Steller's and Blue Jays by Megan Bishop

How To Apply

*Notice to Applicants: Call for Applications for 2021 is currently on hold while Cornell University remains in a remote-work mode. The call will reopen at a later date and the new deadline will be posted here. Please note that the original deadline of April 13th, 2020 has been postponed. 

If you would like to be notified about the new application deadline when it is announced, please email Jillian Ditner, Program Coordinator at The new deadline will be announced with at least a three-week period between applications being accepted and the associated deadline. Applicants who have already submitted materials will have the opportunity to submit new applications with updated materials at that time.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers paid positions to visiting early career illustrators through the Bartels Science Illustration program. Appointments begin at times aligned with Cornell’s academic cycle. Each participant works on various illustration projects depicting 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 have access to many resources at the Cornell Lab and across Cornell University, including the 2 million study specimens in the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates; project oversight and mentorship through the Lab’s staff biological illustrator/Bartels program coordinator; collaborations with cutting-edge scientists and researchers; participation in the Lab’s sophisticated materials, science communication, public education, 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.

Bartels illustrators also have the opportunity to build teaching experience through hosting workshops or assisting with the Cornell undergraduate course The Art and Science of Birds: Biological Illustration for Understanding Nature. This popular new course taught by the Staff Biological Illustrator is offered during the spring semester and provides those interested with the chance to contribute to class lectures and art demonstrations as a teaching assistant. Bartels illustrators will also have the option to create their own personalized workshops for Cornell Lab staff and the public. These course and workshop offerings are celebrated by participants and have become a highlight of the Bartels program, providing an additional form of professional credential for illustrators interested in teaching. No previous teaching experience is expected or required.


Applicants must meet the minimum qualifications listed below in addition to providing a portfolio of their work. Preference will be given to applicants whose portfolios accurately depict birds, regardless of artistic medium or personal style.

  • At least two years of college-level education (coursework in scientific illustration, traditional drawing techniques and other related fields is desirable)
  • “Early career” professional level in biological illustration or a related field
  • Experience and exceptional skill in illustrating, painting, or drawing birds and wildlife
  • A passion for further developing their skills in ornithological art
  • Fluency in English
  • USA citizen or permanent resident (visa sponsorship is not available for this position)

Work Schedule:

Full-time, paid temporary appointments in the Bartels Science Illustration program span from 6-9 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 the fall and spring semesters. No relocation assistance is provided and visa sponsorship is not available or accepted.


Please email the following items to Jillian Ditner, Program Coordinator at

  1. Letter of interest stating why the Bartels Science Illustration program is of interest to you, what you aim 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. Resume/CV
  3. Digital files with a minimum of 6 (six) samples of your work that you feel best reflect your skills in scientific illustration. It is essential to include works that depict birds, preference will be given to applicants whose portfolios accurately depict birds, regardless of artistic medium or personal style. Note that emailed files must be no greater than 25 MB (total attachment size email) to pass through Cornell email filters. Preferred file type is a pdf which includes images and documents, not exceeding 25 MB. Sending multiple email messages with individual files is highly discouraged. In situations where file size limit is a problem, as with animations, please email prior 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 include these letters at the time of application.

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

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