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Fly Collection Internship

LOCATION: National Museum of Natural History (10th & Constitution Ave. NW)

DEPARTMENT: Entomology

DESCRIPTION: Insects outnumber any measure of biodiversity of vertebrate groups such as birds or mammals and there are some 159,000 species of true flies (Diptera, mosquitoes, gnats, horse flies, house flies, fruit flies, etc.) known to the scientific community today. Many species are important to humans as plant pests, vectors of disease, or pollinators and flies are a driving force of biodiversity wherever they occur. The Diptera collection here at the NMNH is one of the two largest and best curated collections in the world and many scientifically undiscovered species are surely to be found within the cabinets and drawers.

The aim of this internship is to assist the staff of the Diptera unit to improve the curation of the collection by sorting primarily pinned specimens to family, assist in digitization of specimens (entering data into Excel templates or photographing species), and/or labeling the storage trays and drawers that hold the specimens. Interns will receive an introduction to the separation of flies into the major groups and identification of families, and techniques for handling and curating pinned specimens. Specimens curated during this internship will be included into the permanent holdings at the NMNH and therefore become available to scientists world-wide who study fly biodiversity, taxonomy, and their evolutionary relationships. Digital data will be integrated into the museum-wide database system and become available to both the scientific community and the public at large on the NMNH’s public database ( and the Encyclopedia of Life (

QUALIFICATIONS: Background in the biological sciences and familiarity with the use of a microscope are preferred. Knowledge of entomology, taxonomy, or how to use an identification key are desirable. Good organizational skills, attention to detail, and handling of small specimens are required.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Interns will learn basic curatorial standards and techniques that are the prerequisite for collections-based research at a natural history museum. They will learn fly morphology (i.e., the parts of the fly), particularly the characters most important for distinguishing fly families and obtain insights into the diversity of Diptera shapes and forms. They will be exposed to digitization efforts of a pinned insect collection and may get experience in imaging fly specimens. In addition, they may assist in specific projects in revisionary taxonomy and may learn techniques and methods of systematic entomological research.

TIMETABLE: A minimum two-month commitment is required. Hours are flexible.


HOW TO APPLY: Applicants should submit a letter of interest describing how they see the internship fitting into their professional development, a CV or resume, and dates of availability to the project contact.



Torsten Dikow