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Zoo Help: National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab

  • close-up of elephant face and part of trunk

The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is committed to preserving Asian and African elephants — both in human care and in the wild. As part of this mission, the Zoo researches diseases that afflict elephants, such as the elephant herpesvirus, known as elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus or EEHV. Researchers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were the first to identify EEHV in 1995, and since then, these researchers have made significant discoveries about the biology of EEHV.

The National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory is the prime worldwide resource of herpesvirus information, testing and research for the global elephant community. The lab works in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University and focuses on diagnosing elephants in North America and researching new methods of testing for the various strains of elephant herpes. Its ultimate goal is to prevent future deaths resulting from this devastating disease. Genetics research at the Zoo is also focused on understanding EEHV and the family of genes that helps determine how resistant elephants are to infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and the herpesvirus.

The National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab is currently seeking a volunteer to assist with lab maintenance, data entry and sample testing. Volunteer must be able to commit to at least one shift per week for a minimum of one year. Shifts are available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., (weekend days not available).

Age Range: 




Special qualifications: 

Volunteer should have previous lab experience. Molecular biology experience, especially PCR, is a plus. Desktop publishing experience a plus.


Once accepted, new volunteers must complete online orientation training. Additional training will be provided on the job. There is a probationary period for lab aides.


Washington DC




Zoo Support

Contact phone: 


Additional information: 

Applicants will be interviewed by keeper staff, and those who are provisionally accepted will have background checks conducted, including fingerprinting, as a requirement for approval as a keeper aide. Once accepted, volunteers must submit proof of required vaccinations (including a negative TB test and tetanus) to the Zoo's health unit.