The Department of Invertebrate Zoology (IZ)-Lab 5 at the Museum Support Center (MSC) is a busy lab year round. Work spaces cluttered with specimens, curation supplies and microscopes are constantly in flux with visiting researchers, graduate students and fellows, as well as volunteers, interns and contractors.
With new collections constantly arriving and others being shipped out to requesting researchers, carts filled with specimens waiting to be processed (curated, labeled, inventoried, packed, etc….) is a common scene. But specimens are not the only items in need of attention: scientific plates and films (negatives, SEM and prints) as well as research documents and publication reprints are in the queue to be scanned, filed and archived.
So many projects, too little time…. That’s where Smithsonian volunteers, interns and contractors come in. They are recruited for many collections-based projects that are advertised via the SI Volunteer Program, SI Internship Program or through departmental contracts. These programs all offer long and short term tenures, and some seasonal positions, depending on the interests of the individual.
The volunteer program at the Smithsonian Institution is tailored towards non-students with a desire to contribute their time and expertise as well as their love of learning. A number of volunteer opportunities are available from research related, to public education programs, and Behind-the-Scenes. Here again, long and short-term positions are offered.
The Smithsonian Institution internship program offers students (graduate, undergraduate and even high school) an opportunity to work directly with a staff member in an academic and professional setting. Students interested in working at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) can select a project from the many available at NMNH Internship Opportunities. Winter and spring break (just one week) as well as summer internships are available.
Another way to get involved in the Smithsonian is through a contract. Contracts offered at the Smithsonian provide paid positions for museum professionals, and depending on available funding, there can be a number available at any given time. Here in IZ-Lab 5, contracts offered involve curatorial tasks, specimen inventory and labeling, and document processing/scanning. These positions can vary from a few months to 1.5+ years.
Support from volunteers, interns and contractors is indispensable for the management of our museum collections and research facility. The decrease of permanent staff in IZ-Lab 5 has made the help of volunteers, interns and contractors even more critical to complete many important collections projects. The day to day work in IZ-Lab 5 is positively complemented by their efforts, whether it be assisting with the physical care of the collections, or collecting research data, or entering specimen data for inventory records. Without their help, most of these projects most likely would be delayed for years, or worse, never get done ending up in the “attic”...
Highlighted here are a few friendly faces found in IZ-Lab 5 this past summer:
Marshall Boyd – Summer Intern and Volunteer
Marshall was an intern with IZ in the summer of 2009 before traveling to Honduras where he served as a research assistant. He later went on to earn his Masters Degree from Salisbury University studying forest birds on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
As a volunteer in IZ-Lab 5, Marshall is involved with the crustacea collections and crustacea research-related material. His first project was to scan research publications from Drs. Horton Hobbs, Jr. and Horton Hobbs III. He was then tasked with scanning crustacean specimen catalog cards for upload to EMu (the Smithsonian Institution inventory program). He is also working to label, organize and curate specimens throughout the crustacean collections, including newly acquired specimens.
Linda Ward - Volunteer
Linda was a Department of IZ employee for 35 years. She was responsible for cataloging, collection curation, bibliographic work, as well as research assistance and field work for Dr. Kristian Fauchald in Belize, Florida, France, Aldabra and Papua New Guinea. Her education background is a Bachelors of Art and Masters from the University of Hawaii (a longgggg time ago).
As a volunteer, Linda is currently working on collections from Dr. Fauchald and his students, as well as her own backlog of miscellaneous cataloging and curation. She is also completing datasets for worm catalog records that were created during a card scanning project years ago. Linda is organizing Dr. Fauchald’s papers/files/manuscripts and preparing material to be transferred to the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Paul Greenhall - Volunteer
Paul worked for the Smithsonian Institution for 40 years before retiring in 2014. He has since returned as a volunteer to work in the Department of IZ. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences, University of Maryland.
Paul has held a number of positions at the Smithsonian Institution during his tenure, starting as a volunteer then a contractor in primate biology in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. He later joined IZ working in Mollusks sorting, packing and shipping collections. As the IZ Shipping Manager, he began packing, shipping and preparing CITES permit applications and helped improve trusting diplomatic relationships between FWS-Baltimore and IZ over CITES issues.
