San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance offers Undergraduate Summer Student Fellowships in our Conservation Science teams: Recovery Ecology, Population Sustainability, Community Engagement, Conservation Genetics, Plant Conservation, and Reproductive Sciences.

Applications for the 2023 Summer Conservation Science Fellowships can be submitted until February 3, 2023. Applicants should specify which team's fellowship they are applying for; applicants can only apply for one team, not multiple teams.

Current undergraduate students must be officially associated with a college or university in order to be eligible for the fellowship program. Undergraduates who are currently enrolled in college meet this criterion, as do graduating seniors who are continuing their education in the fall following graduation. Recent graduates who are not continuing their education in fall of the same year are not eligible to apply.

Summer 2023 Conservation Science Fellowship dates are:

  • Monday, May 15 to Friday, August 4
  • Monday, June 12 to Friday, September 1

Fellowships are 40 hours per week for 12 weeks. Fellows will receive a $7,000 stipend.

To apply, send your resume and cover letter to Holly Davis at hodavis@sdzwa.org.

  • Community Engagement is driving conservation action through science education and community collaborations. Our applied conservation social science group conducts research on human-wildlife interactions so that conservation strategies address both the threats that species face as well as the needs of local communities. The work of the team involves understanding human behavior and viewpoints to inform species conservation planning. Fellowships will be at the Beckman Center (Escondido).
  • Conservation Genetics uses innovative genetic and cellular approaches to assess, monitor, and manage endangered species, contribute to their sustainability, and prevent species extinction. They conduct collaborative research using genome-wide sequencing to develop genomic tools for species of conservation concern. They propagate and reprogram tissue culture cells to produce induced pluripotent stem cells and direct their development for genetic rescue efforts for critically endangered species. Fellowships will be at the Beckman Center (Escondido).
  • Plant Conservation researches the restoration and management of rare plant populations both ex-situ and in situ. This team is seeking three research fellows: one to join the Torrey pines restoration and management project; one to join our Native Plant Gene Bank on seed banking, testing, and propagation; and one to work on micropropagation (specialized horticultural technique) of rare oaks. Independent projects are developed with mentors to meet program and conservation needs and aligned with the skill sets and interests of the selected applicants. For the Torrey pines project, we would like a fellow to examine the timeline of bark beetle infestation-related deaths through aerial and satellite imagery analysis (remote sensing). The Native Plant Gene Bank fellow’s independent project would look at factors influencing the germination of rare plants and/or their propagation. An independent project supporting rare oak micropropagation would likely focus on experiments transitioning plants from in vitro to soil environments. In addition to independent projects, selected fellows will round out their fellowship with work on all facets of Plant Conservation programs.
  • Population Sustainability uses an interdisciplinary approach, with a focus on innovative technologies and ecology, to assess and address challenges to the persistence of threatened species.  We are looking for a fellow with an interest and capabilities in computer programming, embedded systems, machine learning, and/or data visualization. The fellow will work in our Conservation Technology Lab on projects using vision and listening sensor systems, pattern recognition, and software for the presentation and visualization of results for researchers and the public. We are also looking for a fellow with an interest in wildlife ecology and camera traps. The fellow will work with camera trap imagery to characterize interactions of species with a newly erected fence to contain a translocated rhino population in Kenya. Analysis of this data will contribute to providing a needed evaluation of a porous fence model that, if effective, may improve the management of landscapes for multiple species of conservation concern. A third fellow will use GPS collar data to characterize Southern California mountain lion habitat use in relation to human development. For this fellowship, a basic knowledge of GIS and R would be advantageous. Fellowships will be at the Beckman Center (Escondido).    
  • Recovery Ecology focuses on large-scale conservation programs that assist in the recovery of endangered and threatened populations locally and globally. They apply scientifically acquired behavioral and ecological knowledge to solve conservation problems. Their conservation toolbox includes developing and testing conservation breeding techniques, reintroduction and translocation strategies, and monitoring and management in species recovery programs. They use approaches that integrate behavioral, population, and spatial ecology with other disciplines. Fellowships will be based at the Beckman Center (Escondido), with the possibility of some work in field sites and/or conservation research facilities. Another fellow will work with spatial data from the Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve to classify vegetation types and quantify changes over time in response to invasive plant management and other variables. The fellow should be familiar with ArcGIS spatial analysis tools.
  • Reproductive Sciences innovate and apply science and technology to solve reproductive challenges and to support the conservation of endangered species. The major areas of investigation include gamete physiology, assisted reproductive technology, hormone monitoring, environmental toxicology, avian physiology, and stem cell biology. Fellowships will be at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research (Escondido).

