Drawings of marine plant life.

We will not be offering a Biological Illustration internship in 2020.

Please read more about our Science Communication position under advisors and projects on the Summer Systematics Institute page 


The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce the continuation of our internship in biological illustration. This internship is open to currently enrolled undergraduate students interested in developing illustration techniques related to biological specimens.

The Academy 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. Working with one or more Academy scientists, the intern will have the opportunity to develop illustrations of specimens from our collections that may be used in scientific publications. This internship is also integrated with the activities of our 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 program begins with a weeklong field trip to the Pepperwood Preserve in Sonoma County where students will participate in workshops on natural history field methods and science communication, before traveling to the coast to participating in the annual Snapshot Cal Coast Bioblitz.

This internship is made possible by the National Science Foundation and a generous gift from the Robert T. Wallace Endowment for undergraduate research experiences. One internship in Biological Illustration is integrated with the SSI program.

Duration & Location

The Biological Illustration Internship is a full-time program (40 hours/week) for nine weeks, from June 1 through July 31, 2020. The first week of the program will be spent at Pepperwood Preserve, with the remainder of the time spent in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences.


How to Apply ( In the process of being updated for 2020)

The application process is entirely online. You will need to complete the application form.

  1. 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 biology.

  2. Complete the advisor selection portion of the application form after consulting the advisors and projects listed here (these are from 2019 and subject to change.

  3. You will need to find two references and provide their contact information. At least one must be a science or art professor or academic professional (such as an instructor or teaching assistant) who knows your school work well enough to address that in their recommendation. You should speak to these people before submitting their information to be sure they are willing to potentially write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.

  4. Upload a digital portfolio to Google Drive. Upload no more than 7 digital or scanned examples of your artwork in a folder on Google Drive, and set the sharing settings to “Anyone with the Link Can View”. The digital samples of work should be in the form of Portable Document Files (.pdf) or Joint Photographic Experts Group (.jpg) files. Do not upload images in any other formats -- due to the volume of applications, we do not have the resources to convert or store them.

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.

Deadline: February 1, 2020. Applications received after midnight on February 1, 2020, will not be reviewed.



Applicants will be notified by email sometime in mid-March and should note that because of the schedules of potential mentors reviewing applications, and the possible need to contact applicants on reversion lists, there cannot be a firm deadline on our part. Due to the volume of applicants, we cannot give individual confirmation for application materials received. We hope that applicants can be patient as we make our final decisions. In general, successful applicants will know earlier in the process.



Any U.S. citizen or resident alien (green card) who is an undergraduate student, and who will not have graduated before fall of 2020, is welcome to apply. That is, you must be enrolled in an undergraduate program at the time of the internship. We encourage applications from groups under-represented in the sciences. An excellent academic record and participation in a wide range of campus activities are highly regarded, but not the sole criteria for the selection process.


Housing & Stipend

A $5,400 ($600/week) stipend will be awarded to each intern. Travel to and from San Francisco will be provided. Housing will provided in dormitories in San Francisco, with details to be provided upon selection of interns. Personal stipends may be subject to federal and/or state income taxes.

Sample Illustrations

See what our interns have accomplished in past programs. 

If you have questions regarding our undergraduate internships, please email us. No phone calls, please.

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