Smithsonian Summer Internship

Sponsored by the National Museum of Natural History and the MSU Undergraduate Scholars Program

Fly in Amber

Two undergraduate research internships are available for summer 2014 with an option for continued research during academic year 2014-15. Students will work with Dr. Dale Greenwalt*, Research Collaborator in the Paleobiology Department of the NMNH in Washington, D.C., to collect fossil insects at exposures of the Kishenehn Formation in northwestern Montana.

  • Field Component (July 20 – August 2): The two week field experience will include a one day rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River to examine the geology of the Formation and 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 2015): 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: travel expenses.
  • Optional Research (2014-15 Academic Year): Students are encouraged to continue related research on fossil or modern insects during the 2014 academic year through an Undergraduate Scholars Program research project. Students interested in this option must submit a separate application to USP by September 12, 2014. 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.  

To Apply: Submit the following to the USP office (131 Gaines Hall) by 21 March 2014 deadline:

  1. Cover letter 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.
  2. Unofficial copy of your transcript (available from the MSU Registrar).
  3. Name and contact information for an MSU faculty mentor who will act as your on-campus research mentor.

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 (the Kishenehn Formation appears to contain more fossil mosquitoes than any other site in the world) and the preservation of intact color pigments. The 2014 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