The Yale Peabody Museum is delighted to offer a robust summer internship program for Yale undergraduate students! Interns participate in the rich variety of research taking place in the Yale Science Hill community and will work on a semi-independent project with one or more advisors using the Yale Peabody Museum’s diverse collections and resources. Thanks to an endowment along with a generous annual gift, we have been able to support 12 to 14 students each summer since the inception of the program in 2016.
Summer 2021 Internship Projects
Please read the list of internship projects below. All internships are 8 weeks long unless otherwise noted. The internships are for Yale undergraduate students; seniors graduating in May 2021 are unfortunately not eligible. The project descriptions for the YPM summer internships were developed by the internship advisors. You are welcome to contact the advisor(s) to propose changes or extensions to these projects, and accompanying budgetary amendments. If so, please be prepared to describe these changes in the application.
Click on any of the projects below for more information:
Gelatinous zooplankton, such as ctenophores, medusae and siphonophores, tend to be patchily distributed in pelagic waters. However, aggregations of zooplankton are often associated with hydrographic features, such as fronts and eddies. These physical features can be detected with information gathered by satellites and oceanographic buoys. This project will access remotely-sensed images of the sea-surface, as well as data from oceanographic buoys, to identify hydrographic features near Block Island, in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. By examining historical images and datasets of environmental parameters, such as temperature and ocean color, the project will examine the spatial and temporal variability of hydrographic features in our study area. In addition, images and hydrographic data will be collected in near-real time to guide sampling locations during the upcoming field season. Experience or coursework in remote sensing and oceanography is recommended. The project can be completed remotely. However, if Covid-19 protocols allow students to participate in field-work during the summer of 2021, the intern can assist with collections of specimens and in-situ oceanographic data in nearby coastal waters. Specimen information can be entered to the Museum database, Axiell's EMu, via remote access if students are not able to visit the Division of Invertebrate Zoology office.
Mary Beth Decker
Research Scientist, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Curatorial Affiliate, YPM Invertebrate Zoology
Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology,
Curator, YPM Invertebrate Zoology
6-8 weeks in the summer
Specimens for the YPM Invertebrate Zoology Division's collections, a library of satellite images and buoy time series data, and the foundation for a peer-reviewed scientific publication.
Connection to YPM collections and departmental/divisional goals
This work will directly impact the collections both technically and biologically. Technically, it will inform where and when collecting will be most productive. This is very important given the expense of off-shore sampling. This will help improve the Invertebrate Zoology collection at the Peabody. Biologically, this work will contextualize future specimens collected in this region by providing much improved detail on the environmental conditions under which they were collected.
Summary of potential costs
(e.g. supplies, travel)
Field work will be covered by available research funds.
Between 2020 and 2023, the Yale Peabody Museum’s galleries are undergoing their largest renovation and expansion in a century. We have a remarkable opportunity to present more of the Museum’s collections to the public, in a new light. In addition to scientific facts, we’re looking for new angles into our collections to more fully engage our visitors. For example, whose contributions have gone unrecognized? How do we illuminate natural history specimens through contemporary research on the micro and nano scales? What connects the Peabody’s collections to economics, folklore, or the arts? We seek an exhibitions intern to help us use the collections to research, develop, and test some of the stories we’ll bring to the public when the Peabody reopens. Activities include:
- Reviewing collections objects slated for display and potential stories with the Exhibitions department and the gallery development teams
- Developing additional interpretation possibilities through research in the Peabody’s collections and with external sources
- Drafting written, graphical, and/or multimedia interpretation for evaluation, in collaboration with content specialists, exhibition developers, and designers
- Testing the interest, clarity, and relevance of text, graphics, and multimedia drafts with focus groups from the Yale and New Haven communities, and updating content as necessary.
This internship comes at a critical time for the Peabody, as it coincides with the development of the in-gallery interpretation for our reopening. We look forward to the opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective to meaningfully connect our collections to our visitors from Yale, New Haven, and beyond.
Assistant Director of Exhibitions, Yale Peabody Museum
8 weeks in the summer
Weeks 1 and 2: Discuss overview of galleries, materials slated for display, proposed narrative outline. Intern chooses one or two areas within one gallery to focus on and visits relevant collection(s) to view specimens and speak to collection manager and gallery team for background info.
Weeks 3 and 4: Research using collections and other sources to develop shortlist of interpretation ideas. Discuss interpretation best practices with Exhibitions team and begin drafting possibilities.
Weeks 5 and 6: Develop interpretation mockups, with Assistant Director and graphic designer (or multimedia consultant, if needed). May include digitizing, 3D scanning/printing, or other collections-based content creation. Test with Sci.CORPS as first audience and refine as necessary.
Week 7: Evaluate draft interpretation with selected Yale and New Haven focus groups.
Week 8: Write up evaluation summary, offer feedback and recommendations.
