Paid Smithsonian Internship, Washington DC

Researchers with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are seeking a skilled intern to help with a pilot project on fish communication in Washington DC this summer.  A small stipend will be provided.  See full description of the project below.

Project Name:

Eavesdropping on Amazonian Fish


At the Smithsonian Institution, 2019 has been declared the Year of Music, an Institution-wide initiative to increase public engagement, advance understanding, and connect communities in Washington, D.C., across the nation, and around the globe. The Smithsonian Year of Music will highlight and share our vast musical holdings, bringing together our resources in history, art, culture, science, and education.

Sounds provide invaluable data about animal behavior and ecosystems and sounds in tropical freshwater habitats are highly understudied in spite of their potential for biodiversity monitoring. As part of the SI Year of Music, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is implementing a project entitled “Eavesdropping on Amazonian Fish”. This project will record and study the sounds of fish species housed at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Amazonia exhibit. The goal is to record and understand sounds produced by different Amazonian aquatic species 1) to test methods for monitoring freshwater habitats at our field sites in the Andes and Amazon, and 2) to produce recordings that catch visitors’ attention and pique interest in fish communication. We are seeking an intern to participate in data collection, analysis and communication of results for this project, as well as other related tasks.

Learning Goals and Objectives:

This is a paid internship opportunity in which the intern will work closely with an SCBI researcher and Amazonia senior staff to learn how to collect acoustic data in tanks in the Zoo’s Amazonia Exhibit and potentially at other field sites in the DMV area. The intern will also learn about acoustic data management and analysis, and about communicating the results of acoustic data to the public in a creative and engaging way.  We hope to identify an undergraduate student interested in science and music to work on this project.

Through this internship, the intern will learn the following skills as they gain hands-on experience with data collection, analysis and communication:

•    Managing and understanding audio recordings of a variety of taxonomic groups, including fish;

•    Using ecoacoustics analysis tools and understanding the variety of classification programs available for ecoacoustics data;

•    How and when to apply different analytical methods to ecoacoustic and bioacoustic data;

•    Working in collaborative scientific research programs with research scientists, zookeepers, administrative staff, and managers

•    Conducting thorough reviews of the scientific literature for a specific topic;

•    Creating and filling in a detailed database (using Microsoft Excel) to manage acoustic data;

•    Synthesizing data and developing presentations for public audiences;

•    Internal procedures and processes for executing research and fieldwork and associated tasks;

•    Inventory techniques, management and maintenance of equipment used for research purposes;

•    Skills associated with program management and tracking timelines

Under the guidance of her/his mentors, the intern will coordinate and cooperate closely with other team staff as necessary to ensure the execution of project goals.  In the process of assisting with this project, the intern will have the unique opportunity to become familiar with the details of other research programs at SCBI and interact with staff working on in a variety of roles on projects at the Smithsonian. We will encourage the intern to engage with other interns, fellows, administrative personnel and scientists, and to take part in educational opportunities across the institution at large.


•    Upperclass undergraduate students, recent graduates or graduate level students with an interest in biodiversity conservation, ecology and preferably an interest in music

•    A strong inclination for teamwork and organization

•    Excellent communication skills, including the ability to communicate science topics to volunteers and other audiences for whom familiarity with subject matter may vary

•    Excellent attention to detail, including the ability to accurately record and maintain large databases

•    High levels of motivation, as data collection may begin before sunrise and require tolerance for a range of field conditions and climate including heat and high humidity


Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington DC, 20560

Amazonia Exhibit, National Zoological Park, Washington DC, 20008

Internship dates:

May 6 – Aug 16, 2019 (15 weeks). An earlier start date would be considered.

The full 15 weeks is preferred, and students must commit to a minimum of 12 weeks, 20 hours/week.


The intern will receive a stipend for a period of up to 15 weeks. College credit is offered if desired; intern is responsible for obtaining necessary approvals from their university. Intern will be responsible for all transportation costs and personal health insurance.


Housing is not provided and intern is responsible for making his or her own housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C. area.

Application deadline:

Monday, April 1, 2019

How to Apply:

To apply, send a one-page statement of your interest in pursuing this position to The statement should mention relevant experience, career goals, your reasons for wanting this internship, and what you hope to gain from the experience. Please also send a professional resume or CV and indicate your availability with respect to the dates of the internship.