Conservation Fellow

Position Title: Conservation Fellow

Reports To: Conservation Communities Director

Department: Conservation Communities

Location: New York City

Date: Winter 2023

FLSA Status (exempt / non-exempt): Exempt



In an effort to make the conservation and clean energy fields more equitable and accessible, the Roger Arliner Young (RAY)Fellowship Program aims to increase and facilitate environmentally-related career pathways for emerging leaders of color. The RAY Fellowship Program is a paid fellowship designed to equip recent college graduates with the tools, experiences, support, and community they need to become leaders in the conservation and clean energy sectors—one that, in our visions of the future, fully represents, includes, and is led by the diverse communities, perspectives, and experiences of the United States.



The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, the Open Space Institute (OSI) is a leader in environmental conservation. OSI has partnered in the protection of nearly 2.2 million acres in North America, from southeastern Canada to Florida. All of OSI’s work is directed by a consistent strategy emphasizing permanent protection on a landscape scale. Each discrete transaction, whether buying a conservation easement on a family farm in the Hudson River Valley or helping fund the purchase of 100,000 acres in Maine, connects natural lands and prevents fragmentation. You can learn about our values here: Equity & OSI - Open Space Institute

Conservation Communities houses OSI’s fiscal sponsorship program, education grants, and Conservation Diversity Fellowship and thus plays a key role in furthering OSI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The fiscal sponsorship program, Citizen Action, is OSI’s oldest program and serves as an incubator for bourgeoning, environmentally-focused grassroots organizations. With OSI’s financial and legal oversight, these groups not only become eligible to receive grants and tax-deductible contributions, they are also able to focus more fully on their programming and capacity-building. The participants have ranged from community gardens and land trusts, to environmental educators and promoters of nature-based arts and activities. OSI’s two education grants are the Malcolm Gordon Charitable Fund (MGCF) and the McHenry Awards. MGCF expands the constituency for conservation by reinforcing environmental education program support, focusing in under-resourced communities. The McHenry Awards match exceptional young leaders with environmentally themed projects at nonprofit organizations in New York’s Hudson River Valley.  The Conservation Diversity Fellowship immerses recent college graduates and members of the BIPOC community in the various components of conservation, from transactions and land stewardship to advocacy and grant writing.

Fellowship Goal

The Conservation Fellow is a two-year term position. The objective of the Conservation Diversity Fellowship is to introduce and advance the Fellow’s professional experience in land conservation. This will be achieved by familiarizing the Fellow via a rotation with OSI’s programs and supporting departments during their first year and a deep immersion in one or two programs during the second year. This will be achieved by ensuring the fellow has an active role in core work with support and mentorship from the Conservation Communities Director. 



Position Summary

Conservation Fellows join the Conservation Communities team, while also rotating throughout the various programs and support departments during their first year offering candidates the chance to work with colleagues and conservation leaders at the Open Space Institute to accomplish meaningful conservation goals. Specific tasks vary from year-to-year, from grantmaking to communications to park improvements; Fellows will work alongside OSI staff and work on projects related to some of the following:


Land Program: Conservation real estate negotiations and acquisitions

Parks & Policy: Access and improvements to urban parks and state parks and parks advocacy

Stewardship: Stewardship of protected lands and conveyance (sale, donation, easement assignment) of OSI-owned lands

Conservation Capital: Grants to organizations based on conservation science research for land protection and information dissemination throughout the conservation community to advance climate-based solutions

Equity (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion): Projects assessing, communicating, and implementing established organizational equity values and practices

Operations and Finance: Finance, accounting, and administration of a large non-profit organization

External Affairs: Communications and Development departments working with partners, funders, and the Board of Trustees to promote our work and raise funds

Citizen Action: A fiscal sponsorship program for grassroots startups working on environmental education and open space recreation and stewardship

Legal: Transactions and grants



In addition to the responsibilities at the host institution outlined, RAY Fellows will spend, on average, 2-4 hours per week (5-10% of work time) on the following:

  • Actively communicating and building community with their RAY Fellow cohort and previous RAY Fellows. 
  • Meeting regularly with mentors both inside and outside the host institution. 
  • Attending monthly professional development webinars, trainings, and other opportunities to build knowledge and skills as scheduled.
  • Developing a Personal Leadership Plan (PLP) in their 2nd year with the support of supervisor(s), mentors, RAY program staff, and their RAY Fellow cohort. The PLP will serve as a tool for self-reflection, planning, and assessing progress towards professional, personal, and leadership goals.
  • Preparing and leading an hour-long end-of-fellowship webinar highlighting their Fellowship experience.