Undergraduates are invited to participate in morphological research during the summer of 2021 to work with a curator and graduate student from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (YPM). This project focuses on the adaptive morphology of the primate hip and knee. Extant primates share many skeletal features that relate to the ability to maneuver through the trees. This reflects their evolution from an arboreal ancestor. Living in the trees is challenging and dangerous, requiring specialized morphology to navigate this complex 3D environment. To successfully traverse these habitats, early primates are hypothesized to have employed grasp-leaping locomotion, just as several extant primates do today. This form of locomotion involves grasping hands and feet and relies on powerful hind limbs for leaping across gaps in the canopy. Many of the adaptations in the hind limb for grasp-leaping can be found at the hip and knee joints.
Although we cannot directly observe the relationship between grasp-leaping locomotion and skeletal morphology in fossil primates, we can use extant taxa as models by comparing the morphology of their hip and knee to that of early fossil primates. The YPM collections contain a variety of primate skeletons that can be analyzed for this purpose. The undergraduate researcher will assist with these analyses in a laboratory setting. Although the work requires the undergraduate to be on campus, training can be done remotely, and lab work can be socially distanced, depending on Covid-19 protocols. This work will help test hypotheses about early primate locomotor behavior and enhance our understanding of primate origins and functional morphology.
The undergraduate researcher will be involved in multiple aspects of this project. They will learn to use anatomical characteristics to identify and describe primate taxa to address questions such as 1) what is the morphological diversity of primate hind limbs, 2) which skeletal features in the hip and knee best correlate with locomotor behavior, and 3) how does phylogeny affect locomotion? The researcher will learn how to post-process micro-CT scans of these specimens, generate three-dimensional models from the scans, and measure functionally informative features of primate hips and knees from the 3D models. The researcher will also learn how to conduct statistical analyses in R. Hence, the researcher will have the opportunity to learn post-processing techniques and methods of morphometric data collection and analysis. This project could lead to an expanded senior thesis project, a presentation at a professional conference, and/or a publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
In the event that students are not permitted on campus in the summer, the internship could take place in the fall. There is not a fully remote summer option for this internship.
Professor of Anthropology and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Vertebrate Zoology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Graduate Student, YPM Vertebrate Paleontology
6 weeks in the summer
This project will collect and analyze genomic and possibly morphological data to investigate if there is a general mechanism that results in lineages with low species diversity with little morphological change over the course of hundreds of millions of years. The Near Lab has complete genomic DNA sequences for all seven species of gars (Lepisosteidae) and the Bowfin (Amia calva), which are ancient lineages of ray-finned fishes that share common ancestry (Holostei). If on campus, the intern will work to generate genomic data across multiple individuals of gars and Bowfin to explore the consequences of a low rate of genomic evolution on natural hybridization and collect morphological data to characterize new lineages discovered in molecular phylogenetic analyses. If the project is remote, the intern will be trained to analyze raw genomic data collected in the Near Lab.
Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
8 weeks in the summer
The intern will be encouraged to publish a peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal.
Connection to YPM collections and departmental/divisional goals
The intern will work closely with research collections at Yale Peabody Museum.
Summary of Potential Costs
(e.g. supplies, travel)
Thomas Near will cover all research and travel costs.
The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History seeks a motivated Yale student to participate in a six- to eight-week internship in the summer of 2021, with the Division of History of Science and Technology (HST). HST has a nationally-important collection of historical scientific and medical instruments, other scientific and medical artifacts, and technologies of all kinds from across more than 500 years. These fascinating objects tell the story of science at Yale since its foundation in 1701, but also a multitude of other stories about science and technology and all aspects of daily life.
The HST collection will have a dedicated exhibition gallery for the first time when the Peabody Museum reopens after its major renovation in a few years. We are in the process of doing research, design, and feedback activities to create this gallery - as well as other related displays, A/V installations, digital resources, social media, publications, and programming. This also involves collaborating with the other galleries and working groups at the Peabody related to the display of manmade artifacts, to the museum’s relationship with communities from the local to the international, and to modern social justice.
The summer intern will be able to make vital contributions to these activities, to be determined not only by our own needs but also by the intern’s interests and previous relevant experience. It would be useful but is not required for applicants to have previous experience related to one or more of the above mentioned activities. This could include, for example, previous experience with history, science, museums, community groups, public communication, social media, website design, or animation.
Being interested, motivated, adaptable, and dependable are the most important qualities for this position! Potential applicants are welcome to discuss their ideas and any previous relevant experience with Dr. Baker before the deadline. Just as an example, the previous HST intern in summer 2020 researched women and people of color and local communities in the history of science at Yale, recorded related oral histories, helped with focus groups for the new gallery, and blogged.
The state of the Covid-19 pandemic by summer 2021 will determine whether or not this internship is conducted partly or wholly in person, or whether it will need to be completed remotely. We were able to successfully and engagingly carry out an entirely remote internship in summer 2020. If onsite work does become possible, this could include work at the HST collection at Yale’s West Campus, at the university libraries and archives and other collections, and with local focus groups and oral history subjects.
Our goal with the new exhibition gallery and other current activities is to communicate the discoveries and technological innovations associated with artifacts in the HST collection, but also “the human stories”. People and communities have been involved in, excluded by, and affected by knowledge creation and other technology-based practices in diverse ways over the centuries. Despite the modern ideal of scientific objectivity, this has included science and technology being influenced by and supporting horrifically prejudiced ideas and institutions - as well as impacting the environment around the world.
