Graslie Curiosity Internship


Application deadline: TBA Fall 2020

Behind quiet doors at the University of Montana are cabinets filled with thousands of biological specimens, from hummingbirds to flamingos, shrews to grizzly bears, capuchin skulls to zebra pelts to jars of snakes and vials of parasites. A vast library of zoological diversity full of opportunities for education, inspiration, and discovery…


Emily Graslie holding skulls

Inspired by UM alum Emily Graslie and her popular online science communication series “The Brain Scoop,” the Graslie Curiosity Internship funds undergraduate students to pursue creative and interdisciplinary work in conjunction with the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum (UMZM) at the University of Montana. These internships encourage students from all backgrounds and majors to pursue a project—an article, event, piece, or collection of work in any form and any medium—that helps spread appreciation of natural history collections in new and engaging ways.

If you are inspired by feathers, fur, eggs, skulls, and more, we want you to apply!


Interns will be supported during the semester with $1,600 (average 8 hours/week, 16 weeks, $12.50/hour). Two internships will be awarded for each spring semester.


Any undergraduate student who will attend UM in Spring 2020 full time (12+ credits) or half time (6-11 credits). Open to all students regardless of background, major, year, or any other factor. Students interested in some form of public outreach are particularly encouraged to apply.


  • Informational meetings (recommended by not required; same information each day):
    • TBA
  • Application deadline: TBA
  • Interns announcement: TBA
  • Internship duration: TBA

How to Apply

Submit the following as attachments in a single email with subject “Graslie Application – Your Name” to UMZM curator Dr. Angela Hornsby (

  • Current CV (2 page max) including name, email address, phone number, local mailing address, year, and major (if declared). List and briefly detail any recent employment, awards, honors, events, exhibitions, service, volunteering, publications, training, club activities, leadership positions, and other relevant experiences.
  • Personal Essay (1 page max) explaining your academic path so far, your future career interests, and how the Graslie Curiosity Internship would benefit you in pursuit of these goals. The personal essay should be a simple and honest reflection of how this experience would support your ability to pursue creative work with natural history collections that tie to your other interests, passions, or curiosities.
  • Proposal (2 page max including text, photos, figures, web links, etc.) including the following sections:
    • Project: Describe the article(s), event(s), piece(s), or other body of work you would like to pursue. Projects should emphasize creative and interdisciplinary opportunities that you see beginning with vertebrate zoological collections and extending into other disciplines, with the goal of spreading appreciation of natural history museums in new and engaging ways. The project may be in any form or medium that can be shared with others in some capacity.
    • Timeline: What are the major steps to achieving the goals, and how long will each step take? Are there any major deadlines to keep in mind in the planning or execution of this work?
    • Resources Needed: What materials or permissions would you need for this work? A modest (up to $250) budget may be available for materials and other costs, pending approval.
    • Statement of Benefit: How will this work benefit the UMZM, the University of Montana community, and/or society at large? No need to be grandiose! Rather, focus on the people who will encounter your work, how they will encounter it, and what type of genuine inspiration, enlightenment, or appreciation of natural history collections you hope they may gain from it.

Proposal Tips

The informational meetings are intended to provide the same background about the UMZM collections to all interested students. Attendance is recommended, but not required. If you are unable to attend any of the meetings, you may schedule a separate meeting with UMZM curator. The curator will answer questions about the nature of the collections and what would be allowed and feasible, but she will not advise on the substance of the proposal.

The proposed work can take any form or medium, providing it can be shared with others in some capacity. We want you to channel your inspiration from natural history collections into something new and unique! 

The UMZM specimens, data, history, and/or future may be the direct subjects of the work, or simply serve as a point of departure. While we encourage links with other types of natural history collections (e.g., the UM Paleontology Center and the UM Herbarium), internships are based in the UMZM and should draw inspiration from our vertebrate and associated collections.

Proposals should be ambitious but feasible, both in terms of time and cost. The interns will average 8 hours/week over the 16-week semester, with flexibility on timing providing they do not exceed 19 hours in any given week. A modest (up to $250) budget may be available for materials and other costs, pending approval.

Cooperative applications are encouraged. In this scenario, two students will develop a single, shared project proposal together. The application package should be submitted together with the single proposal but separate CVs and personal statements. Each student’s contribution in the proposed work should be made clear in the proposal.

Application Judging

Applications will be judged by an interdisciplinary panel of faculty and staff from the University of Montana and its partners. The panel will rank applications based on (1) creativity, (2) feasibility, (3) relevance to the use or interpretation of natural history collections, (4) relevance of the internship experience to the student’s current or future interests, and (5) benefit to the UMZM, the University of Montana community, and/or society at large. Internships will be awarded to the two top-ranked applications.

Cooperative applications: If one of the two top-ranked applications is cooperative, the internship hours will be split between the cooperating students (two internships of 4 hours/week). In the case of an exceptional cooperative application, the panel may choose to award both internship lines to that project, and thus fund each cooperating student with a full internship (two internships of 8 hours/week).

Internship Expectations

During the semester, interns will meet regularly with the UMZM curator to provide updates and discuss refining their projects as they progress. While interns may not be working together directly, they will serve as peer mentors to help expand each others' ideas and opportunities. Interns may informally involve other faculty, staff, students, and off-campus advisers as much as they like.

In addition to the curator meetings and activities in the proposal, interns will be expected to produce or participate in the following:

  • Monthly
    • Educator meeting and public outreach programming at spectrUM Discovery Area. The spectrUM staff will work with the interns to help develop and execute an outreach program relating to the intern’s work. No prior outreach experience needed!
    • Updates of 2-3 sentences and a photo representing their work progress, for UMZM social media.
  • End of semester
    • 3-5 page report of internship activities. This should include a summary of outcomes, as well as challenges encountered, lessons learned, and new opportunities and ideas that arose from the work.
    • 2-3 paragraph summary of internship activities, including one or more photos or web links, for UMZM newsletter and website.
    • Brief (~10 minute) presentation of the work, for UMZM reception.

Institutional Support

The Graslie Curiosity Internships are supported by:

  • Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum
  • University of Montana Division of Biological Sciences
  • spectrUM Discovery Area