How To Apply

Northern Mockingbird by Justine Lee Hirten. Northern Mockingbird by Justine Lee Hirten.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers paid positions to early-career visiting illustrators through the Bartels Science Illustration program. Starting in Fall 2019, we are aligning these appointments with Cornell’s academic cycle, with each new illustrator joining the Lab community in the summer and then continuing through the full academic year to the following June or July. Each participant works on art and design projects illustrating birds, wildlife, and scientific concepts related to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s mission “to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.”

The works created by illustrators in our Bartels program are often featured prominently in the Lab’s award-winning Living Bird magazine (circulation >100,000) and other print publications, scientific publications, websites, and teaching and outreach materials. A primary goal of this program is to foster the professional development of the Bartels illustrators by providing them opportunities to refine their skills while expanding their professional portfolio. At the same time, the Bartels artists collaborate within a stimulating production environment and immerse themselves in the Cornell Lab’s culture of conservation, outreach, and scientific excellence. The works created by Bartels illustrators contribute directly to helping the Cornell Lab inform and inspire our many audiences.

Bartels illustrators now have the additional opportunity to contribute to several outreach opportunities, including a popular introductory course on bird illustration for Cornell undergraduates, and illustration workshops for Cornell Lab staff and the public. These existing course and workshop offerings are celebrated by the participants and have become a highlight of the Bartels program, providing an additional form of professional credential for illustrators interested in teaching. These are all typically offered in the Spring semester after the Bartels illustrator has become fully established in their position at the Cornell Lab, and we have well-tested frameworks for these offerings that allow new Bartels illustrators to add their personal teaching style without needing to develop a course from scratch.

Bartels illustrators have access to many resources at the Cornell Lab and across Cornell University, including the 2 million study specimens in the co-located Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates; daily contact and artistic partnerships with cutting-edge scientists and researchers; collaborative participation in the Lab’s sophisticated communications, public education, data visualization, and conservation media groups; access to Cornell University’s extensive Library system; and the opportunity to study original art by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, George M. Sutton, Andrew Goldsworthy, Charley Harper, Maya Lin, Jane Kim, James Prosek, the impressive community of former Bartels illustrators, and many others.

Qualifications: Qualified applicants must meet the minimum qualifications listed below in addition to a portfolio of their work. Preference will be given to applicants whose portfolios include ornithological work and who accurately illustrate birds, even if the artist’s style is graphic or abstract.

Work Schedule: Each full-time, temporary appointment in the Bartels Science Illustration program spans 11 months, contingent on successful ongoing performance. Illustrators must be primarily based at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York during this period. Appointments typically begin in mid-August and extend until mid-July. The hourly wage is $16/hr, 39 hours/week, and is subject to federal and/or state income taxes. No relocation assistance is provided and visa sponsorship is not available or accepted.

Application: Please email the following items to

  1. Letter of interest stating why the Bartels Science Illustration program is of interest to you, what you hope to gain from it professionally, and what you hope to be able to contribute to the Cornell Lab. Describe any notable interests or skills that you would bring to this opportunity.
  2. Your resume or CV.
  3. Digital files of five or six samples of your work that you feel best reflect your skills in scientific illustration. It is essential to include works that depict birds. Emailed files must be no greater than 25 MB (total attachment size email) to pass through Cornell email filters, so please compress files or send multiple email messages with individual files. In situations where this file size limit is a real problem, please email to arrange an alternative file transfer method.

Note: Short-listed finalists selected for interviews will be asked to provide two letters of recommendation from faculty members, colleagues, or clients familiar with your work. There is no need to have letters forwarded at the time of application.

Please do not mail hard-copy application materials to the Cornell Lab, as we cannot return original artwork.

Application deadline: Applications for 2020-21 must be received by 8:00 a.m. EST on the second Monday in April.  Unless prior arrangements are made, applications received after this date will not be considered for the current year but will be kept on file. Note that this application date may change in 2021 and thereafter.

Questions: Please direct queries via email to Jillian Ditner, Program Coordinator at

A final note: the instructions above were substantially updated as of March 2019. These instructions and new deadlines replace the previous versions.