2023 Projects and Mentors

Applications for the 2023 MBARI internship (June 5 – August 11) will be accepted through February 7, 2023 at 8 am (Pacific).

Applications have to be received by 0800 hours PST (8:00 am in Pacific time zone) on February 7th, 2023. Electronic submissions to intern-application@mbari.org are preferred. Incomplete or late applications may not be considered.

Clearly identifying a specific research interest/area is an essential part of the application process. Additional projects may be added so please check this page prior to submitting your internship application. Please contact George Matsumoto if you have any questions. Links to the mentors’ home pages have been provided (when available) so that you can learn more about the various mentors, please DO NOT contact the mentor directly.

Application information can be found here. 

Note: PDF format is preferred for all documents and please put your name in the subject heading for all emails and ask those that are writing a letter for you to do the same. The letter can be addressed to the Selection Committee.

MBARI is an equal opportunity employer.

Jim Barry and Steve Litvin
Biology and Ecology of Seamount Ecosystems: Research on the biology and ecology of seamount ecosystems, including coral and sponge communities at Sur Ridge off Central California and octopus breeding colonies at hydrothermal warm springs along the foothills of Davidson Seamount are a central focus of research in our lab. Our research ranges from linkages between ocean conditions (e.g., currents, oxygen, temperature, pH, carbon flux) and coral distribution and conditions, to the biology of breeding octopuses. We use various platforms (ROVs, AUVs, oceanographic moorings) and sensors (imaging systems, current meters, chemical sensors) to observe and measure these ecosystems.  Opportunities in our lab for a summer internship would fall within this spectrum of research, including analysis of video imagery in relation to high resolution mapping data, the association of corals with current patterns across Sur Ridge,  or the biology of animals inhabiting warm springs at the base of Davidson Seamount.

Jim Birch
Data Science/Engineering: Our lab designs, build, tests, and deploys different versions of a robotic molecular biology laboratory known as the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP).  This instrument filters water, creates molecular homogenates (nucleic acid and protein lysates) from the filtered water, and then processes that homogenate via a variety of assays, all autonomously and without human intervention.  There are several questions related to the performance of the ESP that would be the focus of a summer internship, including one of the two below projects:

  1. Water filtration follows a hydraulic trajectory; the more biomass loaded on a filter the slower filtration occurs. This project would use past deployment filtration data to understand this relationship.  You will create a model of sample collection performance, then design real-life experiments to test this model.   This-project will require data analysis and computer modelling experience. Specifically, experience with UNIX/Linus, Python and R would be useful.  In addition to the modelling experience, the applicant will gain insight into robotic function and operation.
  2. Besides processing samples in-situ, the ESP can also preserve samples for analysis in shoreside lab facilities. This project would utilize the ESP to test the preservation efficacy of a variety of preservative reagents. This project requires basic molecular biology laboratory skill such as, nucleic acid extraction and PCR.

Francisco Chavez
Environmental DNA: Our dynamic team seeks an intern interested in environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding. The primary task will be the analysis of comprehensive (space and time) data sets from the California Current. The target organisms range from plankton to vertebrates. The eDNA data will be related to other biological as well as chemical and physical properties, either observed directly or modeled. The intern will also participate in the field collection of samples, the processing of the samples in the laboratory and in bioinformatic processing. There is also be the opportunity for the intern to bring their own samples for processing and analysis.

Duane Edgington
Automated classification of deep-sea imagery: MBARI has a rich collection of underwater video and photographs, much of which has been professionally analyzed and curated. We are exploring state-of-the-art automated classification and analysis techniques. This intern will join us in this exploration, testing selected techniques against collections of underwater videos or images to detect and classify organisms of interest to MBARI scientists. One area we are exploring is weakly supervised methods. A background in computer science is required; coursework or experience in machine learning and computer vision would be an ideal background.

Madeline Go and Susan von Thun
Science Communication Intern: This project is ideal for an intern with experience in translating science and technology concepts into written and visual content for the general public. The intern will work with MBARI staff, scientists, and engineers to develop social media stories about MBARI research. Responsibilities will include creating content from MBARI’s image and video archive and developing compelling stories about our research for our website and social media outlets. We are seeking a candidate with a background in outreach and communication, preferably with interests in science and technology. Strong writing skills and social media content creation skills are required. Experience in video editing, other visual content creation (i.e. animations, infographics, illustrations), and photography are desired. Applicants with experience in TikTok content creation are highly desirable. Applications may include writing samples and a portfolio in addition to the other required materials.