RAY Fellows will also attend with costs covered by the Open Space Institute:

A 3-day Orientation Retreat in late Summer/Fall 2023.

A 3-day Mid-Fellowship Leadership Retreat in Fall 2024.


A detailed workplan incorporating some combination of the above departments will be developed with the Conservation Fellow within the first few weeks of the two-year term. 


The second year of the fellowship will be spent focused on refining skills within one or two departments based on the Fellow’s skills, interest, career trajectory and OSI needs and capacity. During this time Fellows will also be mentoring a junior fellow and developing and presenting a capstone project of their choosing to serve as a final work product.  


The list below offers insights into the types of projects Fellows may take on during their time:


Highlights of Past Activities and Responsibilities

  • Inventory historical OSI land acquisitions and park improvement with an equity lens 
  • Identifying themes, strengths, gaps and making recommendations
  • Assessing the welcomeness of trails, campgrounds, visitor centers and other public park amenities 
  • Supporting program manager and partner planning and development


  • Research BIPOC-led organizations working in and related to land conservation 
  • Expanding grant outreach
  • Generating a partnership resource for grantees
  • local demographic information
  • Supporting community outreach and fundraising proposals
  • Social network mapping
  • Historical land use
  • Supporting park community outreach, interpretation, fundraising and communications
  • Support grant applications
  • Drafting content for New York State Consolidated Funding Applications, an annual grant cycle which allows applicants access to multiple funding sources available through New York State agencies


  • Create a story map highlighting OSI work
  • Generate written and video content
  • Identify and utilize data via Arc GIS 


  • Support administration of small grants programs
  • Update solicitations and contact lists, research potential new grantees
  • Assist staff with proposal review, ranking, recommendations, and advisory committee presentations
  • Participating in our legislative process and advocacy during Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) Lobby Day and Park Advocacy Day



Eligible RAY Fellow applicants will:

  • Have a demonstrated commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Be no more than 1 year out of college and have a Bachelor's Degree by July 2023 (we are not considering individuals with graduate degrees at this time).
  • Have not had a full-time job in conservation or clean energy.
  • Have the ability to work in the United States and commit to the entire fellowship.


Skills/Core Competencies


Highly organized with the ability to manage concurrent projects from initiation through completion

Ability to articulate thoughts and express ideas effectively using oral and written communication skills

Excellent research and analytical skills

Ability to work well as part of a team and individually


  • Knowledge of the New York and New Jersey landscape and local conservation issues
  • Qualifications
  • Bachelor's or Associate’s degree in related field with demonstrated academic excellence (GPA, course selection, and leadership)
  • Interest in a range of fields relating to land conservation including, ecology, environmental justice real estate, business, marketing, and a desire to learn new skills
  • Passion and interest in the land conservation and/or non-profit related field
  • Demonstrated commitment to the mission of conservation or the environmental movement, including diversity in conservation
  • Availability and commitment to full and enthusiastic participation in all aspects of the Conservation Diversity Fellowship
  • Physical Requirements
  • Frequently sits for long periods of time
  • Frequently speaks, reads, writes, and uses a computer keyboard
  • May require occasional standing, walking, lifting, stooping, bending
  • Occasional regional travel within New York and New Jersey
  • Ability to hike several miles in a day over trails with elevation change


This is an onsite position in our midtown New York office and is not conducive to telecommuting.


This job description is not intended to represent a complete, comprehensive list of all duties and responsibilities that may be required in this position.  There may be unplanned activities and other duties as assigned.



This is a two-year, full-time fellowship starting on or after June 15, 2023.



The Fellowship is compensated and sponsored by the Open Space Institute, who offers a competitive starting salary of $60,000 prorated with a comprehensive benefits package as well as training and professional development opportunities. 


To apply for the RAY Fellowship Program, applicants must:

Complete the online application survey on the RAY Fellowship Program website: 

Follow the instructions on the linked application webpage to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, three prompts for writing samples (one essay response, one visioning response, one short answer response), and a letter of support. 

Applications must be submitted to the RAY Fellowship Program no later than March 27, 2023. Transcripts and additional writing samples are not required. 

If you have questions please see our FAQ page, any further questions about the application process can be submitted to

Excellent benefits package including health, dental, vision, paid time off, and paid holidays.


OSI is an equal opportunity employer and is actively recruiting a diverse workforce. Land conservation benefits all people.  Our mission is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people of all genders, diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and culture. We are committed to cultivating an inclusive work environment and look for future team members who share that same value.