Gardens Internships

Conservation in the Field - Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

Summer 2023 Garden Internships

Located at 8,200′ in the central Rocky Mountains, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens internship program provides the next generation of horticulturists, conservation scientists, and educators the opportunity to build their professional skills through hands-on learning and unique experiences supported by our garden staff and community. Each internship is an opportunity for those interested in public gardens to put their skills into practice. Join us for a Summer internship opportunity like no other and learn about mountain ecosystems, alpine plants, and how a public non-profit botanic garden operates.

All four Summer 2023 Garden Internships have been filled. Please check back next fall for information about Summer 2024 Internship opportunities!

There are four intership positions available for summer 2023. All internships are paid a $500/week stipend, and shared housing is provided by the Gardens in Vail. Proof of vaccination for COVID-19 is required. Please see each internship description below for more details and application instructions.

Internships are generously endowed by the Frechette Family Foundation.

Curation & Horticulture Internship

This position has been filled. Please check back in Fall 2023 for the 2024 application call.
Supervisor: Nick Courtens, Curator of Plant Collections

Primary Gardens / Departments / Work Areas: Plant Records office and Horticulture department, with a focus on the documentation of the rock and alpine gardens collections. Working with the Horticulture department on various garden projects throughout the summer.

Project Summary and Goals: Working with the Curator of Plant Collections, this intern will assist in curation of the diverse living plant collections at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens though databasing, mapping, labeling and documenting bloom times with digital photography and record updates. The intern will be assigned a garden as the main project area but will work within several other gardens throughout the duration of the internship, being exposed to the different elements that make up the living collections as well as many of the different team members in Horticulture.

This year’s main project will be focused on implementing the new mapping system using Arc-GIS online through digital maps, applications, plant records and photographic record keeping. The intern will use BG-Base software to inventory, document and label new and past collections throughout the entire gardens. Responsibilities will also include working with horticulture staff on garden maintenance such as planting, volunteer projects, irrigation, seed collection in-site & ex-situ for the Alpine Plant Conservation Strategy.

Project Components and Deliverables:

  • Working alongside horticulture staff and plant records staff, accurately inventory and map plants throughout entire gardens
  • Update records in BG-BASE to reflect current collections
  • Install accession and display labels in various gardens as needed
  • Working with horticulture staff on various garden projects such as maintenance and design
  • Presentation to staff and blog post detailing the project and what was learned at the end of the season

Skills that will be learned or refined:

  • BG-BASE and Arc-GIS computer systems for databasing and mapping
  • Plant identification using multiple resources, including dichotomous keys, for a diverse collection of plant species, both common and uncommon in cultivation.
  • Research of nomenclature using botanic publications and resources
  • Digital photography of living plant collections
  • Working independently and in a team setting
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Horticulture maintenance skills including but not limited to all areas of the gardens
  • Volunteer and school group leadership roles

Horticultural knowledge that will be learned and how this project will link classroom theory with practical experience:

  • Plant identification across a wide range of plant types and garden styles
  • Basic surveying skills and techniques for mapping plants and hardscape areas
  • An understanding of the importance of curation in a public garde
  • Hands-on use of BG-BASE, Arc-GIS online and website design
  • Horticulture hands-on experience including planting, pruning, weeding, irrigation repair and general garden maintenance

Internship Notes

Interns will take part in field trips, lectures and group projects. We at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens feel strongly that there is no substitute for hands-on learning so in addition to the project and participating in the learning opportunities, interns are expected to work alongside their mentors and other horticulturists in the Gardens. This will include participating in the daily activities associated with public garden maintenance – weeding, watering, planting, accessioning, preparing for special events, etc. The goal of the internship is to provide an overview of public horticulture as well as useful experience in a specific area which can help students define their interests in horticulture. As a member of Betty Ford’s staff, interns will participate in employee meetings and other day-to-day operations and will be subject to all Betty Ford Alpine Gardens employment policies.

