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Diversity Internship in Red Wolf Reproductive Biology

This internship has closed. To see open and upcoming opportunities, visit the internships page.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) is providing an opportunity for interns to gain experience in the field of reproductive biology, with a focus on the red wolf (Canis rufus). Objectives for the internship include learning sterile culture techniques, sample processing and analysis, record keeping, laboratory and equipment maintenance, data analyses and data presentation.

Learning Objectives: 

The red wolf is a critically endangered American canid, with fewer than 30 individuals in the reintroduced population and approximately 250 managed individuals in the Species Survival Plan population. As result, it is vital to the survival of the species that every valuable animal is represented in the next generation, to maintain genetic variability in the population. However, significant variation exists in the initial quality and cryo-resistance (ability to survive cryopreservation) of sperm collected from individual males, challenging scientists' ability to routinely utilize banked materials. Moreover, breeding pairs arranged through breeding recommendations only successfully produce offspring 20-25% of the time, which is insufficient to support release efforts, as well as for the genetic management of the species.

The proposed research in the Department of Reproductive Sciences, under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Nagashima, is part of two larger studies focused on red wolf reproductive biology and assisted reproductive technologies. These include evaluating 1) the variability of sperm characteristics and freezability among males and the effect of various supplementations (extracellular vesicles, specific proteins) on cryo-resistance of canid sperm, and/or 2) developing a non-invasive way (i.e. via fecal samples) to detect red wolf pregnancy, to assist in animal management/husbandry, and also to begin assessment of why the current natural breeding rates are so low (i.e. due to early pregnancy loss, versus fertilization failure).

Learning activities for this internship include but are not limited to:

  • Sterile culture technique
  • Immunofluoresence microscopy
  • Sperm cryopreservation and incubation
  • Protein extraction and Western blotting
  • Summarizing data and data analyses
  • Statistical analyses
  • Cataloging and inventorying supplies
  • Laboratory management – cleaning, restocking and preparing reagents
  • Professional development – research presentation skills, seminars

This appointment provides the student with an increased understanding of gamete biology and reproduction, as well as experience in conservation research and medicine. Students will be given all the necessary training in order to work safely with chemicals and biological samples. Feedback will be given as needed as the student progresses through the internship. Supervisors will provide the student with recommendations for future internships/jobs as needed for a two year period.

  • Completion of at least three years of undergraduate coursework in related field of study.
  • Candidates should be efficient, organized, and possess strong computer skills (especially in Microsoft Excel).
  • Must be available to devote a minimum of 40 hours a week.
  • Good written and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to be an effective team member, often with minimal supervision.
  • Ability to follow written and verbal instructions with strong attention to detail.
  • Ability to be flexible when changes occur.
  • Must be fingerprinted and pass a background check.
  • Interest in learning about carnivore reproduction with aspirations to advance in the wildlife or zoo research field.

Safety Plan

  • Intern must follow all applicable COVID-19 protocols as set forth by the Smithsonian.
  • Intern will not perform duties when SCBI is closed for weather events.
  • Intern will not report to the SCBI campus if they are experiencing any symptoms of illness that have been associated with COVID-19.
  • Intern will take COVID-related safety training online, ahead of reporting to SCBI for the first time.
This is a paid internship ($5,000 / 3 months), funded via an award from the Dr. Holly Reed Conservation Fund.
Front Royal
Dormitory housing (single room) on-center is available for $9/night plus a $5 linen fee, if desired.
The intern will be provided with free parking on the SCBI campus for the duration of the internship, provided they adhere to the rules and regulations pertaining to the use of a personal vehicle on site and remain in good standing with the project lead.
Term of appointment: 

This is an internship for Fall 2023. Exact start and end dates are flexible.

Application deadline(s): 
Monday, July 31, 2023
Internship Category: 
Animal Programs
How to Apply: 

To apply, go to: Select "Don't have an Account? Create An Account." Complete the information to create an account.

Information that will be requested (in SOLAA) includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • Professional resume or CV
  • A one-page statement of your interest in pursuing this position. The statement should mention relevant experience, career goals, commitment to supporting diversity in the sciences, your reasons for wanting this internship, and what you hope to gain from the experience. Your statement is very important during application evaluations
  • Degrees held or expected
  • Two names and contact information for professional references (including email and phone number).

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. Your SOLAA-submitted application with references must be received July 31, 2023.