Crafting Scientific Leaders and Community this Summer Through DESLA

We are eagerly preparing for our upcoming Drexel Environmental Science Leadership Academy — a weeklong outdoors summer adventure for high school students that gets everyone out in the field doing real environmental research, right alongside our very own Academy scientists and BEES professors.  

“As we gear up for each program, my excitement builds, knowing that I will get to experience the wonder of nature through the lens of a student who is seeing it for the first time,” says Michelle Gannon, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher and analyst in biogeochemistry at the Academy. Gannon also currently leads the Bighorn Basin-Yellowstone DESLA program.  

“I have gotten to meet and interact with hundreds of students who have come through the DESLA program. I am honored when they write to me later to express how the program helped them navigate to a career path they otherwise may not have selected or did not know was an option.”  

By the Shores of Barnegat Bay 

Adventure into the unique salt marshes, tidal streams and pine forests of Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, a field station situated on 194 acres of natural coastal land. Each summer, we gain hands-on experience as we study various habitats all around the Bay and the many fascinating bird, fish and plant species that call this place home. Here we learn about climate change, sea rise, forest fires, community science, migration and local biodiversity.  

“We’ve gathered every summer for the past 10 years to explore the ecology and conservation of this amazing place along the mid-Atlantic coast,” says Ron Smith, director of the DESLA programs. “From frogs and forests to bays, beaches and barrens, the students learn to raise questions and lead the future charge to protect the planet.” 

“This experience impacted me as a person because I was able to form friendships with people that I probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to meet if it wasn’t for this interaction,” says Maiya Mangum, a student who previously attended the Barnegat Bay program. “This experience impacted me as a student because I was able to learn more about the area of the Pine Barrens, learn new terms from my peers and my mentors and be able to gain hands-on experience. I think because of this experience I was able to grow as a person and a student.” 

Join us as we collaborate on real-world community science efforts by counting and spotting shorebirds. Then catch some rays and discover the fascinating landmasses and formations of these preserved coastal environments. 

Under the Stars in Lacawac Sanctuary 

Travel into the rolling hills of the Pocono Mountains to find the pristine quiet beauty of nature at Lacawac Santuary, a forested field station in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. Using the current tools and methods of our scientists, we investigate the chemical make-up of freshwater lakes and the carbon sequestration values of trees. Here, we learn about water chemistry, geology, forestry, lakeside ecology and ongoing conservation efforts. 

“I describe this opportunity as life changing because my experiences there finalized my decision to pursue environmental science as a career,” says Habibata Sylla, who is now a student at Drexel University. “It’s more independent than anything I’ve done before. It really felt like being in the field and I’m grateful I had this opportunity.” 

“In the face of a global biodiversity crisis, the ability to go birding every morning for only five days and observe 53 species is truly incredible,” wrote George Green and Claire Wang, high school students who previously attended the Lacawac program. “Places like Lacawac Sanctuary show how much nature gives us hope for the future of our planet. It certainly did for us in the week we spent there.” 

Join us as we don our gaiters and wade into nearby streams to catch fish using state-of-the-art electronic technology. Then at night, venture into the woods by flashlight to search for hidden salamanders and witness the dance of nocturnal insects. 

Upon the Rocks in Bighorn Basin and Yellowstone National Park 

Experience the vast open wilderness of the west with fellow nature lovers in Bighorn Basin, Montana and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Get out into the fields and discover how to scout and excavate fossils. Study awe-inspiring and rare geological formations found only in these areas to understand the deep, fascinating history of our planet. Here we learn about chemistry, geology, paleontology, evolution, alpine ecology and wildlife conservation. 

“I have been so inspired by the wonderfully bright students we have had,” says Erin Poole, a Drexel BEES student and co-leader of last year’s program. “Their incredible observations and diverse interests have made this week an absolute success. I look forward to seeing what all of them accomplish in the future!” 

“It is always really humbling to be around so many smart and curious people asking such good questions and paying such good attention to their surroundings,” says Sam G., one of the students who previously attended the Bighorn Basin-Yellowstone program. “All while becoming great friends in the process. I would wake up at 2:30 a.m. every morning for this bunch.” 

Join us as we conduct scientific research using remote sensing methods while marveling over gushing geysers. Then as the sun sets, relax around the campfire while stargazing and telling stories with newfound friends. 

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