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Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

Environmental Science Opportunities For High School Students: Our Top 10

5 minute read

Environmental challenges seem to be everywhere; from climate change, stormwater, and sewage to loss of biodiversity as well as ozone layer depletion, destruction of habitats and so much more that threaten forest, rural, urban, and marine ecosystems. Environmental studies research programs invite students to work on solutions to these issues, to create a positive impact on quality of life, without threatening our natural resources and finding creative solutions for a more sustainable, healthier environment for generations to come.

There are many environmental studies programs and research opportunities available for high school students, and students often ask us where they can go to get hands-on research experience over the summer - you asked and we listened!

Create a research project tailored to your interests and your schedule

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!

High School Summer Research Programs for Environmental Studies

1. Climate Change Mitigation

Hosting Institution: CIEE

Cost: $5,250 USD

Format: In person (Monteverde, Costa Rica)

Application deadline: January 24, 2024

Costa Rica is widely seen as one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. Students spend three weeks here exploring this tropical ecosystem of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Participants meet with local farmers, scientists, and activists, quantify tropical tree growth, estimate carbon stocks, and measure the environmental effects of greenhouse gasses all with the possible outcome of starting carbon-smart initiatives in local communities worldwide.

2. Global Environmental Leadership & Sustainability 

Hosting Institution: UC San Diego

Cost: $3,600 plus $100 application fee

Format: In person (Hawa’ii, HI)

Application deadline: March 1, 2023

For 10 days students explore scientific research alongside leadership skills through various activities from a value-based process, emphasizing the Social Change Model of Leadership. Participants learn to become competent stewards. The course end goal is for each participant to develop a personal action plan to incorporate the 7 C’s of the Social Change Model of Leadership into their daily lives back home. 

3. SEA Summer High School Programs

Hosting Institution: Sea Education Association

Cost: $1,000 - $5,950 USD (program costs vary)

Format: Virtual and In-person (Woods Hole, MA) options available

Application deadline: April 15, 2024

Over the course of two weeks, students may opt for “Ocean Studies on the Cape,” “Critters, Coral, and Conservation,” or other areas of study. Coursework might include lectures, discussions, laboratory activities, and field trips to reveal the study of oceanography, the history of humanity’s relationship with the oceans, and modern maritime issues. Leadership training, field work, and community life on campus round out the experience, inspiring students to view the world in a new way.

4. Terp Young Scholars (Environmental Biology)

Hosting Institution: University of Maryland

Cost: $1,500-2,500 USD

Format: In person (College Park, MD - commuter only) or ONLINE

Application deadline: May 1, 2023

Students spend three weeks with the latest geographic science concepts and techniques in exploring adaptation and natural selection; organismic, population, community, and ecosystem ecology; and human impact on natural systems - or Natural Disasters.  Using satellite imagery, participants gain a multi-scale perspective of the ecological and societal aspects of the events.

5. Summer Pre-College Programs

Hosting Institution: University of North Carolina

Cost: Programs start at $1430 USD

Format: In person (Asheville, NC) 

Application deadline: May 1, 2024

In River Ecology & Adventure, students spend a full week learning about Southern Appalachian stream ecology while canoeing, hiking, and investigating local aquatic species. The connections built while whitewater rafting encourage participants to think critically about human impact on the environment.

6. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Hosting Institution: Cornell University

Cost: $5,040 USD

Format: Online

Application deadline: May 7, 2023

This three-week course introduces students to ecology, covering interactions between organisms and the environment at scales of populations, communities, and ecosystems. Participants explore the theory and applications of major issues facing humanity in the 21st century through ecological principles. Topics include population dynamics, disease ecology, biodiversity and invasive species, global change, and other topics of environmental sustainability.

7. Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: Rhode Island

Hosting Institution: Brown University 

Cost: $5,716 USD

Format: In person (Providence, RI - commuter or residential)

Application deadline:May 10, 2024

During this two-week program at Brown University's campus, students get to explore different sites across Rhode Island. Students can choose between two exciting courses. Through classroom sessions and outdoor hands-on experiences, students dive deep into understanding the reasons behind climate change and its effects. Students will uncover inspiring instances of environmental resilience and enhance their skills in communicating scientific ideas.

8. Climate Change: Inside the Science and Advocacy

Hosting Institution: Brandeis University

Cost: $995 USD

Format: Online

Application deadline: June 18, 2023

Students become a citizen scientist, equipped to do research and communicate their findings in a way that helps foster change. Participants spend two weeks learning about climate change on a global scale and how this impacts communities. This becomes a personal exploration as they discover their households’ carbon footprint and what can be done to lessen its impact. Also covered are the history of the environmental movement, the Paris Agreement and America’s role in climate science.

9. AU High School Summer Scholars - Oceanography

Hosting Institution: American University

Cost: $919 USD

Format: Online

Application deadline: N.A.

Students spend four weeks exploring the world’s most abundant, precious, and threatened natural resource. Taking a global perspective, participants focus on chemical and physical oceanography as it affects both sea life and world economies. Scientific methods used in this exploration include geography, plate tectonics, climatology, meteorology, currents, waves/tides and productivity, as well as modern issues in oceanography.

10. Racing Extinction: Climate, Politics & Global Leadership

Hosting Institution: Oxford Royale Academy

Cost: £6995

Format: In-person (Oxford, UK)

Application deadline: N.A.

With the objective of preserving life on planet Earth, students collaborate in small groups to generate solutions to some of the most challenging issues facing humanity. This two-week course invites students to discover how the fields of climate science, politics, law, and leadership can work together against extinction. Speakers and case studies are part of the experience in getting to know more about the fields of political science, climate science, and international affairs.

Interested in participating in a customized environmental studies research program that's tailored to your preferences? At Polygence, we offer students the opportunity to get 1:1 project mentorship from expert mentors and researchers. Students are in the driver’s seat of their education here, and whatever project you want to do, we will help you make it happen! 

Register now to get matched with one of our expert mentors.

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