptitude

  • Experience with grassland plant identification and management

  • Experience with avian identification and management

  • Familiarity with common grazing systems in the northern Great Plains

  • Must be comfortable with extensive travel with multiple overnight trips per month within the target area.



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