Marine Invasions Research
Principal Investigator

Internships in the Marine Invasions Lab

Are you in college or a recent college grad who is interested in invertebrates, ecology, or introduced species? Join our lab as an intern. 

The Marine Invasions lab welcomes interns at both our East Coast lab in Edgewater, MD and our West Coast lab in Tiburon, CA. Most of our intern opportunities are between April and August, but we occasionally take fall and winter interns. 

Top five reasons to select the Marine Invasions Lab as your first choice.

1) Our research topics are – exciting, diverse, strange, important, far reaching, large-scale… 
From beautiful invertebrates to strange parasites - we’ve got it all.  Would you like to work with grass shrimp and see what fishes are eating them? How about searching for zombie crabs? Ever look under a boat or a dock to see what species are living there? Ever wonder what species are moving around on floating trash in the ocean? 

We’re the largest lab at SERC, so our interns have the chance to participate in multiple projects. There are numerous short-term projects that change from year to year, but we also have many long-term and large scale projects that form the foundation of our program.  Each year brings a new opportunity for discovery in the field of invasions ecology. Scroll down to learn about some of the projects our interns have been involved in.

fouling sites
This map shows the sites in the United States that the fouling team has traveled to so far.

2) The potential for travel
Some of our interns get to travel! For example, our fouling team travels to about three different locations each year, and the intern selected for this program usually travels along with us. All of our interns will have some opportunity to visit different research sites in the Chesapeake or San Francisco Bay regions. One lucky intern even traveled to Panama with us. 

“During my internship, which was based in California, I got the chance to travel all over the West Coast of the US. As an easterner I was thrilled. I saw the Pacific North West in Oregon, traveled to sunny Santa Monica, lived in and biked all over San Francisco, and even flew to Panama to see dozens of different animals I had never seen before, including swimming much too close to a Man-o-war." – Katy Newcomer, former intern, current staff

3) The chance to work California. 
The Marine Invasions Lab has a satellite lab in Tiburon, CA, right on San Francisco Bay. If you want to work on the West Coast, this is the lab for you. Our California lab generally takes two to four interns between June and October, but occasionally at other times of year. California interns work on diverse projects, mostly in the San Francisco Bay area, especially focused on fouling communities and native oysters.

West coast interns in the cold room, working on an experiment to test the responses of the clam Gemma gemma to extreme low salinities. (2017)
West coast interns in the cold room, working on an experiment to test the responses of the clam Gemma gemma to extreme low salinities. (2017)

4) Independent Research
We believe conducting independent research is one of the most beneficial parts of the SERC internship. Sometimes we provide a specific research question, sometimes interns come up with their own project ideas, but they are always heavily involved in the design and execution of these projects. Some projects have even produced publications! 

5)  It’s a place for people with big dreams
Many of our former interns have left our lab armed with the confidence to apply (and be accepted) to a graduate program, or to take a full time position in the marine ecology world. Several full-time staff at SERC started out as interns. And everyone has made life-long friendships and professional connections.

Next Steps

  1. All internships for SERC are processed through the Smithsonian’s internships and fellowships portal​ (SOLAA). Please follow the directions on the application process: here
  2. Please select the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and select the Marine Invasions Lab as your top choice (or one of your three top choices).
  3. If a specific project or scientist mentioned here has interested you, please mention it directly in your Internship Statement.


This is 2018 intern Kara Ogburn from Crownsville, MD conducting a survey of larval mud crabs and grass shrimp in the Rhode River. She participated in nearly every aspect of the mud crab project including filed surveys, lab analysis, training volunteers, data entry and some data analysis.

"After three years working in the invasions lab as a volunteer, I jumped at the chance to intern for this lab.  It is a wonderful environment and a welcoming atmosphere.  This internship allowed me to experience field operations, lab work and organizing data in an office setting.  I gained more responsibilities and was able to see first hand, all of the aspects of running a research study.  This was by far the most beneficial experience as I pursue a career in this field. "


This is 2016 intern Nancy Sealover from Rockville, MD, who worked towards extracting DNA from invertebrates collected from the hulls and submerged surfaces of ships in U.S. ports. She used these DNA samples to contribute to characterizing the composition and diversity of biofouling species in the efforts to also identify potential invasive species. She additionally participated in field work the Invasions Lab was conducting in the Chesapeake Bay and on the Eastern Shore. 

"I came to SERC after graduating from the University of Maryland and my goal was to gain as much experience in molecular techniques and experimental design as possible. Katrina and Ian in the Invasions Lab gave me so much insight into how to approach molecular and field work and gave me the independence in their projects to really grow as a researcher. I currently work in a fast-paced molecular biology lab and I have no doubt that my experiences with the Invasions Lab are the reason I got this job and what made me so prepared for it. I have unending gratitude to the Invasions Lab for their patience and dedication to mentoring me and would highly recommend working in the Invasions Lab to any future interns."

Kaitlyn Clark

This is 2017 intern Kaitlyn Clark from Rocklin, CA, who worked to determine the role of propagule pressure—the supply of larvae and the timing of their arrival—in the settlement and survival of eastern oysters. She was involved in all aspects of the two experiments conducted during the summer, including preparing fieldwork gear, monitoring the oysters as they grew, collecting and entering data, and running analyses.

"Working in the Invasions Lab at SERC was a truly amazing experience. Everyone I worked with was incredibly supportive and patient, and the hands-on experience in conducting research was invaluable. I had opportunities to both dive deeply into my own research responsibilities and explore a wide range of topics by volunteering with other projects. The internship also provided numerous opportunities to explore career options and talk with researchers and professionals about their career paths. I am so grateful for the experience and confidence conducting research that I gained during this internship."


Our project and intern needs change annually. Interns have participated in these projects.

We conduct invertebrate surveys in marine and estuarine ecosystems to learn about the occurrence, distribution, and diversity of non-native species in North and Central America. We are detecting new invasions, tracking changes in the community, and assessing the effectiveness of regulatory strategies aimed at reducing invasions.

This project evaluates the long term interactions between host and parasite including adaptation and resistance throughout the entire range of the mud crabs. The hosts are two species of mud Crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii and Eurypanopeus depressus), the parasite is Loxothylacus panopaei.

We study propagule pressure to better understand how the number or frequency of arriving organisms helps to explain invasion patterns or predict future invasion risks. 

The Nearshore Survey is a long-term research study (1991-present) examining the interactions between native grass shrimps (Palaemon pugio, P. mundonovus, and P. vulgaris) and their common predators in the Rhode River. Research is carried out at multiple locations within each of two sites in the Rhode River (Canning House Bay and Fox Point) every summer from June through August, using three methods: seining, dip-net sweeps and tethering.

We are evaluating the role of floating plastic pollution in transporting species across oceans to non-native ranges.