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Invertebrate Zoology Collections and Research Material Management


LOCATION: Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland.

DEPARTMENT: Invertebrate Zoology

DESCRIPTION: The National Museum of Natural History has one of the world’s largest collection of specimens from around the world, of which over 50 million are invertebrates.  Our invertebrate specimens are preserved and stored in several ways including in alcohol or formalin and stored in jars, dried and stored in archival boxes, and mounted on glass slides.  Through this internship students will learn and gain experience in collections management of invertebrate specimens crossing the broad spectrum of storage and preservation methods, including:

  • Experience in specimen curation by checking archival fluid-preserved specimen jars, confirming that alcohol levels are within an acceptable range, and that gasket integrity is sound.
  • Experience in specimen management by attaching printed labels to fluid-preserves specimen jars and dry-preserved boxes.
  • Experience in collection management by conducting specimen-level shelf checks to verify presence of inventoried specimens, or noting absences.
  • Experience in collection curation by organizing collections in phylogenetic and alphabetical order, and by USNM catalog number.

Other aspects of the project may include archiving scientific publications and images.  As part of natural history research, it is a common practice to photograph specimens in the field as well as in the lab (both alive and preserved).  Hence, researchers often amasses large, complementary collections of specimen images, photographs, slides and negatives. In addition, researchers also build large scientific publication libraries, some of which can include vary rare reprints as well as limited quantity publications.  These accompanying images and publications are often requested by colleagues and students. To help make these collections more readily available, interns will assist in the creation of digital (as well as archival) files from these research materials.  Projects include:

Organizing the Reprint Library Collections. Interns can work with the paper publications (books and reprints – some rather old and fragile) transferring them to archival envelopes/plastic sleeves and labeling the envelopes to identify the author and date of publication.

Scanning Research Material. Interns can work with the image libraries, scanning and creating digital images from 35 mm film, slides, SEM negatives, line drawings, hand notes and scientific printed material as well as editing digital images using Adobe Photoshop photo-editing program.

QUALIFICATIONS: The student who is independent, organized, takes direction well, and is not afraid to get dirty will gain the most learning from this project. A general understanding of crustaceans and invertebrates, as well as prior experience in document scanning using a flat-bed scanner and experience in photo editing (such as Photoshop) is also helpful.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:  Students will learn about museum collections management and curation techniques for different groups of invertebrates while getting hands-on experience working with museum specimens.  Students will also become familiar with some of the principles of archiving historical and scientific printed and image material.  Knowledge of proper handling of image material will also be enhanced, as well as digital file editing and file organizational skills.

TIMETABLE: Available throughout the year, but requires a minimum of 6 weeks tenure and at least 20 hours per week


HOW TO APPLY: Applicants should submit a letter of interest describing how the internship relates to the applicant’s career goals; current CV or resume; names of references; and dates of availability.


Adam C. Stergis