Due to weekend storm activity, some Panda Palooza activities have been postponed. See the full schedule here.

Share this page:

Internship in Nutritional Research

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

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Conservation Ecology Center in collaboration with the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Department of Nutritional Sciences is offering a laboratory internship in nutritional research to teach qualified, motivated individuals the analytic techniques and underlying biology necessary to conduct nutritional research on and assess the nutritional health of exotic animals. The interns will learn techniques to process and assay biological samples for nutrient content; how to collect, organize, and perform preliminary analysis of nutritional research data; how to assess the body condition of certain exotic animals; and the general operation of a centralized commissary operation for feeding large numbers of animals in a zoo. Nutrition Lab interns typically perform tasks both individually and as a team. Interns will always work on more than one project. Projects range from basic science questions to practical application of lab work in assessing foods to be fed the zoo animals. The current projects planned for this session include:

  • longitudinal changes in milk composition in mammals and their relation to infant growth
  • evaluation of diets for selected species within the zoo’s collection
  • assaying plant materials for nutrient composition to support projects investigating the nutritional ecology of wild animals in situ; for example, plant foods fed on by chimpanzees in the Gombe, Tanzania
  • marmoset digestion and nutrition; assist an NIH-sponsored project to improve dietary husbandry for the common marmoset

The Nutrition Laboratory at the Zoo focuses on three areas of basic and applied research: clinical nutrition, milk composition, and nutritional ecology.  It is one of the few zoos in the world with a comprehensive on-site nutrition laboratory and also houses the world’s largest collection of milk bank, with over 15,000 samples from more than 130 species of mammals.

Learning Objectives: 

Interns will learn under the supervision of Michael Power in the Conservation Ecology Center. Learning objectives include becoming proficient in techniques for sample preparation, laboratory analytical procedures, and basic data management and analysis necessary to assess biological samples (e.g. milk, insects, plant materials, feces) for nutrient content; gaining an understanding of the basics of clinical animal nutrition, such as body condition scoring; and becoming familiar with the operation of a centralized commissary. Interns will be provided with peer-reviewed journal articles to read and will attend three to four lectures on biological topics relevant to the projects ongoing at the Nutrition laboratory. Interns are encouraged to take advantage of scheduled zoo activities, such as veterinary and pathology rounds and lectures/seminars as part of their internship time. Although this internship is largely laboratory based, there will be opportunities to witness animal procedures and to be trained in the methodology for making visual and hands-on body composition assessments of animals.

The internship will provide successful candidates with an increased understanding of exotic animal nutrition, the tools and procedures for conducting nutritional research, and the role of nutrition in maintaining the health and wellbeing of captive animals.

Learning activities include but are not limited to:

  • Interns will become proficient in a number of laboratory analytical techniques to measure the protein, fat, carbohydrate and mineral content of biological samples.
  • Interns will learn the theory and practice of visual and hands-on body condition scoring, and its role in assessing and maintaining animal health.
  • Interns will be taught protocols and procedures for data security and integrity necessary for good science.
  • Interns will learn the underlying physiology and metabolism relevant to the projects.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license and be comfortable behind the wheel
  • Candidates should be comfortable handling biological tissues (i.e. not physically uncomfortable by the sight)
  • Completion of at least three years of undergraduate coursework in related field of study, including at least two laboratory-based courses
  • Candidates should be efficient, organized, and possess strong computer skills
  • Must possess organizational skills that can be applied to supply management and inventory
  • Must be comfortable working with Microsoft Excel
  • Must have strong communication skills
  • Must be able to engage within a team environment with staff, other interns, and a variety of volunteers
  • Must be flexible, self-motived and have a good sense of humor
  • Must be comfortable with public speaking on and off microphone
  • Must be fingerprinted and pass a background check
This is an unpaid internship. Special consideration will be given to applicants who receive college credit for internship. Intern is responsible for obtaining necessary approvals from their university. Intern will be responsible for all transportation costs and personal health insurance.
Washington DC
The intern will make his or her own housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C., area.
The Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution do not provide free parking to interns.
Term of appointment: 

This internship is for any 10-12 weeks period between March and September, 2017, with a minimum of 24 hours per week and up to 40 hours per week, to be negotiated. There is no stipend for this internship.

Application deadline(s): 
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Internship Category: 
Animal Programs
How to Apply: 

To apply, go to: https://solaa.si.edu. 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, your reasons for wanting this internship, what you hope to gain from the experience, and how you think this internship will advance your thinking regarding your future educational and career goals. Your statement is very important during application evaluations
Contact information for two references that can attest to your academic performance and work ethic and abilities.
Schedule of availability.

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:

Type of appointment: “Internship”
Unit of interest: “National Zoological Park”
Program: “National Zoological Park Internship Program”
Project: “Internship in Nutritional Research”

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.