Center for Conservation Innovation Intern


Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities, seeks spring, summer and fall interns to work in its new Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI). CCI’s mission is to use data and technology to develop new, creative, and practical ways to improve endangered species conservation.

The internship is an opportunity for an advanced college, graduate, or post-graduate student to work with CCI and other Defenders staff at the interface of science and national conservation policy. In this position, the intern may help collect and analyze large spatial and non-spatial datasets, create published reports, scientific articles, web applications, and maps related to the conservation of species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Skill development will vary with the specific project, but the intern will generally have the opportunity to gain a deep understanding of how the ESA is implemented in practice and experience in programming, conservation data and policy science, statistical analyses, GIS, remote sensing, scientific writing and creating interactive data visualizations.

Two internship tracks are available:

  1. Policy and species conservation status – This track will involve projects that focus on ESA regulations and their effectiveness in recovering threatened and endangered species. The intern will learn to assess and analyze ESA documents (e.g., species listings, species status assessments, species 5-year reviews, biological opinions), evaluate species biological needs and conservation status, conduct statistical analyses and create online tools for visualizing data. Projects will aim to measure policy effectiveness and develop recommendations to improve species conservation.

  2. Geospatial analysis and conservation tool development – This track will involve projects that focus on technical advances to creating, analyzing, and presenting spatial conservation data. The intern will learn and refine their geospatial and programming skills by assisting with the development of new approaches, algorithms and tools to quantify and map the status and distribution of species and their habitats. Projects aim to measure and evaluate policy effectiveness and compliance in conserving species and their habitat on-the-ground.


Assist Defenders’ Center for Conservation Innovation staff to develop and implement various projects evaluating conservation policy and practice by:

  • Designing research questions;

  • Collecting and organizing relevant data/databases;

  • Conducting spatial and non-spatial statistical analyses;

  • Creating online maps; and/or

  • Writing manuscripts.


Interns must be self-starters driven by the opportunity to help transform wildlife conservation using science and technology while learning new skills. Interns should have a passion for wildlife conservation, strong research and analytical skills, a proven ability to work with people from a variety of backgrounds, and excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Preferred qualifications:

For track (1) Policy and species conservation status:

  • Experience collecting, managing and analyzing research data;

  • General understanding of animal and plant biology, particularly for North American species;

  • Basic knowledge of R and/or another statistical analysis program for data management, statistical analysis, and visualization;

  • Basic familiarity with the ESA process and associated regulatory documents; and

  • Background in environmental science, wildlife management, natural resources, or a related field.

For track (2) Geospatial analysis and conservation tool development:

  • Basic knowledge of R and/or Python for data management, statistical analysis, and visualization; 

  • Geospatial skills, including work in QGIS, arcpy and/or Google Earth Engine; 

  • Familiarity with and strong interest in relevant web mapping platforms (e.g., ArcGIS Online, Google Earth Engine); 

  • Experience gathering and analyzing remotely-sensed data; and

  • Background in environmental science, wildlife management, natural resources, or a related field.


Internships are located at Defenders’ Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Remote work may be considered for exceptional candidates. 


Unpaid. Students are encouraged to seek funding opportunities through their schools or outside sources. 

Values and Diversity

  • Defenders of Wildlife is a national, non-profit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities. Our employees work in an environment that is inclusive and honors each of our unique perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the conservation of biological diversity is best advanced by the contributions of people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and cultures.  We strive toward a collective goal of including all people in the conservation of our Nation’s wildlife and wild places. 

  • Visit Our Values and Diversity page to learn more about who we are and how we operate. 

How to apply:

Interested applicants should send an email to and reference Center for Conservation Innovation Intern in the subject line. Please include a resume and letter of interest as a single PDF document. If you need a decision by a school deadline for credit or funding, please mention the deadline in your letter of interest.


Priority will be given to applications received by July 30th for fall internships (start on or around September 15th); December 15th for spring internships (start on or around February 1st); and March 1st for summer internships (start on or around June 1st). The start date and duration of the internship are flexible but we encourage candidates to apply by the deadline.


It is the policy of Defenders of Wildlife to provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified individuals without regard to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, or any other characteristic protected by law, in all personnel actions.