Yale Peabody Museum/Smithsonian Institution Joint Internship

Species boundaries among large treeshrews (Scandentia, Tupaiidae) from Southeast Asia


Smithsonian – Dr. Neal Woodman, Curator of Mammals

   National Museum of Natural History

Yale – Eric Sargis, Professor of Anthropology; Curator of Mammals and Vertebrate Paleontology

   Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History


Length: 8 weeks in the summer


Project Description:

Undergraduates are invited to participate in museum research during the summer of 2018 to work with curators from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (YPM) in New Haven, CT, and the U.S. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (USNM) in Washington, DC. This project focuses on the large treeshrew (Tupaia tana) from Borneo, Sumatra, and several smaller islands in the Malay Archipelago. Tupaia tana has a complicated taxonomic history, with 15 subspecies currently recognized within this species. Previous studies have focused on pelage variation, but T. tana has never been analyzed with a modern, integrative approach that synthesizes morphometric and molecular data. Hence, the recognized subspecific variation may actually represent species-level diversity in some cases, which would have conservation implications for this poorly studied species. This project will build on our previous study of the common treeshrew (T. glis), a species complex in which we recognized four additional species based on our morphometric and molecular analyses. Here we will address questions such as 1) does T. tana include multiple lineages that should be recognized as distinct species and 2) how did biogeographic variables affect the divergence of populations in this taxon?


The undergraduate researcher will be involved in multiple aspects of this project. At the USNM, the researcher will learn how to x-ray museum study skins and measure taxonomically informative features of hand morphology from the x-rays. At the YPM, the researcher will continue to measure x-rays and learn how to statistically analyze the completed dataset. Hence, the researcher will have the opportunity to learn scanning techniques and methods of morphometric data collection and analysis. This project could lead to an expanded senior thesis project, a professional presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists (at the USNM in June 2019), a peer-reviewed publication in a zoological journal, and an IUCN Red List conservation status reassessment and/or several additional species assessments.


Learning Objectives

Over the course of eight weeks, the student will learn to:

  • Conduct collections-based scientific research focused on the largely unstudied Tupaia tana;
  • X-ray museum study skins;
  • Measure taxonomically informative features of hand morphology from the x-rays;
  • Statistically analyze the completed dataset; and
  • Present the findings in a professional presentation and/or peer-reviewed publication.


Stipend: $4000

Note - jointly funded by Yale Peabody Musuem and the Smithsonian Institution; stipend is greater than New Haven-based internships to account for higher cost of living in Washington, D.C.


CLICK HERE to apply!