top of page

Sustainable Conservation

Santa Cruz, CA (SF, Sac, Or Modesto Possible)

Advancing Soil Health Practices to Improve Water Quality Outcomes

Desired Skills/Traits:

  • Studied environmental, soil, or agriculture sciences. Familiar with the scientific method and has knowledge on CA agriculture and water regulations. 

  •  Primary Skills 

    • Logistics, planning, and coordination 

    • Project management and organization ability to work on multiple projects at once 

    • Interpersonal and communication skills  

  • Secondary Skills 

    • Ability to work in the field, including lifting soil probes from 3ft depth 

    • Attention to detail, thoughtfulness 

    • Ability to document and synthesize information from verbal and written sources 

    • .Event planning, and how to build systems to manage logistics

Openings: 0 of 1

elliot field visit 3.jpeg
Focus Area: Agri-food Systems

Climate Mitigation & Adaptation; Education & Outreach; Regenerative Agriculture; Watershed Management

project breakdown







Education & Outreach


Goals & Needs


1. Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve our toughest challenges facing our land, air, and water. Sustainable Conservation’s Soils Programs work with farmers, researchers, and policy makers to increase the pace and scale of adoption of soil health practices that result in water-related benefits: infiltration, soil water holding capacity, and nutrient cycling. The Central Coast Soils Program focuses on nutrient cycling   and the use of cover crops and high carbon amendments to mitigate winter nitrate leaching. These practices have been recognized in a new water quality regulation (Ag Order 4.0) and growers can receive an incentive from implementing the practices. Sustainable Conservation’s San Joaquin Valley Soils Program is currently focused on the infiltration and water holding capacity benefits of cover crops, but in 2023-2024 will look for opportunities to incorporate the nutrient cycling benefits as well. 


 2. Supporting the program’s various projects that address soil health. The work on the Central Coast ranges from: monthly soil sampling of research plots, coordinating field days/grower events, interviewing farmers, and following updates to regional water quality regulations (Ag Order 4.0). The work on the San Joaquin Valley includes peer-reviewed literature scans and analysis of findings, tracking regional water quality regulations (Irrigated Lands Regulatory Programs), and engagement with our program staff to examine strategies and timelines for including a similar soil health incentive into the San Joaquin Valley’s water quality regulation. 


3. Degraded groundwater quality from excess application of nitrogen fertilizers and poor farming practices that lead to nitrate leaching into groundwater. Excess nitrate in groundwater impacts many socially disadvantaged communities as many of them on the Central Coast and in the San Joaquin Valley relies on groundwater as their primary source of drinking water. Drinking nitrates can lead to significant health impacts such as higher likelihood of cancers, and with nursing mothers, blue baby syndrome. 


4. The fellows service will help our organization support growers with their adoption of soil health practices, and a changing regulatory landscape. These practices (cover crops and high carbon amendments) are considered climate smart practices that can bring a myriad of environmental benefits- but more specifically focusing on how they can support healthier communities and grower resiliency to water-related impacts from a changing climate. 

Capacity Building Projects

Project 1: Cover Crops Outreach Events Coordination 

  • Who: Sustainable Conservation, in collaboration with Resource Conservation Districts of Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties 

  • Roles: The Fellow will be responsible for the planning, and management of the logistics for cover cropping field events  

  • Deliverables: Two (2) successful field events with 60 growers  

  • Impact: These events will help growers understand how cover cropping can help them comply with the Central Coast’s water quality regulation (Ag Order 4.0) and reduce risk of nitrate leaching, as well as the tips for successful on-farm management of a cover crop. 


Project 2: High Carbon Amendment Research, Almond Shell Pilots  

  • Who: Sustainable Conservation, in collaboration with University of California-Santa Cruz, Driscoll's, and potentially other growers. 

  • Roles: 

    • On-farm soil sampling of our research trials.  

    • Supporting site supervisor in: 

      • Interviewing growers, and ag producers to learn more about interest and barriers to scaling high carbon amendments 

      • Investigating supply chain opportunities for expanding the practice 

  • Deliverables: 

    • (At least) 4 months of soil sampling (usually one per month) 

    • Participating in grower/ag company interviews on the practice 

    • A summary of findings/key takeaways based on interviews and conversations with members of the agricultural community 

  • Impact: High Carbon Amendments are a relatively new conservation practice that can reduce nitrate leaching from fallow fields over the rainy season. Although promising, the nitrate leaching benefits from this practice are in the “research” phase and need more demonstration and trialing to understand how it will integrate into ag production. 


Project 3: Assessing Opportunity for Incorporating Soil Health Incentives into San Joaquin Valley Water Quality Regulations. 

  • Who: Sustainable Conservation 

  • Roles: 

    • Through document review and meetings, understand the timelines and structures of water quality regulations in two regions: the Central Coast’s Ag Order 4.0 and the San Joaquin Valley s Irrigated Land’s Regulatory Programs. 

    • Review peer-reviewed research to understand the state of knowledge of cover crop’s nitrogen scavenging benefit in the San Joaquin Valley context 

    • Engage across Sustainable Conservation’s programs and interview staff on their perspective of the science and the regulations 

    • Partner with Sustainable Conservation’s program teams to assess opportunities and develop strategies for incorporating soil health incentives into the San Joaquin Valley’s Irrigated Land’s Regulatory Programs 

  • Deliverables: 

    • Clarity on timelines and structures of the water quality programs in both regions 

    • A summary and an analysis of peer-reviewed studies of cover crop’s nitrogen scavenging benefit in the San Joaquin Valley 

  • Impact: 

    • The San Joaquin Valley also struggles with nitrate-impaired drinking water but does not have the same soil health incentives that the Central Coast does that can lead to longer-term solutions. This work will help identify opportunities for integrating incentives for soil health practices into SJVs Irrigated Lands Programs. 

Organizational & Community Highlights

Sustainable Conservation works with California's agricultural sector to help continue and grow the legacy of stewardship of people and lands. Our culture supports a commitment to collaboration, encourages continuous learning, and welcomes diverse perspectives. The team has a variety of professional backgrounds, from government and policy to private business to research science. GrizzlyCorps Members will be working under the mentorship of staff who have many years of experience in the conservation and sustainability space. Working here will help the GrizzlyCorps Fellow develop a better understanding of water, sustainable agriculture, and the operations of a non-profit organization.  

The GrizzlyCorps fellow will be based out of the Central Coast (Santa Cruz, and Monterey) region of California, with opportunities to work in the main San Francisco office, Modesto office, and the policy-focused Sacramento office as well. Santa Cruz County sits on the northern part of the Monterey Bay, with some of the most diverse aquatic and forest landscapes. Santa Cruz has some of the best surfing in California, as well an extensive network of mountain biking and hiking trails through the redwoods. Santa Cruz also has the famous amusement park “Beach Boardwalk”. Santa Cruz is about 1 hour from San Francisco, 2 hours from Oakland, and 4 hours from Yosemite.  

COVID-19: Due to the pandemic, most staff are currently working from their respective residences. However, our offices in Modesto, San Francisco, and Sacramento are open to those who feel comfortable working in indoor spaces. 

bottom of page