To apply for the Curation & Horticulture Internship, please email a resume, cover letter, and contact for three references to our Curator of Plant Collections, Nick Courtens, at

Sustainable Horticulture Internship

This position has been filled. Please check back in Fall 2023 for the 2024 application call.
Supervisor: Colin Lee, Senior Horticulturist

Responsibilities, Duties and Learning Opportunities:

  • Working alongside the horticultural staff and volunteers
  • Leading volunteer group gardening
  • Plant and maintain a variety of themed and styled garden beds that contain both woody and herbaceous plants
  • Bed maintenance includes tasks such as deadheading, weeding, cultivating, mulching, rock work, soil amending, transplanting, dividing, hand watering, raking, hauling compost, plant staking, fertilizer application and other tasks
  • Help operate and provide routine maintenance to the garden’s irrigation system
  • Assist with garden events set-up and take down
  • Assist with Education Center maintenance and clean up tasks
  • Participate in garden events, workshops and educational outreach seminars
  • ID plants both in and out of the garden settings
  • Understanding of Colorado mountain ecosystems, and their native plants
  • Pressing plants for herbarium voucher specimens
  • Provide and lead educational public tours of the gardens
  • Operating a golf cart within in a crowded public park
  • Provide garden visitors with information and support
  • Assist with labeling plants during their flowering period
  • Refilling and stocking kiosks with necessary brochures
  • Assisting in garden data input into BG-Base, a digital plant record keeping system
  • Assist in accessioning plantings
  • Assist garden staff on research and conservation projects
  • Assist on large garden projects such as design and renovation of existing garden areas
  • Help with projects and duties as staff needs
  • Ability to work weekend shifts as needed

Internship Details:

  • $500/week stipend plus shared housing in Vail
  • Internships start in May or June of 2023 and are 3 months long.
  • Internship promotes studying and understanding alpine plants, mountain ecosystems, plant care, garden design and the inner workings of a small nonprofit botanic garden
  • Internships designed to promote rock gardening and the use of perennials plants in garden settings
  • Internships help the intern to learn and identify a variety of alpine plants, perennials, shrubs, and trees that can thrive and are native to in a Colorado mountain environment

Required Education and Experience:

  • The right candidate will have a passion for horticulture, public gardens, is self-motivated,
  • Practical previous experience in horticulture required.
  • Current enrollment, degree in horticulture or candidates looking to continue and practice their horticulture skills and education further.
  • Passion for plants and gardening with a focus on public horticulture
  • Candidate will demonstrate a commitment to working in the field of horticulture.
  • Attention to detail and organization.
  • The ability to use a dichotomous key.
  • Understanding of plant taxonomy, anatomy and morphological terms.
  • Understanding of the categorization of plant families.
  • Ability to work outside in variable weather conditions (rain, snow, sun UV, heat).
  • Able to lift 50 lbs. or more.
  • Works well in a team setting and communicates efficiently and effectively.

To apply to the horticultural internship, please send resume, cover letter and three references to our Senior Horticulturist, Colin Lee, at

Informal Education Internship

This position has been filled. Please check back in Fall 2023 for the 2024 application call.
Supervisor: Nanette Kuich, Education Director

Job Description

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is located on the roof of the Rockies in Vail, Colorado, with a mission to deepen understanding and promote conservation of alpine plants and fragile mountain environments.

As an Education Intern you will be a member of the Gardens staff, developing and delivering educational programs and activities focused on the alpine ecosystem for adults, families and children.


Advance your educational and environmental interpretation skills in an informal public garden setting located and specializing in Rocky Mountains ecosystems. The internship is a three-month, full-time position, beginning mid-May through August, with one weekend day required. You will develop and implement new educational and interpretive programming for all ages and assist education center and horticultural staff with all visitor and education related projects.

