Smithsonian Orchid Field Research Internship

Subject: Smithsonian Orchid Field Research Internship


The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is offering two paid internship opportunities on a project focused on evaluating native orchids as indicators of forest health. This project is the product of a partnership between the Changing Landscapes Initiative (CLI), Virginia Working Landscapes (VWL), and the North American Orchid Conservation Center.  The goal of this research project is to record and assess the status of native orchid populations, evaluate their use as indicators of forest health, and to engage local citizens and students in conservation science.


The orchid field interns will gain experience in field survey methodologies, plant and tree identification, data management and analysis, and project management. Common activities include conducting transect surveys for orchids and invasive species, collecting forest characteristics metrics, and taking soil samples. This interns will also collaborate with the CLI  outreach coordinator to develop outreach and communications materials, and participate in remote public engagement opportunities with citizen scientists.


Together, these interns will play a significant role in advancing our knowledge of native orchid populations, and the effects of land use on them, as well as educating the local community on topics related to orchid ecology and conservation.


Learning Objectives:

Through this internship, interns will assist with the following as they gain important experience with conservation science:

-Expand plant and tree identification skills through field surveys and other work in Virginia forests

-Improve familiarity with methodologies in plant field ecology, database management, statistical analysis, and science communication

-Gain project management skills in coordinating field work with Smithsonian staff across multiple units, graduate students, other interns, and citizen scientists

-Increase technical skills using programs, such as ArcGIS, R-Studio and MS Excel to support analysis efforts

-Expand on technical writing skills by revising and updating written project protocols for training and sharing purposes

-Develop communication skills by assisting with the creation of content for the web and other outreach platforms, and assisting with outreach and training events with project partners and citizen scientists


Who Should Apply:

Interns with the following will benefit the most from this opportunity:

-Experience participating in structured biological field surveys

-Experience with plant identification

-Ability to legibly and accurately record and transcribe field data

-Tolerance for a range of field conditions, including occasionally difficult terrain and wet environments

-Strong interest in science and conservation, and some experience in ecology and conservation biology

-Excellent communication skills

-Strong organizational skills


-Keen attention to detail when proofreading, copyediting and fact-checking

-Familiarity working with large databases considered a plus

-Willingness to take initiative and motivation to seek new learning opportunities

-Ability to engage within a team environment with staff and other interns and volunteers

-Willingness to take instruction and critical feedback

-Additional experience with outreach skills a plus

–Experience using social media and other online outreach platforms

–Excellent writing skills

–Public relations experience or abilities

–Experience in event planning and facilitation

–Graphic design experience



The stipend is $1200 per month



The internship will be based at the SCBI campus in Front Royal, Virginia but the internsÃf¢ÒÂEURÃ’Â(tm) activities will be conducted throughout a 15-county region of Northern Virginia (Frederick, Clark, Loudon, Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock, Fauquier, Culpepper, Orange, Green, Madison, Rockingham, Augusta, Albemarle)


Interns will need to provide their own vehicle for travel to field sites. All fields sites will be accessible from standard paved roads so there are no special requirements for the internÃf¢ÒÂEURÃ’Â(tm)s vehicle.

The interns must also provide their own computer and a stable internet connection for communication with mentors and data entry/analysis. The Smithsonian will provide a remote desktop connection for all file storage and computational processing needs.



Housing is not available on the SCBI campus at this time so interns will be required to provide their own housing. Please keep this in mind if you are applying from outside the study area described above.


Benefits For Interns:

Through SCBI interns are offered an opportunity to develop professional skills while participating in current research on native biodiversity in Virginia. This includes learning opportunities in the areas of field techniques in ecological monitoring, data analysis, project management, and communications.


Term of Appointment:

This is a six-month internship with a desired start date of April 1st 2020, and is a full-time appointment (40 hours per week).


Application Deadline:

January 31, 2020 11:59 pm EST


To Apply:

Go to: Select “Don’t have an account? Create an account” and complete the information to create an account.

As you fill out your account information, be sure to include the following:

-Basic personal information

-Professional resume or CV

-A single-page essay addressing the following points:

-The experiences and education you feel have prepared you for this internship

-What you hope to learn through this internship

-Your future academic or career goals and how this internship would help you prepare for them

-Transcripts from your current and/or previous institutions. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable.

Letters of reference are not required at this time


Once you create your account and provide the information above, you will see a screen where you select the type of appointment you are interested in. You will select:

1) Type of appointment: “Internship”

2) Unit of interest: “National Zoological Park”

3) Program: “Changing Landscapes Initiative Field Internship”


IMPORTANT: Your application is considered complete when you hit “Submit.” Your SOLAA submitted application with references must be received by the deadlines as noted above.


For Additional Information

If you have any questions or issues during the process, please contact lab manager Craig Fergus at