Assistants & Interns

The Túngara Frog Project: We are no longer accepting applications for Field Interns for the 2014 Summer Season. We anticipate having positions open for the summer of 2015.

The Túngara Frog Project is collaborative research lead by Dr. Michael Ryan at the University of Texas at Austin. We are now seeking highly motivated students to work as interns for NSF-funded research project entitled "Multimodal Communication and Sexual Selection." Field research is conducted for 11 weeks (June 1-Aug 15) at the Gamboa Field Station of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Interns will receive round-trip airfare, housing, and a modest monthly stipend.

Project Description

The túngara frog, Physalaemus pustulosus, is a small frog in the family Leptodactylidae found from southern Mexico to northern South America. Túngara males can vary the complexity of their calls. Click here to hear calls of varying complexity.

A túngara frog calls during the night, sometimes producing thousands of calls at an extreme energetic cost. His call can be a simple whine which is sufficient to attract a female, but if he is competing with other males he increases the complexity of his call adding up to seven chucks. Why? The whine and the chuck interact in a specific manner in how they stimulate the female túngara frog’s inner ear organs and various parts of her brain that are involved in auditory processing and decision making and increase the attractiveness his simple call five-fold. If a female is listening at the right time, his complex call will attract her and she will choose him as a mate, joining his genes with hers for travel into the next generation. As this is the male’s ultimate Darwinian goal, why doesn’t he always make complex calls? It is because his calls also attract the frog-eating bat. Although most bats do not hear sonic frequencies very well, these bats have an adaptation in their inner ear that allows them to detect the sonic frog calls without giving up their sensitivity in the ultrasonic range, where they analyze their echolocation signals. Not only do the bats use the túngara frog’s call as a beacon for location, the bats respond to call variation much as the female frogs do, they will fly to and devour a male producing a simple whine but they are preferentially attracted to complex calls.

To understand the function and evolution of the complex acoustic display of túngara frogs it is necessary to understand how its variation influences responses of both receivers, females and bats, as they deliver the most important costs and benefits incurred by the displaying males. And to understand how the females and bats respond in such a manner it is necessary to understand how they analyze sounds and make decisions.

For more information about the rich history of túngara research, check out the rest of the Ryan lab website and publication list.

Job Description

Interns will assist in collecting túngara frogs in the field and with conducting behavioral experiments.  Interns will live and work in Gamboa at the STRI field station from June 1st- August 15th. To get an idea of a typical night of work on the tungara frog project, read A Typical Life of a Tungara Intern as well as the chapter in Ms. Menino's book. Access this collage to see some of the 2012 crew at work and play in Gamboa.  For more information about STRI, click here.  

Application Instructions


Eligibility: Interns must be either US citizens or residents, or citizens of a Latin American country and must have a valid passport for international travel.  Interns may be undergraduate students or recent graduates. Please email us with questions

Instructions: Applications consist of three parts: Cover letter, CV, and academic transcripts, as outlined below.   Please assemble these documents (Cover Letter, CV, transcripts) into a single pdf file and email it as an attachment to  Be sure that the file name is in the format: LastName_FirstInitial_tung.pdf.  Into the subject line of your email, please put the phrase "internship complete application” (quotes are unnecessary) to bypass filters.

1)     Cover Letter
Please include a brief cover letter (~1 page) summarizing your interest in applying, any relevant skills and experience you have, and any additional information that may help us in reviewing your application.  Make sure your contact information is included and current.

2)    Curriculum Vitae in the following format:
a.     Contact Information (include citizenship and passport information)
b.     Education
c.     Previous Research Experience (or relevant professional work)
d.    Honors & Awards
e.     Publications & Presentations
f.      References (must provide contact information for 3 references who will provide a letter of recommendation upon request)

3)    Unofficial Transcripts
Please scan a copy of your most recent transcripts.

IN ADDITION TO APPLYING DIRECTLY WITH US, you may also apply for an internship through STRI.  These are completely separate application processes and you must follow appropriate guidelines and deadlines for each.  For more information about STRI internships and fellowships, click here. Download the application here.


Please contact us if you have questions prior to submitting your application via your email client (