Fly in Amber

Program Overview 

Two undergraduate research internships are available for summer 2016 with an option for continued research during academic year 2016-17. Students will work with Dr. Dale Greenwalt*, Research Collaborator in the Paleobiology Department of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., to collect fossil insects at exposures of the Kishenehn Formation in northwestern Montana.

  • Field Component (July 31 – August 14): The two week field experience will consist of daily hikes to fossiliferous sites along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Other activities may include a one day rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River to examine the geology of the Formation and/or a full day hike to a glacier in Glacier National Park to study glacial-melt-adapted insects. Funding: field expenses + $1,000.00 stipend.
  • Laboratory Component (Spring Break 2017): Students will receive funding to travel to Washington DC during spring break to do laboratory work on the specimens collected during the field excursion. Funding: up to $1,500 for travel expenses.
  • Optional Research (2016-17 Academic Year): Students are encouraged to continue related research on fossil or modern insects during the 2016 academic year through an Undergraduate Scholars Program research project. Students interested in this option must submit a separate application to USP by 9 September 2016. Students may work with any qualified faculty mentor at MSU. Suggested mentors would include Michael Ivie (Dept. of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology) or David Varricchio (Dept. of Earth Sciences).

Transportation to and from Hungry Horse, Montana (approximately 300 miles from Bozeman) will be the responsibility of the students. Room and board will be provided.  Applicants must be in good physical condition and able to hike long distances and steep trails; depending on water levels, it may be necessary to ford the river. Equipment and specimens must be packed out of the collecting site each day. Both women and men are urged to apply. Students will be responsible for providing equipment including hiking clothes (quick-drying synthetics), a sun hat, hiking boots, water shoes, backpack, sunscreen and personal items for a 2 week period of time.

Academic Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.2. Background in entomology, paleontology or geology preferred. MSU Honors College students preferred.  

How to Apply

 Submit the following materials to the USP office (130-J Gaines Hall) no later than 5:00 pm 25 March 2016:

  1. Application cover sheet - section 1 completed and signed by the applicant.  
  2. 1-2 page letter of application explaining why you are interested in the position, how this experience will contribute to your academic/career goals and why you are qualified for the position.
  3. Unofficial copy of your transcript (available through MyInfo).
  4. Letter of recommendation from a MSU faculty member (should be delivered in a signed/sealed envelope OR faculty members may email letters directly to  

Additional Site Information 

The fossil insects of the 46 million year-old (Middle Eocene) Kishenehn Formation are of unique scientific value because of their remarkable preservation of detail, the large numbers of very small insects not often represented in major collections (e.g. the Kishenehn Formation appears to contain more fossil mosquitoes than any other site in the world) and the preservation of intact color pigments. The 2016 fieldwork is part of a 5-year effort to increase the size and quality of the existing collection.

*Examples of the research currently being done on the Kishenehn Formation fossils can be viewed at