 

Summer Fellowship FAQ

When is the deadline for receipt of applications? 
The deadline to apply for 2023 summer fellowships is February 4, 2023. All applications must be received online by February 4 at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. 
  
What is the start date for the 2023 fellowship? 
The start date is determined based on the student's school (semester vs. quarter) schedule, and is Monday, May 15 (ending Friday, August 4) or Monday, June 12 (ending Friday, September 1). 
 
Are letters of reference required or advised?
One letter of reference is recommended, but is not required. Letters may be addressed to the Selection Committee and should be sent to Conservation Science, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Attn: Holly Davis, 15600 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027. If emailed, they should be sent directly by the author of the letter to hodavis@sdzwa.org.
 
Are specific core biology courses required? 
There are no required courses for summer fellows. 
  
Is the program open to any college student? 
The program is only open to undergraduate students who are actively enrolled in a degree-granting institution or who will receive their degree in the year they apply and are continuing to a graduate program in the fall of the same year (e.g., master's degree, DVM, Ph.D.). 
  
Can international students apply for the fellowship program? 
When an application is submitted, international candidates must be able to show proof of proper documentation that they are legally allowed to live and work in the United States during the tenure of the fellowship to be considered. 
  
Is the summer fellowship paid? 
The summer fellows are full-time, 40-hour-per-week, 12-week positions. They are not classified as San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance employees, but as fellows, and are paid via a stipend. The current stipend amount is $7,000 for the 12-week program. 
  
What hours are summer fellows expected to work? 
Fellows are expected to work a minimum of 40 hours per week. Depending on the specific nature of the fellow's project, after-hours scheduling may be involved, including weekends and/or evenings. 
  
Are fellows given holidays/days off? 
Fellows starting May 15 can take either Memorial Day or Independence Day as a holiday. Once they have decided, they will inform the Conservation Science coordinator, who will update the mentor. Fellows starting June 12 can take Monday, July 4 as a holiday.  
 
What are the typical duties of summer fellows? 
Specific research projects are only chosen once the fellow meets with the research group's director and other employees within the group. Directors will communicate duties once the specific research project is agreed upon, but typically involve applying standard laboratory or field techniques to conservation questions. 
  
Can course credit be obtained through the fellowship program? 
No credit can be obtained through this fellowship program unless your home campus considers it worthy of credit. This would need to be arranged by fellows independently. 
  
Is public transportation to the Beckman Center available? 
It is required that all summer fellows have their own transportation. Bicycles are not a safe mode of transportation, due to the high speed of vehicles and the incline of roads to the Beckman Center. Access via public transportation is extremely limited and time consuming, and there is no public transportation on weekends. Fellows without access to a car will need to arrange to share transportation with other fellows in advance, and should be prepared to provide appropriate compensation for any transportation provided. Parking for private vehicles is available at the Beckman Center. 
  
Is housing provided? 
Housing is not provided, but is generally available through online sources such as Craigslist, Sonder, Airbnb, and VRBO. 
  
Are fellows given each other's contact information in advance? 
Contact information (phone and email addresses) for all the summer fellows will be shared as soon as they have been offered and have accepted their fellowships. 
  
How can I make my application more likely to succeed? 
Obtain more research experience (field and/or lab), provide strong letters of recommendation, keep grades high, and write a thoughtful and meaningful statement of interest that is relevant to the types of projects that occur at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Helpful details include interests that separate you from the large group of applicants that "like animals" and want to contribute to conservation; scientific expertise; details of practical experience; independent work skills; and a solid commitment to learning about research design, data collection and analysis, and disseminating results in the form of presentations and publications. 
  
Where can I gain the experience to compete in the fellowship program? 
Volunteer in a research lab on campus or in industry and/or volunteer on a field project. Many colleges and universities have opportunities for students to volunteer in the field or the lab with graduate students or professors. Gain as much hands-on research experience as possible! 
  
When will fellows be informed that they have been accepted into the program? 
An official offer is emailed shortly after verbal contact and acceptance. The fellowship decisions will be finalized by February 28, 2023. 
  
Is there an orientation to the program for incoming fellows? 
Fellow orientation will start at 8:30 a.m. on the first day and will be hosted by the Conservation Science coordinator and Human Resources. After orientation, fellows will start work with their mentors. Social gatherings and other events are arranged throughout the fellowship.
 
What are the details of the student poster session presentations? 
At the end of the summer, fellows participate in a poster and presentation session to present their work. Dates are based on when the students start/end their fellowships. Typically, poster sessions fall during the 12th week of the fellowships. For 2023, presentations will be the week of July 31, for May starts; and August 28, for June starts. Exact dates and more information will follow. If two students work on a project, their poster and presentation may be combined.