MBARI’s Summer Internship Program provides an opportunity for talented college students (undergraduate and graduate) and educators to work directly with MBARI scientists, engineers, and communicators.

MBARI’s state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, including research vessels, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), offer educators and students unique opportunities to collaborate on advanced research and development projects. The program immerses interns in collaborative teams as they learn innovative research and engineering techniques and improve communication skills. Each intern will have an MBARI mentor who will supervise a specific project for a 10-week duration. Interns also serve as peer-mentors to each other. There is a stipend (2023 stipend was $19/hour) and the program is full-time. MBARI will try and assist with housing for those interns coming from out of the area. Please see How to Apply for more specific information about the application process.  

The MBARI Summer Internship Program is generously supported through a gift from the Dean and Helen Witter Family Fund and the Rentschler Family Fund in memory of former MBARI board member Frank Roberts (1920-2019) and by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation.

Program Dates

June 10 – August 16, 2024

Applications for the 2024 MBARI internship (June 10 – August 16) are NO LONGER being accepted. The deadline for applications was February 27th at 0800 PST. 

How to Apply

Learn about the project opportunities and application requirements.

How to Apply

Internship Papers

Internship papers from the most recent five years.


Project Opportunities

Duane Edgington

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.

Thom Maughan, Paul Roberts, and Monique Messié

The Planktivore team has built a plankton microscope for use on the MBARI long range autonomous underwater vehicle (LRAUV).   We have a machine learning intern opportunity to train models on plankton data and then deploy the model for in-situ real time plankton detection.    The Planktivore microscope has an NVidia Xavier NX for run time detection and a power GPU enabled linux workstation for training.  The scope of the intern project will be detection of a specific plankton class such as dinoflagellates.   Experience with linux, python, and deep learning techniques are recommended.  

Gene Massion

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  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


Thom Maughan

Embedded systems project to prototype and test new Argos Satellite two way communications capabilities. The prototype will use off the shelf hardware and will send GPS and other sensor data on the uplink and will test capabilities of downlinking commands. The use cases would be for vehicle tracking and control. The internship will be a mix of electrical and embedded controller engineering for low power systems, measuring antenna rf performance, and data throughput testing. Experience with C programming and familiarity with electronics are recommended.

Steve Haddock

Steve Haddock’s lab aims to characterize and monitor the diversity and behavior of gelatinous plankton (jellyfish and their kin) in the deep sea and open ocean. As an internship project, you will choose what interests you from a related set of topics. These include DNA metabarcoding of plankton samples; biochemistry of bioluminescence; historical time-series analysis of deep-sea video data; generating interactive taxonomic keys; studying how comb jellies (ctenophores) function under high pressure.

Mariana Bernardi Bif

There are two projects of different scopes that will require summer interns with distinct skillsets:
Developing and optimizing an analytical method to detect intermediate sulfur compounds in the seawater
The nitrate sensor mounted in BGC-floats measure seawater absorbance at the UV-spectra. In oxygen deficient zones, the spectra show a noise that is attributed to nitrite and intermediate sulfur compounds. We developed an independent chemical method to analyze sulfur compounds in order to validate the algorithm developed to discriminate the float’s output. The summer intern will assist on automating this chemical method that will be brought to sea in Fall/2024. The candidate should have a background in analytical chemistry or engineering. Experience with analytical method and/or instrument development are a plus.
Using BGC-floats to observe the impact of ENSO in the Equatorial Pacific
Floats deployed in the Equatorial Pacific have been measuring the effects of strong ENSO conditions that is taking place in 2023. We are looking for a summer intern with interest in using BGC-float data to look at the impact of this phenomena in local ocean biogeochemistry. Programming skills are required. Previous experience with BGC-float or Argo-float data is a plus.

Kakani Katija and Joost Daniels

Is no longer being offered this summer. 

Jim Barry and Steve Litvin

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.

Colleen Durkin, Sasha Kramer, and Natalia Llopsis Monferrer

The Carbon Flux Ecology lab focuses on the ecology of carbon export from the surface ocean into the deep sea. We use DNA sequencing to find out which microscopic organisms are transported from the surface ocean to the mesopelagic. We combine that molecular data with imaging to tell us the pathways by which carbon was exported. Your research project will use a dataset collected in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans to study the role of surface and deep sea organisms in carbon flux. You will investigate whether these organisms are predictive of carbon flux and the mechanisms that lead to deep sea carbon sequestration. Experience with Python, R, or Matlab programming is preferred for this role.

Christine Huffard

We study mechanisms that determine how much carbon is stored in the deep ocean. Carbon in the deep sea is especially important to quantify because it represents longer term sequestration from the atmosphere compared to carbon in the surface ocean. Your research project will use hourly time-lapse images taken on the abyssal seafloor to measure how different sources of organic carbon (mainly phytodetritus, which is big globs of dead phytoplankton) degrade over time, and which animals might be eating this food.