Eric Martin, Drew Bewley, Kakani Katija, and Steve Haddock
Virtual Reality (VR) presents a unique and powerful opportunity to engage the public by making the deep ocean accessible to anyone with a headset. VR’s immersive quality can teleport a person’s perspective to the center of almost any kind of 3D content. This approach can have a profound impact on the operation of underwater robotic vehicles, improving piloting and providing contextual information to inform science. We have developed a stereoscopic camera that can produce 3D panoramic video that streams into a VR headset in the control room of a ship. The live-feed has been integrated with graphical user interfaces that transmit actual telemetry and auxiliary camera feeds into a virtual space. To advance our efforts, the ROV-VR team seeks an intern to advance our tooling that could include (1) a virtual control room in-headset, (2) measurement of in situ objects in real-time, (3) target painting that can mark and track a target of interest, or (4) historical data presentation that overlays annotation and mapping data in the VR environment. Interns with development experience in Unity (C#), Python, OpenCV, middleware (e.g., LCM), etc. are encouraged to apply.

Gene Massion
Autonomous coastal profiling float (CPF): We have a broad spectrum of potential projects spanning a range of disciplines suitable for a summer intern. An overview of the project can be found at https://www.mbari.org/coastal-profiling-float/.  We are looking for an intern with some experience and a strong interest in one or more of the following topics and a particular interest in developing technology for oceanographic research applications.

1) Design and development of embedded microcontroller based systems.  The ST Microelectronics STM32 family is of particular interest.
2) Design and development of embedded C/C++ software.  Training and/or experience in rigorous software testing methodologies is of particular interest.
3) Automated test systems and web based applications using LabView.
4) Mechanical design of robotic oceanographic research equipment using Solidworks CAD tools

George Matsumoto
Intern logistical coordinator: This intern will be assisting with the MBARI intern program. This will likely include travel logistics during the program as well as coordinating some weekend educational activities. It is expected that this intern will also be working on his or her own independent research project. The successful applicant will have been a past intern in the MBARI intern program and will stay in the same housing as the interns. Letter of recommendation is not required, but please elaborate in your application letter on your proposed research project for the summer (this should be discussed ahead of time with a mentor).
GO-BGC Adopt-A-Float project: This intern would be responsible for helping to coordinate the Adopt-A-Float program and assist with outreach to educators and other interested partners. This intern would be sponsored by the National Science Foundation as part of the Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array program and in association with the NSF funded Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project.

Eric Orenstein and Kakani Katija
Ocean Vision AI: In order to fully explore our ocean and discover the life that lives there, we need to scale up our observational capabilities both in time and space. The ocean represents the largest habitable ecosystem on our planet, yet less than 5% of that volume has been explored, and nearly 50% of marine life are yet to be described. To close this gap, scientists are increasingly leaning on underwater imaging systems to enhance their observational capacity. However, as more visual data are collected, the community faces a data analysis backlog that artificial intelligence and machine learning may be able to address. How can we leverage novel computer and data science tools to automate image and video analysis in the ocean? How can we create workflows, data pipelines, and hardware/software tools that will enable novel research themes to expand our understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants in a time of great change?  Ocean Vision AI summer interns will help our team address these community needs. Interns will have the opportunity to: train and deploy machine learning models on ocean visual data in real world settings; conduct human-computer interaction experiments via video gaming; or assist leading domain experts in characterizing the taxonomic composition of newly collected underwater imagery. Applicants may come with any academic, communications, or engineering background and will ideally want to gain experience in ocean imaging, marine ecology, or computer vision/machine learning techniques.

John Ryan, Will Oestereich, and Danelle Cline
Ocean Soundscape Research: The ocean holds a world of sound generated by marine life, the earth, and human activities.  MBARI has been recording sound in the center of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for over six years using a hydrophone (underwater microphone), a little instrument that produces big data – about 24 Terabytes per year.  Understanding the information contained within this mountain of data requires automated signal processing and machine learning methods that can be used to detect and classify specific sound sources and characterize their variation through time.  This project will offer the intern multiple opportunities in ongoing development and application of sound analysis, including studies of cetaceans, earthquakes, shipping noise, and sound occurrence patterns that emerge from statistical analyses of the sound archive.  This work may include exploring unsupervised learning for data exploration and labeling or supervised learning using convolutional neural network architectures. A background in computer science is essential. Experience with acoustic data and/or development with Tensorflow or Pytorch will be advantageous.

Brian Schlining

Giancarlo Troni
Scalable Marine Robotics: Ocean exploration has been widely developed thanks to marine robotics, whose platforms are currently being used on several applications, such as accurately mapping the seafloor in high-resolution and continuously tracking animals in midwater. However, these platforms are not scalable, many are still too expensive to build and operate, and access to scientists, and therefore ocean exploration and discovery, is limited due to underwater vehicle navigation among others. Potential intern projects will use current MBARI’s robotics platforms to enable scalable marine robotics navigation in complex terrain. Efforts include sensor calibration and alignment of sensor data and visual-inertial navigation based on simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) framework. The work will combine elements of estimation, computer vision, software development and data analysis. Candidates should have basic competence in C/C++ and Python programming. Experience with robotics will be advantageous.


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