Applicant Requirements

  • Current enrollment or degree in Education, Environmental Sciences, Botany, Sustainability Studies, or related field
  • Completion of at least one Education course
  • Experience or interest in conducting programs with families, children and adults
  • A “people person” with an ability to interact with visitors of all ages
  • Creative, positive and organized

Housing and Compensation:

  • A stipend of $500 per week
  • Housing provided close to the Gardens

To apply for the Informal Education Internship, please forward a cover letter and resume by email or mail to:

Nanette Kuich, Education Director

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens,
183 Gore Creek Drive, Suite 7
Vail, CO 81657

Conservation Internship

This position has been filled. Please check back in Fall 2023 for the 2024 application call.
Supervisor: Emily Griffoul, Conservation Scientist

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is uniquely positioned to address conservation of the fragile alpine environment. The Gardens is spearheading the implementation of the North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Alpine Plant Conservation to understand and protect this special habitat.

We are looking for a recent college graduate to assist our Conservation Scientist with the summer 2023 field season. Work will include extensive time in the alpine areas of Colorado collecting and documenting alpine plants and managing data and collections on-site at the Gardens. Occasionally, the team will travel overnight and/or camp, including in the backcountry.

The ideal candidate will be passionate about conservation and alpine ecosystems, be organized, self-motivated, a team player, a diligent worker, and interested in developing leadership skills. S/he will also have experience identifying plants in the field using a dichotomous key and be comfortable working outside in tough conditions.


  • Identify alpine plants in the field using dichotomous key and build comprehensive species lists for each site
  • Survey alpine plant areas and monitor rare species populations
  • Collect seeds and vouchers of alpine plants
  • Prepare voucher specimens to be sent to herbarium
  • Record data, including GPS coordinates, soil type, slope, aspect, vegetation type, associated species, land manager, conservation status and more
  • Keep detailed, organized records of field and lab activities
  • Supervise volunteers both in the field and in the lab
  • Clean and count seed collections
  • Enter and check data both on paper and electronically
  • Label and organize photos from the field
  • Participate in garden events, workshops and educational outreach seminars
  • Occasionally provide garden visitors with information
  • Post social media updates and blog posts relating to conservation
  • Help with projects and duties as staff needs


  • Recently graduated from college with a focus on environmental science, ecology, plant science, and/or conservation
  • Ability and experience using a dichotomous key
  • Practical previous experience in an ecological field setting
  • Valid driver’s license and access to vehicle
  • Passion for conservation and ecological research
  • Works well in a team setting and communicates efficiently and effectively

Physical requirements

  • Ability to hike at elevation in remote areas on steep, difficult terrain in inclement weather (rain, snow, heat, sun, etc)
  • Ability to carry up to 50lbs of equipment
  • Ability to spend full days in the field (4+ a week), office, and lab settings, and occasionally overnight camping trips in remote areas

Desired Skills

  • Ability to work independently and solve problems
  • Experience using Google Workspace and Microsoft Excel
  • Picks up new skills quickly and adapts to new information and situations
  • Understanding of Colorado mountain ecosystems and their native plants
  • Basic understanding of conservation topics and rare plant management techniques
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Organized and self-directed
  • Backcountry hiking and camping experience

Internship Details

  • $500/ week stipend, plus shared housing provided in Vail
  • Internships start June 1, 2023, and end September 29, 2023
  • Internship promotes studying and understanding alpine plants, mountain ecosystems, and the inner workings of a small nonprofit botanic gardens.
This position has been filled. Please check back in Fall 2023 for the 2024 application call.

High School Internships

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens offers internship opportunities through Eagle County Schools CareerX Program and Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement. Interns will experience all aspects of how a small botanical garden operates. Of the 8-10 days, time will be spent in the Gardens, Education Center, events and visitor relations. Orientation and training as required will be provided. The internships are offered year-round with a flexible amount of days and times. Interns receive school credit for participation.


For more information, contact your school’s CareerX or EVOM representative, visit their websites or contact us at or call (970)476-0103 x 3.

Pin It on Pinterest