Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Herpetology Curatorial Internship

This unpaid internship is located in the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park (NZP) in the herpetology department. NZP exhibits living animal and plant collections and conducts research in conservation biology and reproductive sciences as well as providing educational and recreational environments for the visiting public. The diverse living amphibian and reptile collection is housed in one of the most beautiful reptile buildings in the world, built in 1931.

The NZP mission is to celebrate, study, and protect the diversity of animals and their habitats. NZP operates a public zoo of 167 acres in Washington, D.C. and is home to a diverse animal collection, ranging from frogs to elephants. NZP also manages the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) with a Smithsonian George Mason University campus on 3,150 acres at Front Royal, Virginia. Research programs in animal health, behavior, medicine, and reproduction takes place in NZP, SCBI, and in field locations throughout the world.


The National Zoo’s Curatorial Intern will be based in the Department of Herpetology, which is composed of a curator, biologists and five keepers who are responsible for the care and management of the collection of living amphibians and reptiles, comprising some 97 species and about 635 specimens.

Research emphasis will include improvements in exotic animal husbandry and management, animal behavior studies including environmental enrichment for collection animals, the propagation and management of small populations both internally and in collaboration with other institutions and programs, and conducting life history studies.

Required Qualifications

A minimum of an undergraduate degree (higher degrees preferred) in a field related to the animal care mission of the Zoo, such as zoology, animal sciences, conservation biology, wildlife biology, or similar, and a strong interest in pursuing a career in a zoo or similar organization.


The Curatorial Intern will spend a minimum of six months with possible extensions at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, starting in spring/summer 2014. During this time, he/she will:

  • Be mentored, based on his/her expressed area of interest and qualifications, by either the Curator or biologist for the duration of the term.
  • Be assigned to brief orientation tours through the unit within the Department of Herpetology (Reptiles and Amphibians).
  • Learn a wide array of skills in areas that include the acquisition and de-acquisition of collection animals; budget management; and exhibit design, construction and maintenance. .Develop a collection-based research project, either independently or in collaboration with the curator, which contributes to the improved management and understanding of zoo collections. The project will be designed for completion with publishable results.
  • While a typical work schedule is a minimum of 20 hours per week, longer hours may be required as part of the training program.


This is an unpaid, volunteer position. We will give strong support of the applicant’s pursuit of college credit for experience during the internship.


The intern will make his or her own housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C., area. Parking is not provided to National Zoo interns. Public transportation is strongly suggested.


Working conditions include an office setting, within inside and outside animal exhibits with potential exposure to zoonotic disease, and possible field work. Work will be conducted for the most part at the Rock Creek facility in Washington, D.C., but may also include assignments at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.

Application Deadline

Accepted year-round until filled.

To Apply

Go to https://solaa.si.edu to create an account in the Smithsonian On-Line Academic Appointment System. Go to Internship Opportunities section and submit application materials to the National Zoological Park Internship Program. When completing the application, select the project “Rock Creek – Herpetology Curatorial Internhsip.” Your application is considered complete when you hit “Submit” and when your references have been received (your SOLAA submitted application and references must be received by the deadline as noted above).

Information that will be requested (in SOLAA) includes:

  • Cover letter describing your interest, career plans, and learning objectives
  • Resume or CV summarizing education (including current academic status) and employment experience.
  • Transcripts from your current and/or previous institutions. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable.
  • Two letters of reference.

For additional information

Questions about this internship should be sent to Dr. James Muprhy, Curator. Send general internship questions to Athena Mylonas.

For more information about the Zoo's herpetology program consult Murphy and Xanten, 2007. Seventy-five years of herpetology at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. Herpetol. Rev. 38: 262-273.