Spotlight Story

30 August 2023

Nick Race: Securing a Career in Invasive Plant Management through the MANO Project

Category: Spotlight Story

Nick Race never thought he would manage and coordinate invasive plant species at a 1.3-million-acre forest in Colorado. Originally from southern New Jersey, the landscape he experienced growing up as a child was far different from the views he experiences now as the Invasive Plant Coordinator for Pike National Forest, an opportunity he got after his MANO Project fellowship in 2022.

He worked for eight months at Pike National Forest, during which he completed all the requirements of the internship program. During that time, all the units in the area got to know him due to his expertise in an already highly specialized field of plant ecology.

“There's not many invasive plant coordinators in the U.S. Forest Service.”

Even so, the hiring process in the federal government can be a difficult process to go through, which is why Nick decided to complete the fellowship with Hispanic Access Foundation. As a recent graduate with vast experience in the field, he was finding a way to start a career with the U.S. Forest Service. He then heard about an internship opportunity with MANO Project.

“It sounded really exciting. After applying, they wanted me to come to Colorado Springs to work at the Pike National Forest.”

Thanks to the experience, Nick was able to stand out in the hiring pool. After completing the program, he received the Public Lands Corps (PLC) non-competitive hiring status for competitive service positions.

“The internship helped me navigate all the U.S. Forest Service stuff that new hires must do when hired. I did all that during the internship, which was helpful. Over the internship, I did tasks related to my current position, with the added value of having the support of my advisor, Nina, who was very helpful the whole time. It was also nice to see what the other interns were doing across the network.”

In his current position, Nick oversees the invasive plant species found in the region and coordinates different land-management agencies at the state level to reach joint efforts regarding weeds. “If you're not managing weeds through all these different levels, they're going to keep spreading. So, we try to try to get everyone involved.”

He started his journey with invasive plants after he completed a summer research internship at Washington State University. There, he worked in the weed science lab of Dr. Ian Burke, focusing on agricultural weeds across eastern Washington, where they grow canola, chickpeas, and wheat stock. After completing his master's in invasive plant ecology from the University of Wyoming, Nick started working in the field for several nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private companies before MANO Project.

His connection with nature started through the encouragement of his grandma and his roots with his family in Ecuador. When Nick was an undergrad at Stockton University, one of his professors organized an international trip to Ecuador.

“I got to spend a lot of time with her growing up. We used to go outside and do lots of stuff with turtles and go walk around, and she always encouraged me to go and explore. It was like a 16-day field experience tour. It was the first time I had been back to Ecuador since I was two years old. Ecuador is such a beautiful country, and it's part of my heritage.”

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