Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Animal Behavior Research Internship

We are not currently accepting applications for this internship.

The National Zoo is offering an excellent opportunity for high-school seniors, undergraduates, graduate students, and early career professionals interested in pursuing careers related to zoology, biology, veterinary science, or conservation.

A research-based internship with the Animal Behavior Group allows students and future zoo professionals to experience working in a zoo setting while contributing to the improved care and management of the animals in the Zoo collection through the study of animal behavior.

Goals of the Program

The Zoo is committed to providing exceptional animal care and developing the best possible management plan for the animals in our collection. The Animal Behavior Group is the research arm of the Department of Animal Programs. We engage in research that focuses on animal care and management issues through observation and assessment of behavior using the scientific method.

An effective animal care program promotes good animal health and the expression of natural behaviors. Increased understanding and sensitivity toward animal needs has promoted significant improvements over the years, resulting in the creation of complex environments, improved nutrition, successful breeding programs, and the implementation of behavioral enrichment programs. We strive for continuous improvements in animal care, continual learning, and an ever-increasing understanding of zoo animal populations.

Duties and Responsibilities

Interns will work under the guidance of Zoo biologist Erika Bauer, and will have the opportunity to either work on one of the group’s ongoing projects or develop their own research plan. Projects must focus on animal behavior and may stand alone or contribute to a larger project in collaboration with other departments within the Zoo (such as nutrition and reproductive physiology).

Interns will have an opportunity to participate in various aspects of research, including but not limited to: literature review, experimental design, behavioral observation and data collection, data analysis, and writing. Please note that this internship does not consist of any animal husbandry work.

Required Qualifications

  • Completion of some relevant coursework (such as animal behavior, biology, or research methods)
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Availability to work at least 20 hours per week for the length of the internship.
  • Due to federal institution regulations, accepted applicants must be fingerprinted and must pass a security clearance/background check before starting their internship

Term of Appointment

This internship runs from early January through April. Interns must commit to working 20 to 40 hours per week during regular Zoo hours.


This is an unpaid, volunteer position, and no stipend is offered. However, we can work with your school if you are interested in pursuing course credit through this internship.


Interns must make their own arrangements for housing in the Washington, D.C., area.


Washington, D.C.

We are not currently accepting applications for this internship.

Erika Bauer. All attachments should be submitted as Microsoft Word documents (with .doc extensions, not .docx) or PDF files.

In one email, sent by the applicant:

  • A one-page statement describing your career goals, what strengths and experience you would bring to this internship, and what you hope to gain from the internship experience
  • A current resume
  • Transcripts from your current and/or previous academic institutions. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable. If these cannot be obtained electronically from your school, please request that the documents be sent to you and then scan them so they can be submitted to us electronically.
  • An indication of the internship session for which you are applying.
  • The name of your reference and the date you requested a recommendation letter from that person.

In one email, sent by your reference:

  • A letter of recommendation