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Drexel Environmental Science Leadership Academy (DESLA)

A group of Drexel DESLA students standing in Barnegat Bay

The Drexel Environmental Science Leadership Academy is one part outdoor adventure, one part leadership training, and two parts field experience. Students have the choice of an at-home virtual experience exploring their local environment; habitat-hopping from seaside to maritime forest all along the New Jersey coastline; exploring the hardwood forests and pristine Lake Lacawac in the Poconos; or traveling out west to examine a variety of prehistoric geologic formations in Montana and Yellowstone National Park. Each student will gain hands-on experience in a range of research areas, including beach, marsh, and Pine Barren ecology; botany and lake ecology; and geology and paleontology.

The DESLA staff on this adventure are all-star Drexel professors from the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science and expert scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the oldest natural history museum in the Western Hemisphere. From these career scientists, students will gain a broader understanding of what it means to be an environmental or geo-scientist, and what it takes to be a leader in the field.

Covid-19 Information

We hope to run our three residential programs this summer, Barnegat Bay, Lacawac Sanctuary, and Bighorn Basin (GeoDESLA), but will be following any government guidelines that might cause us to cancel those programs. Any and all tuition payments will be refunded in full if we have to cancel the programs and all participants are encouraged to switch to our virtual program, DESLA@Home, if desired.

DESLA 2021 Dates & Locations:

Desla Student on a Nighttime Snake and Frog Walk
DESLA Student on the Evening Snake and Frog Walk

Tuition Fees & Program Information:

  • DESLA@Home: $500 includes mailed supplies package
  • Barnegat Bay: $1,800
  • Lacawac Sanctuary: $1,800
  • Bighorn Basin: $2,200

Our Barnegat Bay, Lacawac Sanctuary and Bighorn Basin camps are residential programs. Students will live in dorms at the Barnegat Bay Field Station in NJ, the Lacawac Sanctuary Field Station in PA, or at the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association in Montana. More information on lodging can be found on the individual camp pages.

Note: Tuition covers housing, meals and activities, but does not cover airfare.

After completing DESLA, application fees will be waived for students applying to Drexel University for undergraduate study.

Eligibility & Deadlines:

DESLA@Home is open to rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in September 2021. Our residential summer camps are open to rising high school juniors and seniors. DESLA applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Qualified students will be accepted on a rolling basis beginning in January until all spaces are filled.

The application deadline is May 1, 2021.

Financial Scholarships: 

There are a small number of financial-need scholarships available to students accepted into the DESLA program. 

If you are interested in applying for a scholarship, the below information must be received by the Scholarship Committee at within two weeks of your acceptance to camp. The Committee will follow up with more information a week or so after the scholarship application is received. 

  1. A 500-word essay explaining why you are a good candidate to receive the scholarship. *Please remember that scholarships are based on financial need.
  2. Tax documentation (2020 1040 Federal Income Tax Return or, if not yet filed, 2019 1040 Federal Income Tax Return) as well as any other applicable information from parents/guardians that demonstrates financial need.

Topics You May Explore at DESLA:

Gain skills and experiences specific to each location in our science leadership academy.

    DESLA Student Studying Fish at Barnegat Bay     
Fish Studies at Barnegat Bay


  • Geology of your Backyard and Home Town, Paleontology, Volcanology
  • Backyard Diversity – Exploring Local Ecology
  • Your Backyard and Ecological Services – Trees, Carbon and Climate
  • Understanding Space and Scale – Land use, Water Quality and Watersheds
  • Citizen Science and Biodiversity – From Birds and Bugs to Frogs and Forests

Barnegat Bay Field Station:

  • Bay Ecology and Water Quality Monitoring
  • Marsh Ecology
  • Fish Identifications and Natural History
  • Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Ecology of Local Insects
  • Pine Barren Ecology
  • Coastal Processes
  • Botany

Lacawac Sanctuary & Field Station:

  • Lake Ecology and Water Quality Monitoring
  • Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Temperate Forest Ecology
  • Fish Identifications and Natural History
  • Ornithology
  • Plankton
  • Geology
  • Botany

Bighorn Basin & Yellowstone National Park:

  • Geology
  • Paleontology
  • Geysers, Hot Springs, Fumaroles, and Mud Pots
  • Hydrogeology
  • Geomorphology
  • Stratigraphy
  • Earth Processes

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