Aaron Micallef

Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) – a technique that measures the phase change in Rayleigh scattered laser light from fiber-optic cables to calculate ground strain at fine spatial resolution and long lengths – has recently been shown to be a powerful technology to detect seafloor hazards (e.g., earthquakes, ocean currents). DAS technology has not been deployed to investigate seafloor geomorphic processes thus far. This project will assess whether DAS technology can detect sedimentary flows in Monterey Canyon using the MARS cable, which MBARI operates and maintains. The selected intern, who should be a graduate student experienced in Python programming and geophysics, will utilize and adapt existing codes to identify signals from the MARS cable associated to sedimentary flows in Monterey Canyon by comparing them with publicly available environmental databases.

Francisco Chavez

Ocean optics: Our dynamic team seeks an intern interested in linking ocean optics with ocean ecosystem information gleaned from environmental DNA (eDNA). The primary focus will be integrating decade long time series of hyperspectral and eDNA data and developing relations between the color of the ocean and organisms ranging from microscopic plankton to whales. The intern will also have the opportunity to participate in the field collection of optical data, eDNA samples, and the processing of the optical data and eDNA samples onshore. 

Biodiversity: Understanding temporal changes and spatial shifts in species assemblage is key to understanding ocean health and developing management actions. Traditional biodiversity surveys, however, are costly in both time and resources and as a result do not provide the needed coverage in space and time. One of the focuses of our lab is the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a tool to track changes in biodiversity. eDNA can detect the presence of a wide variety of organisms from microbes to whales with just a liter of sea water and has the potential to be automated. As part of a Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) projects eDNA samples have been collected along the California coastline from a variety of environments including kelp forests, seamounts, deep sea, and coastal waters. We seek an intern to explore biodiversity shifts from these datasets. The interns will also have the opportunity to participate in the collection of samples at sea, processing of samples in the molecular lab, and developing/optimizing new assays/primers.

George Matsumoto

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.

George Matsumoto and Manny Ezcurra

Following on from a successful project last year, MBARI and MBA are looking for an intern interested in husbandry research on deep-sea organisms. Specific project and organism will be determined closer to the summer when we know what is available for the project. 

Kakani Katija

Is no longer being offered this summer.

Giancarlo Troni

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.

Magdalena Carranza

Storm impacts on upper-ocean dynamics and biogeochemistry in the Southern Ocean: Biogeochemical (BGC) Argo floats deployed by the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project have revealed strong CO2 outgassing in the wintertime, challenging our view of the Southern Ocean as a strong carbon sink. Storms play a major role in driving air-sea CO2 outgassing, both in ocean models and SOCCOM float observations but the magnitude and phasing of the ocean response to storms differs between models and observations. I am looking for a summer intern willing to explore SOCCOM float data during the passage of the strongest storm recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, traversing the southeast Pacific in October 2022. The goal is to gain mechanistic understanding of bio-physical interaction processes that could lead to air-sea CO2 exchange in response to such an extreme event. Basic programming skills and/or strong willingness to acquire those skills is required. As a summer intern, you will have the opportunity to learn about biogeochemical sensing capabilities on Argo floats, how to access and analyze BGC Argo data.

John Ryan

Marine animals use sound in essential life activities including communicating, socializing, foraging, navigating and reproducing.  Recording and analyzing sound in the ocean thus provides a profound window into their lives.  MBARI’s sound recordings from the heart of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary have expanded our knowledge of regional biodiversity and revealed complex and beautiful dimensions of animal behavioral ecology.  This project will offer the intern opportunities to wield a variety of advanced analysis methods that are needed to detect and classify specific sounds produced by different species, and to synthesize those results with understanding of the ecosystem in which they live.  Mentors include scientists and software engineers who are actively collaborating at this exciting frontier.  

David Caress

MBARI is developing a capability for efficient centimeter-scale surveys of the deep ocean seafloor. Our current survey system combines multibeam sonar, scanning lidar, color stereo photography, and inertial navigation. These sensors are operated from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) at stand-off distances of about three meters. A variety of project topics are possible utilizing surveys of chemosynthetic communities found around hydrothermal vent fields and methane gas seeps, and deep-sea coral and sponge communities. Efforts include improving data processing for both topography and imagery, co-registration of the acoustic and optical data, 3D survey path planning, and sensor calibration. The work will combine elements of optimization, image processing, point cloud processing, machine vision, and software development. Candidates should have basic competence in C/C++ and Python programming.

Eric Martin, Drew Bewley, Kakani Katija, and Steve Haddock

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.