Conservation & Research

Internship Opportunities

The Conservation & Research department regularly accept students as interns for course credits through their Community College or University. We also periodically arrange apprenticeships, for those willing to volunteer their time. Please inquire with the appropriate Conservation & Research staff member if you are interested in either of these opportunities. We do not currently have a paid internship program, although we are seeking funding to develop such a program.

Volunteer Opportunities

Insect Pinner (aka Bee Beautician)
We have a range of plant-insect projects, devised to learn which pollinators use a rare plant, how non-native plant invasions alter plant and insect communities, or how habitat restoration can benefit those communities. The job entails pinning many insects, and sometimes prepping fuzzy insects like bees by washing and blow-drying prior to pinning. This job requires good dexterity. We will provide training for any level of prior experience. For those who show a long-term commitment, we’d love to include you in our field collection trips where possible.

Insect Biodiversity Pre-Sorter
Some of our plant-insect projects entail sampling insects from the soil or litter. These samples often contain a fair bit of detritus along with the insects, and pre-separating the insects from the detritus while separating them into vials by general groups like beetles, wasps, ants, or springtails is extremely helpful to our insect identifiers! This job requires good attention to detail, as there can be many extremely tiny invertebrates like mites that must be separated. Some knowledge of insect orders is preferred, but we will provide training to a committed individual. And for those who show a long-term commitment, we’d love to include you in our field collection trips where possible.

Conservation Seed Bank Curation Assistant
Conservation seed collections are a huge part of our rare plant program and our first line of defense against plant extinctions. Each year, we collect thousands of seeds from rare plants across California for long-term storage in our conservation seed bank. These seeds need to be cleaned, sorted, organized, and packaged for long-term storage at the Garden and the USDA National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, CO. This work is critical to the success of our seed bank and contributes directly to conservation. This task requires attention to detail and organizational skills. Some have described the work as meditative. We provide training for all skill levels and anyone is welcome. For those who show long-term commitment, we would love to include you in field collection trips, when possible.

Seed Bank Technology Assistant
For the technologically inclined, we offer the opportunity to help with data entry and management, as well as seed photography using one of our microscopes. This opportunity requires some experience with seed cleaning prior to training on the data bases and microscopes. Data entry and microscope work is a nice complement to seed cleaning for long-term volunteers who are inclined to increase responsibility and add variation to their work.

Seed Germination Assistant
This opportunity is not available yet, but will become available within the next year. A major component to conservation seed banking is conducting periodic germination testing. The Seed Germination Assistant will help the Rare Plant Technician set up and monitor seed germination trials. This requires reliable scheduling, attention to detail, and organizational skills. We will provide more details on this opportunity when it becomes available.

Herbarium Specimen Mounter
Serving a critical role in our mission, Herbarium Specimen Mounters transform pressed and dried plants collected by our botanists into invaluable museum specimens that will last 100s of years. With equal parts creativity and logic, this process involves arranging and gluing pressed specimens to archival paper along with prepared archival labels containing detailed information about the specimen, including personal observations by the scientists themselves. No previous experience with or knowledge of plants is required, although we promise that you’ll learn about plants as you go!

Herbarium Digitization Specialist
At the Garden, we are continually searching for ways to broaden our impact on conservation by taking our message to the streets. While specimens are invaluable in our recently modernized herbarium, they achieve new utility through the process of digitization. The information on our specimen labels, including elements like plant name, collection location, and collection date, are available online to anyone with an internet connection. Through our digitization program in the herbarium, we are making high-resolution specimen images available as well, greatly increasing access to and use of the herbarium. Join our team as an Herbarium Digitization Assistant to assist in the goal of making our herbarium the first completely digital natural history museum in the state.

Plant Conservation Genomics Assistant
We welcome volunteers who are interested in working with the Botany Team to use molecular genomics techniques to understand and conserve the California flora. In the SBBG Plant Genetics Lab, volunteers usually assist with data collection on a focused research question. Genomics Assistants may learn laboratory techniques such as genomic DNA isolation and library preparation, may assist with sequence analysis, and may help the Garden with outreach by presenting results at local conferences. No experience is necessary, but a keen interest in botanical conservation topics, attention to detail, and desire to volunteer for a full year are encouraged.

Plant Biodiversity Explorer
Although the California flora has been carefully studied for decades, legions of plant mysteries remain to be solved, and many plants that are new to science remain to be formally described. Join the Garden’s plant systematists in investigating one of these plant taxonomic mysteries in a careful study of plant morphology. Plant Biodiversity Explorers work with specimens from the Garden’s herbarium and elsewhere to quantify aspects of the focal plant’s appearance. Explorers may make measurements of macromorphological features such as leaves using digital calipers, or assess truly ‘micro’ features using our scanning electron microscope. Volunteers who are able to commit a greater length of time may be incorporated into field work and potentially manuscript preparation. Join us to explore California’s undescribed plant biodiversity!