Summer Research Internship

Application deadline is April 1, 2024!


The Otter Point Creek Alliance and the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maryland (CBNERR-MD) co-sponsor a summer research internship. Internships are open to qualified undergraduate students to conduct a summer research project within the Otter Point Creek Component of CBNERR-MD. The Maryland reserve is one of 30 Reserves throughout the country that serve as field laboratories for the betterment of coastal zone management through research, education, and stewardship.

Site Description

Otter Point Creek is one of three sites that comprise CBNERR-MD. It contains 704 acres of upland and riparian forest, tidal freshwater marshes, streams, creeks, submerged aquatic vegetation, and open water. Otter Point Creek is located in the tidal headwaters of the Bush River in Harford County, Maryland. Staff from the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center oversees all efforts and activities at Otter Point Creek. Students are encouraged to work with staff to coordinate the use of laboratories, field equipment, and other amenities (canoes, boats, storage space, etc.) in support of their research project. Students are also encouraged to incorporate education and volunteer opportunities, if applicable, in their research efforts.

Research Topics

Otter Point Creek is an ideal site for a broad range of research topics with a diversity of habitats. Students can work with the Park Manager to develop their own research project from the topics listed below:

  • Harnessing SAV Watchers Data to Understand SAV Species Dynamics– Quantify and map changes in desirable SAV species in historically nonnative Hydrilla verticillata dominated Otter Point Creek estuary. Use existing long term monitoring data, SAV Watchers data and collect current data using a variety of methods to consider habitat characteristics and SAV species dynamics. Produce mapping and analysis products to inform volunteers, managers, and future planting restoration efforts.
  • Trends in Emergent Vegetation– A data analysis project, looking at how Emergent Vegetation Survey sample plots have changed over time, utilizing data sets from 2008 to 2022. Changes in species composition and distribution may be connected to climate change and urbanization. Options for desktop or virtual based projects, projects with a fieldwork component will also be considered.
  • Habitat Assessment for State Rare & Threatened Wetland Species at Haha Cove: Building on previous intern work completed in 2022, determine the habitat extent of two state rare wetland plant species, and survey the remainder of Otter Point Creek to determine if suitable habitats exist outside of their current area.
  • Soils Characterization of Wetland and Submerged Environments at Otter Point Creek: The wetland areas of Otter Point Creek are continually changing. Patterns of wetland vegetation over time have shown shifts in distribution of various species, notably wild rice and phragmites. This project will collect soil core samples across the estuary to characterize soils in wetland, upland, and subaqueous environments.
  • Spotted Lantern Fly Distribution Across the Upland to Wetland Habitat Margin – Determine the distribution and density of the invasive spotted lantern fly across the different habitat types of the Otter Point Creek estuary. Use traps and/or other detection techniques to understand how far into wetland habitats spotted lantern can persist, begin to understand the species’ local microhabitat preferences, and identify population density hot spots. These results could inform volunteer egg mass eradication efforts as well as investigate the impact of the invasive insect on upper wetland habitats.
  • Assessment of Aquatic Invasive Species at Otter Point Creek: Investigate the prevalence, distribution, and impact of aquatic invasive species (eg. blue catfish, northern snakehead, goldfish, corbicula, etc.) through field survey techniques. The methods developed and data collected will be used to inform future community science projects and management strategies.

Anita C. Leight Research Interns will receive research support and mentoring from trained personnel. They receive a stipend as well as access to research equipment and supplies.

For further information about the topic areas to develop a research proposal, you are encouraged to contact CBNERR-MD Research Staff: Kyle Derby, or Becky Swerida,

For more detailed information about the projects, please contact Lauren Pathoumthong, Site Manager, at 410-612-1688 or via email at


Internships are open to qualified undergraduate students who are capable of working independently with minimal supervision. Students should be highly motivated self-starters, have good communication and writing skills, and be comfortable working in physically challenging environments. Kayak or canoe paddling skills are desirable in order to access research points.

Application Requirements

Qualified applicants should submit the following:

  1. A short proposal (five or less single-spaced pages that includes a title, hypotheses, methods/procedures, objectives/goals of study, and references) see template and example
  2. A copy of unofficial transcripts
  3. Two letters of recommendation and
  4. A one-page resume.

All applications must be received in full by April 1. Qualified applicants will be contacted for an interview.

Internship Requirements

The successful applicant is expected to develop an expanded detailed proposal, conduct independent research, and provide a final report, public presentation and website article about their project within one year of completing their project.

Financial Support

The Otter Point Creek Alliance will provide a stipend of $4,000 in four installments. Final payment is made upon completion of all requirements. In addition, CBNERR-MD will provide up to $500 for supplies. Interns should plan and be committed to working a minimum of 20 hours a week for a minimum of 2 1/2 months during the summer.

Send complete applications to:

Lauren Pathoumthong, Site Manager
Anita C. Leight Estuary Center
700 Otter Point Road
Abingdon, MD 21009

or email your complete application as a PDF with proposal, transcripts, recommendation letters and resume to Lauren Pathoumthong at

For more information contact:

Lauren Pathoumthong at 410-612-1688 or