Land Stewardship Fellows Program


The Land Stewardship Fellows program provides experience in practical, on-the-ground land management based on Aldo Leopold’s land ethic philosophy. The fellowship trains entry-level natural resources professionals in land management tasks and fosters an awareness and understanding of the land, the many interrelationships between natural resources and their management, and the challenges of managing for land health as a whole and not for individual resources.  The Aldo Leopold Foundation property serves as an outdoor classroom, where Stewardship Fellows are actively involved in all aspects of management.

The nine-month commitment is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a landscape influenced by Leopold, surround yourself with dedicated conservation professionals, and partake in experiences that will enhance your own land ethic. Our objective is to prepare future conservation leaders for the next step in their career, whether it be a graduate program or full-time employment at a public or private entity.

Program Description 

The fellowship spans nine months, starting in February and ending in November. As the seasons change from winter to spring, summer to fall, and back again, the Stewardship Crew works in concert with the changing seasons and phenology. The fellowship teaches both discrete skills (chainsaw skills, chemical application, tractor use, sawing brush, GIS mapping, GPS, etc.) and problem solving skills, providing fellows with a comprehensive toolbox they can use to carry out invasive species management, timber stand improvement, prescribed burning, and many other projects required to care for a piece of land at any time of year. While the Stewardship Crew spends over three quarters of its time in the field, when you are inside you will work in the Aldo Leopold Legacy Centera sustainably built, Platinum LEED-certified, zero carbon emission building. 

Fellows will also be involved in projects that may change from year to year with the Foundation’s overall initiatives and collaborations with partners. Beyond the core, yearly experiences of invasives control, prescribed burning, forestry practices, and report writing, fellows can expect opportunities to explore, participate, and attend a wide variety of events, workshops, talks, and meetings that will expand their professional networks, knowledge base, and understanding of non-profit operations. 

Fellows will be expected to work on tasks assigned by their supervisor for 40 hours per week. Initially, fellows should expect to work closely with their supervisor or crew leader in a team environment.  As you gain experience, you will be granted more independence and opportunities for leadership roles.  

Fellowship Timeline:

  • Winter: 
    Buckthorn Removal:
    This task requires the use of chainsaws and chemical herbicide. Fellows are quickly brought up to speed with these field tools by taking chainsaw safety classes (offered through the Aldo Leopold Foundation) and obtaining a Wisconsin State Herbicide Applicator license.
  • Spring: 
    Prescribed Burning: Before spring green up, the crew conducts prescribed burns on both Aldo Leopold Foundation property and private landowner properties.  Because weather dictates burning opportunities, the Stewardship Crew is “on-call” for the month of April. We work long days when the weather cooperates and take days off when the weather is not favorable for burning.  This is an exhilarating and physically demanding stewardship task.
    Garlic Mustard:  Two full months of the fellowship are devoted to garlic mustard control. The Stewardship Crew transects 300 acres of the Leopold Memorial Reserve (not once, but twice) to spray and collect data on the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s garlic mustard populations (link to garlic mustard report).  While the crew is very focused on the task at hand, we have fun watching the spring flora and fauna emerge—including fawns, turkeys, snakes, and spring ephemerals. 
  • Summer: 
    Japanese Hedge Parsley/Other Invasives: The Stewardship Crew monitors the Leopold Memorial Reserve for Japanese hedge-parsley, a more recent invader of Wisconsin. In addition to using chemical treatment, we also hand pull this aggressive weed.
    Miscellaneous Projects: Seed collection, prairie restoration efforts, trail mowing, carpentry projects, plant sampling, research projects, vegetation monitoring, and landowner visits cover the schedule of hot summer days.
  • Fall: 
    Chainsaw Work: As the leaves fall, the crew heads back to the woods to test their chainsaw skills with timber stand improvement (TSI), firewood cutting and splitting, and buckthorn removal.
    GIS Mapping: This is a great time of year to collect data to build base layer files for future GIS projects.
    Wrap-up Projects: Seed processing, landowner visits, professional development opportunities, and preparing materials for incoming fellows close out the year for Land Stewardship Fellows.

Yearly Core Experience Areas:

  • Invasive Species Management (40%)
    • Common Buckthorn & other invasive woody shrubs
    • Garlic Mustard
    • Japanese Hedge Parsley
  • Prescribed burning on Aldo Leopold Foundation and private lands (10%)
  • Woodland School class coordination and participation (5%)
  • GIS/GPS (5%)
  • Reporting and documentation (15%)
  • Miscellaneous activities (25%), which may include timber stand improvement, grounds maintenance, professional development activities, maintenance/enhancement of native prairie establishments, and more.

The Land Stewardship Fellows program offers hands-on skills and a diverse knowledge base that creates confident and experienced land stewards.

If you are currently a student, we will be offering a 12-week summer fellowship starting in late May through late August. Please continue to watch our website for application materials which will be posted in the spring.

Land Stewardship FAQs

What is the work schedule for the fellows?
The Stewardship Crew normally works Monday through Friday. We schedule our work days depending on our daily activity and the season. We generally work 8-4, but sometimes it is 7-3 or 9-5.  There are seasons were we might put in longer days to accomplish a task in exchange for time off later in the month.  This usually happens during the prescribed burning season where the stewardship staff is "on call" to work when the weather is appropriate.  Fellows receive time off later in the season to compensate for the extra hours spent during burn season.

Will I have to work weekends?
Weekends are required occasionally. This is due to either an all-staff activity or training. Rarely do we work a weekend to finish a task that was started during the week. If you are expected to work a weekend, you will know several weeks in advance and your schedule will be adjusted accordingly.

Are fellowships offered every year?
Yes, depending on the year there may be two to three positions available.

Do you hire international applicants?
At this time, we do not hire international applicants.

How much time should I expect to be in the field?
As a fellow, you will spend about 85% of your time in the field working with invasive species, conducting prescribed burns, collecting seeds for prairie restorations, conducting timber stand improvement, and doing a number of other activities. The other 15% of your time will be spent writing summary reports about field activities, and attending trainings or other professional development activities. 

What is the most challenging aspect of the fellowship?
This is a very physically demanding job where work is necessary in a variety of weather conditions, including snow, rain, heat, and yes – you are exposed to ticks and mosquitoes. However the fellowship is very rewarding. There is a real sense of camaraderie within the Stewardship Crew, which makes even the most challenging tasks exciting and educational. 

How and When to Apply for the 9-Month Fellowship

This program seeks individuals who have a strong desire to learn about conservation and land management. Applicants should have a four-year degree in a natural resources-related field, coupled with some previous field experience.  The fellowship requires successful applicants to commit to the full nine-month term (February through mid-November).

We are typically able to hire two to three nine-month fellows each year.  The fellowship announcement is posted in mid-late November to hire for the following February. Check our website and various conservation job boards (Texas A&M, Society for Conservation Biology) for the announcement, along with a list of required application materials.

If you have questions about the fellowship program, contact Carl Cotter at