smithsonian uk internships

the smithsonian uk charitable trust is supporting three internships to be based at mpala research centre, laikipia, kenya. there will be two positions of eight weeks, and one position of twelve weeks suitable for a student graduating in 2020. 

applications are welcome from all undergraduate students of any discipline studying at pembroke college during the 2019-2020 academic year. if you wish to apply, the form is available here.

details of the internships availble in 2020 are as follows:

eight week internships 

internships to be undertaken concurrently at dates (tbd) in the summer vacation 2020.

  1. forestgeo ecosystems and climate initiative: the smithsonian forest global earth observatory (forestgeo) is a worldwide network of scientists and 59 forest research sites—one of which is at mpala—dedicated to monitoring forests in an era of global change. the impact of land-use and climate change are predicted to have a profound effect on the ecosystem and the biodiversity at mpala. the monitoring of the 150-hectre forestgeo plot at mpala provides short- and long-term data on the vegetation dynamics of an ecosystem that undergoes grazing by both livestock and wildlife. the intern will learn by working with a resident team of forestgeo researchers, visiting the sites daily. outside of the field, the intern will also assist with data entry and writing reports.
  2. insect-plant interactions: the insect-plant interactions lab at mpala is a field-based lab that explores the intriguing world of insects and plants. the lab is overseen by dr dino j. martins, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist, with ivy ngiru as its project manager. the lab works on a wide range of projects, which includes; the rearing of butterflies to look at mimicry patterns; fieldwork on grasses and insects, and insect interactions with larger species, including flies and other arthropods associated with endangered rhinos. the intern will work alongside a field team, helping collect samples, record data, carry out field experiments on the diversity of plants, insects and other animals at mpala and on neighbouring conservancies.

twelve week internship (open to finalists only) 

to be undertaken and concluded (dates tbd) before december 31st 2020. 

the intern will have the opportunity to create and conduct a research project to be focused on one or more aspects of mpala’s core mission of science, conservation and  education. topics could, for example, focus on wildlife, including endangered species (grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, african lion and african elephant), or connections between people and nature through ecosystem services at the intersection of wildlife, livestock, agriculture, infrastructure and sustainable development issues.

the key research goals and priorities of the intern’s project are to be decided within the first four weeks on mpala, following consultation with the director and/or the relevant principal investigator or head of department. 

in addition, an important part of the intern’s role will be to interact with all units of the mpala research centre, and help facilitate communication and co-operation between mpala and its national and international partners, as well as across departments within the organization itself.

general details

all interns will be integrated into the mpala research centre’s summer interns’ programme (including weekend field trips and guest lectures), and receive mentoring from mrc and smithsonian institution scientists and fellows in residence.

interns are expected to be available to work 40 hours per week, and some projects may require weekend duty.

in addition, applicants are expected to write a report following an internship, which may be published on the mpala, smithsonian uk, smithsonian institution and pembroke college websites.


the mpala research centre was established in 1991 on the 48,000-acre mpala wildlife foundation property on the laikipia plateau in north central kenya. mrc represents a collaboration between the smithsonian institution, princeton university, the kenya wildlife service, and the national museums of kenya to create a site for multidisciplinary research and training in africa. since its inception, mpala has hosted hundreds of students, educators, and scientists annually from around the globe, conducting research on topics ranging from parasites to elephants. mpala is now recognized as a central hub for research in east africa and is home to a variety of threatened and endangered plants and animals, including grevy zebra and reticulated giraffe. additional information about mpala can be found at

costs covered by the internship

the internship award of up to £5500 will cover travel to/from mpala; accommodation and full board at mpala; permits and associated administration; transport, fuel, insurance; and the help of an mpala research assistant. the award will include a weekly stipend of £100 to cover additional personal expenses.


application forms should be returned by email ( to the academic office of pembroke college, including authorization (by email or signature) from one of your senior subject tutors. the deadline for receipt of applications is 5pm january 24th, friday of 1st week hilary.