Drawings of marine plant life.

Applications for the 2017 session are now closed.

The California Academy of Sciences announces an internship in biological illustration. The internship is open to currently enrolled undergraduate students interested in developing illustration techniques related to biological specimens. The intern will work with one or more Academy scientists to develop illustrations that may be used in scientific publications. The internship is integrated with the activities of the Summer Systematics Institute (SSI), and the successful applicant will be encouraged to participate in all SSI activities with fellow interns, including lectures, seminars, presentations, and social activities.

The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum supporting research and collection activities in the disciplines of Anthropology, Botany, Entomology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Invertebrate Zoology, Ornithology, Mammalogy, and Paleobiology. 



Full-time (40 hours/week) for eight weeks. The next session is June 19 to August 11, 2017. 


Any U.S. citizen or resident alien (green card) who is an undergraduate student and will not have graduated before Fall 2017 is welcome to apply. That is, you must be enrolled in an undergraduate program at the time of the internship. An excellent academic record and participation in a wide range of campus activities are highly regarded, but are not the sole criteria for the selection process.



A $4,200 stipend will be awarded to each intern. In addition, some travel costs to San Francisco (up to $450) will be reimbursed and a $2,500 subsistence allowance is given for housing and food. Funding may be subject to Federal and/or State income taxes.

How to Apply

1. The application process is now almost entirely online. You will need to complete the application form. Please note: If you are applying for both SSI and BI internships, a complete application (including transcripts and letters of recommendation) is required for each.

2. The online form will ask you to prepare a statement of interest in working at the Academy, as well as some background information that tells us how you became interested in evolutionary biology. Please do not send a resume—it will not be read.

3. Arrange for two emailed letters of recommendation. At least one must be from a science or art professor, or academic professional (such as an instructor or teaching assistant) who knows your schoolwork well enough to address that in their recommendation. Completed Recommendation Forms should be emailed to SSI-BI@calacademy.org

4. Arrange for transcripts to be delivered to the Academy. These need not be official, but must be emailed to SSI-BI@calacademy.org.

5. Provide examples of your artwork, as outlined below.

Application Due Date: February 3, 2017.  Applications received after Midnight on February 3, 2017 will not be reviewed.

Please note: Applicants for this internship need not provide an Advisor Selection Form.

Artwork Samples

Provide no more than 7 digital or scanned examples of your artwork. Please do not send hard copies -- they will not be returned to you. The digital samples of work should be in the form of Portable Document Files (.pdf) or Joint Photographic Experts Group (.jpg) files. No single file should be greater than 1 megabyte in size, so please reduce resolution and size to fit this requirement. Do not send images in any other formats or sizes -- due to the volume of applications, we do not have the resources to convert or store them.

Send the artwork example files as email attachments to:



Helpful Hints: The successful applicant will work with a scientist or scientists to develop imagery relating to the research done at the Academy. Instruction will pertain to specifics of the research being illustrated—we do not teach illustration or drawing technique and we assume some background knowledge of biology. We expect illustration skills to be fully developed in the successful applicant because we aim to provide experience in producing publication-ready imagery. The most successful interns arrive with well-developed artistic abilities and some biological training, allowing them to get the most out of their association with Academy scientists and the lecture/lab series that runs concurrently under the SSI program.

Note that this is illustration, and not art that many colleges teach. The difference is that scientific illustration presents a message that is unambiguous about the subject, and teaches the viewer something about the subject that the scientist is trying to convey. Applicants are encouraged to develop a small portfolio of digital works (see above) that reflect the kind of imaging used in collections-based research—describing new species, showing details of features, etc. Stylized illustrations that depict scientific ideas are fine, but human portraiture, abstract, or non-representational art are not what we are looking for. For examples, you could consult contemporary journals that publish our research such as: Journal of Paleontology, Zootaxa, and our own in-house journal, Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.


Applicants will be notified by email sometime in mid-March or early April but should note that because of the schedules of potential mentors reviewing applications (among other factors), there cannot be a firm deadline. Due to the volume of applicants, we cannot give individual confirmation for application materials received. We appreciate applicants’ patience as we make our final decisions.


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Acknowledgements (BI)


This internship is made possible by a generous gift from the Robert T. Wallace Endowment for undergraduate research experiences.