As a volunteer in IZ-Lab 5, Paul curated the Land Snail Collection, and then assisted with packing & shipping. And in 2016 he and his successor, Courtney Wickel, prepared the IZ Packing & Shipping Guidelines that covers the “Whys” of packing & shipping and problem-solving.
Carmen Williams – Summer Intern and Volunteer
Carmen was a summer intern in IZ-Lab 5 and is currently a volunteer. She assisted with museum curation and various specimen-related projects in IZ. As many universities and organizations from around the globe seek to borrow from the Smithsonian’s vast collection, Carmen learned about shipping different invertebrate groups as she prepared to become certified to pack wet specimens. Carmen also worked on an ongoing shipworm rehydration project where she verified the USNM catalog numbers, and then rehydrated the specimens for proper curation.
Carmen grew up in Baltimore, and she has many fond childhood memories of weekends spent roaming the halls of the NMNH. The museum represented a place of adventure, and she appreciates the opportunity to intern in a place with such a significant link to her personal history.
Her internship provided her with practical application for the techniques and skills she learned at Coastal Carolina University, as well as a chance to connect with and learn from IZ researchers and the collection staff. The most rewarding part of her internship was assisting with organizing and curating a section of the IZ wet collections.
(Carmen was featured as Intern of the Day on June 16, 2017 on the NMNH Interns & Fellows Facebook page.)
Amelia Lindsay-Kaufman – Summer Intern
Amelia was a summer intern in IZ-Lab 5. Her internship focused on collections management, concentrating on crustacean specimens. As she studied geology in college at McGill University in Montreal, she had much experience working with rocks, but not as much experience working with invertebrates. With this experience she was able to learn more about how biological specimens are collected, preserved, and organized for future study.
Amelia always loved science and natural history museums, and she aspires to eventually work in a museum. Therefore, she knew she wanted to intern at the Smithsonian Institution, particularly the NMNH, so she would be immersed in science and gain practical experience in a museum setting. The highlight of Amelia’s internship was unpacking a shipment of freshly collected invertebrate samples from Hawaii, as she was able to learn the necessary techniques used for specimen curation.
(Amelia was featured as Intern of the Day on July 17, 2017 on the NMNH Interns & Fellows Facebook page.)
Misha Lerner – Summer Intern
Misha worked on organizing the orphioroids collection, and on rebottling the mollusks collection.
Adam Stergis – Spring Break Intern and Contractor
Adam has been curating and cataloging crustaceans for IZ for over two years now. As an undergraduate at the University of Mary Washington, he gained experience in vertebrate zoology testing the genetic effects of herbicides on zebrafish. In his senior year he participated in the Smithsonian Institution spring break internship program curating isopods, which are one of his favorite animals. He then found invertebrates to be a much better fit for him.
Adam's work in IZ involved finding uncataloged specimens within the crustacean collection, adding them to the EMu inventory database, transferring them to archival quality containers, and returning them to the collection in the proper order. Whether it be through his work, the seasonal parties, and most recently as grillmaster for the summer IZ picnic, he has felt so welcomed in IZ-Lab 5 and considers himself very fortunate to work for an institution whose museums he have been visiting since he was two years old.
Georgia Tschen – Volunteer and Contractor
Georgia has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa and worked as a graphic designer and Art Director in California and Ohio until moving to Washington, DC in 2012. She first began working in the Department of IZ in 2013 as a volunteer designing various graphic projects and archiving photographs.
Her first contract for IZ was digitizing specimen labels and applying USNM catalogue numbers to uncatalogued hyperiid Amphipod lots.
Since then she’s held a several other contracts in the department: curation and rehousing of the U.S. National Parasite Collection, and working on a few publication projects involving diagraming illustrations and Photoshop image enhancements.
Volunteering at the Smithsonian was a great introduction to the city and the people here, and working in IZ has been extremely rewarding. She’s happy to be a part of it, there's always something new to learn and see.
By Rose A. Gulledge, Museum Specialist