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Drexel Environmental Science Leadership Academy (DESLA)

Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science

A group of Drexel DESLA students at the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute in Montana

DESLA students participate in fossil research at a dig site with the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute, Montana, in 2018.

The Drexel Environmental Science Leadership Academy (DESLA) is one part outdoor adventure, one part leadership training, and two parts field experience. Our DESLA summer camps are for high school students thinking about pursuing a degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies and Sustainability or Geoscience.

Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors can choose from 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.

DESLA student Habibata Sylla conducts marine field research in Barnegat, NJ
Science, Leadership and Adventure: Firsthand DESLA Experiences

Science, Leadership and Adventure

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

Questions? Ask

Summer Adventures for Rising Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors

DESLA summer camps are ideal adventures for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to gain hands-on field experience across a range of research areas: local community habitats and environments; beach, marsh, and Pine Barren ecology; botany and lake ecology; and geology and paleontology. Students gain a broad understanding of what it means to be an environmental scientist and what it takes to be a leader in this rapidly growing field. Through a combination of theory-based courses and a lot of hands-on immersion experiences —the heart of a Drexel education— students bond together through a research-rich summer adventure that opens the door to a future career in environmental science and related fields.

Programs, Dates and Costs

Gain skills and experiences specific to each location in our science leadership academy. Tuition covers housing, meals and activities, but does not cover airfare. After completing a DESLA camp, application fees will be waived for students who apply to Drexel University for undergraduate study.

Drexel Summer Camp: Virtual

DESLA@Home — June 20-24, 2022

DESLA@Home is a fully virtual experience where students become community scientists as they explore their local environment — topics include geology, watershed mapping, climate change and everything environmental in between. This at-home camp include a mailed supplies package and expert online instruction. Students gain a broad understanding of what it means to be an environmental or geo-scientist, and what it takes to be a leader in the field.

Topics to Explore

Drexel Summer Camp: Barnegat Bay Field Station

Barnegat Bay Field Station — July 10-16, 2022

Owned by the NJDEP, Division of Fish and Wildlife, and managed by the non-profit, Natural Resource Education Foundation of NJ, the Barnegat Bay Field Station is situated on 194 acres that encompass a range of habitats, including a maritime forest, salt marsh, tidal streams and a freshwater pond in Waretown, New Jersey.

Topics to Explore

Drexel Summer Camp: Lacawac Sanctuary & Field Station

Lacawac Sanctuary & Field Station — July 24-30, 2022

The Lacawac Sanctuary & Field Station is a summer adventure and learning experience for high school students. This Poconos summer camp takes place in Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania. Students will get hands-on experience working in the lush forest and lake ecosystems of the Pocono Mountains.

Topics to Explore

Drexel Summer Camp: Big Horn Basin Paleontological Institute

Bighorn Basin and Yellowstone — August 7-14, 2022

The Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute and Yellowstone National Park summer camp –in Bighorn Basin, Montana, and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming– offers high school students hands-on field experience in geoscience while they learn about the history of the planet and discover the processes that shape our world.

Topics to Explore

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

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 within two weeks of your acceptance into a session. Email your packet to with the subject as "DESLA Scholarship."

Please submit:

  1. A 500-word essay explaining why you are a good candidate to receive the scholarship.
  2. Please remember that scholarships are based on financial need. Evidence of financial need: recent tax return, award letter for SNAP, WIC, reduced/free school lunch, etc.

COVID-19 Information

We hope to run our three residential programs at Barnegat Bay, Lacawac Sanctuary, and Bighorn Basin as planned, but we will follow all government guidelines that might cause us to cancel those programs at any time. All tuition payments will be refunded in full in the event of any cancellations. All participants will be encouraged to transition into our virtual program, DESLA@Home, if they wish.

Residential Program Details

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

Eligibility and Deadline

Open to high school students who will be sophomores, juniors or seniors in September of 2022. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all spaces are filled.

The deadline to apply is April 30, 2022.