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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. This summer we are providing students who attend DESLA with an at-home virtual experience exploring your local environment including everything from geology to watershed exploration to citizen science to climate change and everything environmental in between. 

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.


Our three residential programs this summer, Barnegat Bay, Lacawac Sanctuary, and Bighorn Basin (GeoDESLA), are canceled. Any and all tuition payments made already will be refunded in full. Please see below for our new virtual DESLA - DESLA@Home - that will be running August 2nd through 8th! 

NEW! DESLA@Home — Exploring Your World, August 2-8, 2020

Join Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences this summer for a new adventure! From across the region and country, we will gather online to explore our backyards, our parks and our watersheds. Emphasizing themes of sustainability, citizen science, ecological services, and geology, students will collect data on trees, birds, invertebrates and rocks using the same equipment scientists at Drexel and the Academy of Natural Science use in the field. This equipment, mailed to your house before camp begins, will be yours to keep after the program!

During the day, inventory the diversity in your garden, find out how much carbon is stored in the trees on your street, and explore the geology and land use of your watershed, facilitated by faculty, staff and students from our department. Evening programs will feature activities exploring nocturnal animals and their habitats, discussions of data collected during the day, and artistic endeavors to compliment your scientific studies. DESLA@Home begins Sunday night, August 2, with orientation and ends Saturday afternoon, August 8, with student presentations and graduation!

Eligibility: Students who are rising high school sophomores, juniors or seniors in September 2020

Deadline: July 6, 2020     Tuition: $500, includes supplies

Learn more about the program, eligibility and scholarships, see below.

DESLA 2020 Dates & Locations:

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

Tuition Fees & Program Information:

  • NEW: DESLA@Home: $500
  • CANCELED: Barnegat Bay: $1,800
  • CANCELED: Lacawac Sanctuary: $1,800
  • CANCELED: 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 2020. 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 DESLA@Home application deadline will be July 6, 2020. 

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 (2019 1040 Federal Income Tax Return or, if not yet filed, 2018 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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