RAY Conservation Fellow

POSITION TITLE: RAY Conservation Fellow       

DEPARTMENT/PROGRAM: Conservation Communities     

REPORTS TO: Conservation Communities Director                

STATUS: Regular, Full-Time                             

LOCATION: New York City



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.


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 grant-making 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 above, 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:

A 3-day Orientation Retreat in late Summer 2024.

A 3-day Mid-Fellowship Leadership Retreat in Fall 2025.

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:

  • Come from a racial/ethnic background underrepresented in conservation and clean energy and demonstrate a commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Be no more than 3 years out of college and have a Bachelor's Degree by July 2024 (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.


  • A college degree in a related field by the time of employment
  • Demonstrated  capacity to work well and collaborate with others
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills
  • An eagerness to learn
  • 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


This is a two-year, full-time fellowship (one year with a one year renewal) starting on or after July 15, 2024.


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 including health, dental, vision, paid time off, and paid holidays. OSI also offers training and professional development opportunities.


To apply for the RAY Fellowship Program, applicants must:

  1. Complete the online application survey on the RAY Fellowship Program website: https://rayfellowship.org/apply
  2. Follow the instructions on the linked application webpage to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, one essay response, one visioning response, and one short answer response.

Applications must be submitted to the RAY Fellowship Program no later than April 5, 2024. Transcripts and additional writing samples are not required.

If you have questions please see our FAQ page and any further questions about the application process can be submitted to ray@elpnet.org.


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.

The Open Space Institute is committed to the principles of equal opportunity. OSI’s organizational policies, practices, and decisions regarding employment, hiring, assignment, promotion, compensation, volunteerism, internships and other terms and conditions of employment or voluntary service shall not be based on a person’s race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, mental or physical disability, ancestry, military discharge status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, source of income, parental status, housing status, or other protected status, in accordance with applicable law.

The Open Space Institute is continually seeking to diversify its staff, particularly to broaden opportunities for individuals from demographic groups that are historically excluded in the sciences and in environmental advocacy.