We also want to emphasize the global origins, and not just the global impacts, of science and technology. Because the HST collection originally emerged out of Yale’s own apparatus, the majority of its objects were made in Europe or North America. However, many of the types of objects which we have - as well as the knowledge-making and technology-based practices which employed them - have much longer and more global histories. Some of these stretch back millennia around the globe.
Collections Manager, Division of History of Science and Technology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
6-8 weeks in the summer
Technological advancements over the past three decades have resulted in an explosion of digital archives across the humanities and natural sciences. In the past few years greater attention has been placed on 2D and 3D imaging of artifacts, in effect bringing these objects out of their cabinets and into public view via the World Wide Web.
Increasingly, researchers are relying upon photogrammetric techniques to generate high-resolution 3D digital surrogates from a series of 2D images. Despite the utility of these techniques, the challenge remains that the vast majority of specimens and artifacts in museums await digitization due to the labor-intensive constraints of contemporary imaging systems and workflows. In short, we have hit a bottleneck, and it is only through significant technological advances that we can extend the capacity of the human workforce to leverage data from collections within the next decade, rather than the next century.
The goal of this project will be to evaluate ongoing development of instrumentation for automated high-throughput multi-view imaging. A sample of objects from the Yale Peabody Museum Division of Anthropology will be photographed using this new instrument and photogrammetrically reconstructed for evaluation against the physical object.
If conditions don’t allow an in-person internship, the internship could take place in the fall. Alternatively, a summer internship could be all remote and would involve analysis and evaluation of images and datasets.
Head, Biodiversity Informatics & Data Science, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Project Description: Ring seals—stamp seals that were carved in the shape of a ring or were fixed into a metal ring—appear to be the kind of objects that could be worn in antiquity as jewelry on fingers and used administratively when pressed into clay to leave an impression. As both items of beauty and practicality, such seals were likely viewed as valuable commodities in the ancient world. Examples of such seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection [YBC] can be more than three thousand years old, and represent some of the earliest known forms of personal arts in the world.
Despite the presumed value of these ring seals, little is known about their actual use in antiquity. We know that men and women could both own seals, but we do not know if both men and women owned ring seals, or what fingers the seals might have been worn on, or how they were pressed into clay to create an impression. In order to better understand the uses of such seals, the Wearing Rings and Sealing Tablets in the Ancient World Project investigates the sizes of ring seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection.
The intern will identify all ring seals in the Yale Babylonian Collection working from photographs or (preferably) the objects themselves. He/she/they will chart the relationships between types and sizes of ring seals and possible owners in various periods, creating a database of the identified ring seals and researching the size of bodies in the ancient world. The student will have an opportunity to use EMu, our database, updating records in regards to function, material, shape, size, and weight of the ring seals.
Weeks 1–2: Introduction to YBC, ancient seals, and seal documentation practices.
Weeks 3–4: Identification of ring seals in the YBC and creation of a database for research.
Weeks 5–6: Research and creation of a presentation on periods of ring seal use.
Week 7–8: Update records in EMu, create social media assets, write newsletter report.
Associate Curator, Babylonian Collection, Yale Peabody Museum
Postdoctoral Associate, Babylonian Collection, Yale Peabody Museum
8 weeks in the summer
Social media posts and video, publication in a newsletter.
Connection to YPM Collections and Department Goals
This project is part of the grant-funded YBC Seal Digitization Project and will aid in the presentation of the YBC’s collection online and in galleries.
There are no anticipated project costs. Students will be asked to use software available through the Yale Software Library (e.g., Photoshop, Word, Excel) as well as EMu to conduct their research. The YBC has calipers and a scale for measuring and weighing objects, Sculpey for the creation of modern impressions, and photography equipment for digitization, if the student is able to work in the collection.
Unless otherwise indicated, all internships have an in-person and a remote version. While it would be wonderful to run our internship program in person in the summer of 2021, it is likely that Yale will not decide about whether to allow in-person student work this summer until a later date, so we have planned both versions in advance. Please only apply to an internship if you would be happy to pursue either version.
The cohort of students selected for YPM summer internships will convene twice (virtually this year) before the end of the spring semester for an orientation and introduction to the program, and to discuss expectations. During the summer, weekly group check-ins will be a chance to share progress and insights. In early fall or after the close of the internship, students will submit write-ups and either schedule presentations or create short virtual recorded talks.
YPM Student Programs
Past Summer Internships
Take a look inside a few of the summer internships through these fantastic student blogs!
- The Boardman School, Yale, and "Town and Gown" Relations (Clarisa Merkatz)
- Anna's Summer Amphipod Internship (Anna Howard)
- Dendrites (Sarah Adams)
- Stories of the Invertebrate Zoology Collection (Arianna Lord)
- Fish Phylogeography (Oliver Orr)
- Studying Replicated Radiation Within Viburnum (Jordan Gardner)
- Pencil Tail Tales (Kara Weiss)
- IndoorFishing (Claire Gottsegen)
- Spineless Wonders: Wrangling Invertebrates in Long Island Sound (Romy Carpenter)
- Unearthing the Petrified Forest National Park (Howie Xu)