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Gabon Biodiversity Program (Smithsonian Institution) | Gamba, Gabon

More photos from this internship can be found here.

More photos from this internship can be found here.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Gabon Biodiversity Program focuses its studies in the Gamba Complex, an area with high biodiversity, including elephants, gorillas and sea turtles, and the largest oil exploration and development in Gabon. The program seeks to increase knowledge, understanding and awareness of biodiversity in the Gamba landscape, minimize the impact of development on biodiversity, and increase local capacity to manage and develop natural resources. Interns will assist with a variety of projects, depending on the program’s needs. These may include field research, conservation education, material development and other conservation initiatives.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Gabon Biodiversity Program was established in 2000. The Program is a partnership among the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), the Government of Gabon, Shell Gabon (SG), and other public and private stakeholders. The Program has focused its studies in the Gamba Complex, an area with two national parks and high biodiversity, including many species of conservation concern such as elephants, gorillas and sea turtles, and the largest oil exploration and development in Gabon. The program has national and international researchers, managers and technical personnel in Gamba and Washington, D.C. The lab and offices are based in Gamba, a town of 9,000 people.

The objectives of the program are to 1) increase knowledge and understanding of biodiversity in the Gamba landscape through research on species and habitats of conservation concern; 2) apply scientific research, conservation, and best management practices to minimize the impact of development on biodiversity; 3) increase local capacity to manage and develop natural resources sustainably; 4) raise the awareness of the value of Gabon’s biodiversity; and 5) foster partnerships with diverse stakeholders to support biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Learn more about the current programs of the Gabon Biodiversity Program on the Smithsonian Institution's website.

Responsibilities will vary depending on the program’s needs and the intern’s abilities and interests. These may include:

  • Supporting research activities on biodiversity
  • Assisting with forest plot monitoring
  • Working with SI and other partners on conservation initiatives
  • Working with nature clubs and developing conservation programs for local schools
  • Developing print and internet materials, translating materials
  • Teaching English to SI local staff
  • Other projects as proposed by the intern, if they fit the needs and interests of SI

This internship is suitable for Professional Science Master's (PSM) candidates and for students interested in issues of ecological and economic sustainability.

Academic Background

  • Biology
  • Forestry
  • Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
  • Environmental studies
  • Animal Sciences
  • Education
  • Design/communications
  • Other students with interests in conservation, education and research
  • This internship is suitable for Professional Science Master's (PSM) students.


  • Intern needs be a team player and work well with people and organizations.
    Good writing skills are also preferred.
  • Second year of university-level French or equivalent is essential.

Estimated One-Time Expenses

  • IE3 Program Fee: $3,450
  • International Travel: $2,000
  • Visa: $140
  • Recommended Immunizations: $450*

* Malarial prophylaxis and proof of Yellow Fever vaccination are necessary. Fees vary based on medical history and insurance coverage.

Estimated Monthly Expenses

  • Housing: Provided
  • Food: $350 ($87.50/wk)
  • Local Transportation:  $200 ($50/wk)
  • Recreation: $75 ($18.75/wk)
  • Personal Expenses: $100 ($25/wk)
  • Watch a short video by Summer 2013 intern, Anna Smith
  • See pictures of Robi, a local research site for the Gabon Biodiversity Program

Final Reports:


“The Gabon Biodiversity Program looks forward to working with IE3 interns. This is a unique opportunity for you to help us with challenging conservation issues in the town of Gamba, where the African rainforest meets the sea and you might just see an elephant walking the beach.”

-Dr. Lisa Korte, Director, Gabon Biodiversity Program

“This internship provided me the opportunity to network with professionals in my field of interest for my future career. There were many fun projects to be involved in and I was expected to complete certain tasks from start to finish, which allowed me to really add my perspective and input. With help and feedback from my team, I am more knowledgeable about the Smithsonian’s largest specimen collection in Western Africa, the Smithsonian’s environmental assessments on the impact oil drilling has on biodiversity and the importance of wildlife conservation education locally and beyond.”

-Ariana Chedraui, Oregon State University

“Although I’ve had work experience and multiple internships before, none can quite compare to this one. I think the biggest factors for me were the immersion in another language and culture, the amount of involvement with projects that the internship site gave me, and the exposure to field work… I really appreciated how hands on this internship was with allowing me to regularly participate in research projects and field work, even if I didn’t have specialized knowledge in the topic. My director at the site, Lisa Korte, made it a priority for me to work on projects that I was passionate about, which I know is a frequent hurdle for interns.”

-Anne Smith, University of Oregon

“During my time in Gabon I grew tremendously both personally and professionally. I knew that working internationally with such a prestigious organization would be a turning point for my career, but I don’t think I expected to learn as much as I did. Professionally I think my confidence level grew more than anything. In the beginning I was intimidated just by being around so many large international organizations like the WWF, Smithsonian Institution, and Shell, not to mention what it would mean to work for Smithsonian. As I spent more time in the professional environment however, I soon realized that I really was able to contribute to all the things that were happening around me. I could confidently discuss work matters and feel like a more than competent member of the Smithsonian. This confidence in myself and my abilities allowed me to reach my full potential much more easily and produce a level of work I could be proud of. This confidence also translated back into my personal life. I met all kinds of amazing new people and contacts, and my ability to network and interact with them increased tremendously.”

-Emily Pelissier, University of Oregon

Gamba has few amenities. For example, there are no movie theaters, coffee shops or ATMs. There a few shops with basic supplies and a couple small restaurants. Gamba is located in an area of the Congo Basin where yellow fever and malaria are common. Therefore, prior to departure, the intern will need a Yellow Fever vaccination and proof thereof, as well as sufficient anti-malaria pills to last during their stay in Gabon and several days before and after their trip (depending on medication prescribed by a your doctor).

In the field, comfortable walking/hiking shoes or boots, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, as well as a small backpack are appropriate. During the rainy season, a poncho or other raingear is recommended. In the office, business causal is fine, but should be neat and clean.

The lab has an internet connection, but students should bring their own laptops.

Smart phones have limited coverage and service is expensive. Students should plan on purchasing a phone to use for local and international service. Phones cost about $100, but prices vary with models. International calls are about $0.60/minute.


Fall | Winter | Spring | Summer

Application Deadline

Summer: January 25
Fall: April 15
Winter: September 1
Spring: November 15

Basic Requirements

- Academic background in biology, forestry, animal sciences, communications, etc.

- Intern needs be a team player and work well with people and organizations.

- Good writing skills are also preferred.