• students walking through nature

    NRCA programs provide…

    Engaging & educational hands-on outdoor experiences

    Support & resources as participants contribute to environmental efforts in their community

• Teens •

Conservation Ambassador Program

9-month program for high school students (grades 9-11) interested in exploring the environment or making a difference in their community. The program includes a one-week field experience at UConn and an community environmental action project.


• UConn Students •

Difference Maker

10-month leadership positions for UConn undergraduate students. As Difference Maker Mentors, undergraduate students serve as program leaders of the CAP field experience and near-peer mentors to CAP teens.


• School Teams & UConn Students •


New! 6-month (November - May) STEAM program for high school student-teacher teams that introduces environmental storytelling through interactive maps and digital media, including animation and filmmaking.


• Retired Program •

Conservation Training Partnerships

Two-day workshop for high school students and adult volunteers that introduces mapping tools and technology that can be used to address current environmental issues. After the workshop each teen-adult team carries out a community environmental action project.

• Retired Program •

Teacher Professional Learning

Three-day professional development workshop for high school science teachers that immerses participants in relevant local and regional water resource issues through the use of online mapping tools, field data collection, and modeling.

Environmental Action Projects

The knowledge, skills, and resources gained by NRCA participants are applied to community environmental action projects carried out in the months following the initial field experience or workshop. Projects typically employ one or more of the geospatial technologies learned during the field experience, but otherwise vary widely, and include topics such as urban tree inventories, trail mapping, invasive species management, water quality monitoring, habitat restoration, wildlife surveys, and educational efforts to foster environmentally-responsible behaviors. NRCA programs culminate with participants showcasing their environmental action efforts at a professional conference.

View Projects

researchers in front of their work


participants from


schools and


local organizations located in


towns* resulting in


community projects


The NRCA mission is to engage diverse teen and adult participants in natural resources conservation through place-based, experiential outdoor education, and facilitate community action through collaborative partnerships that contribute to local environmental solutions.

The NRCA is a partnership among the Department of Natural Resources & the Environment, Center for Land Use Education & Research, Neag School of Education, and Institute of the Environment.


The NRCA vision encompasses:

A statewide, vibrant, and robust network of multi-sector partners that brings together scientific, educational, and community expertise and resources to support local-level natural resource initiatives

Communities across Connecticut equipped with knowledge and skills to address environmental issues, empowering them to improve and protect local natural resources

Individuals, both independently and collectively, recognizing systems of oppression, confronting them, and striving to promote and uphold educational justice, environmental justice, and racial equity

News Highlights

Awards and Honors

group photo
group photo
participant in front of data

NRCA Organization/Team Awards

  • 2021 STEM Achievement Organization Award, Connecticut Science Center. See Announcement
  • 2021 Facilitators' Choice Recognition, STEM for All Video Showcase. See Announcement
  • 2021 David & Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Award, University of Connecticut - College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources
  • 2020 Public Choice Recognition, STEM for All Video Showcase. See Announcement
  • 2020 Excellence in Land Conservation Organization Award, Connecticut Land Conservation Council.
  • 2019 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship, University of Connecticut.
  • 2018 Outstanding Organization of the Year, Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association.
  • 2018 DataHaven Innovation Award, DataHaven. See Announcement
  • 2016 Maria Pirie Environmental Education Program Award, New England Environmental Educators Alliance.

NRCA Participant Awards

  • 2020 Eastern CT Conservation District - Conservation Hero Award: Genevieve Rondeau & Rachael Trowbridge
  • 2020 Aquarion Environmental Champion Award: Nisha Nalawade
  • 2020 ESRI User Conference - Student Map Award: Melinda Lu (third place)
  • 2020 CT Maps Competition - High School Division: Melinda Lu (overall winner), Aiden Cherniske, Allison Masthay, Olivia Pignataro
  • 2020 CT Maps Competition - Middle School Division: Adrian Bouchard
  • 2020 Marvelwood School Rachel Carson Conservation Award: Aiden Cherniske
  • 2019 CT Science & Engineering Fair: Sara Beth Bouchard
  • 2019 CT Maps Competition - High School Division: Madelyn Malinowski (overall winner), Carter Shay, Nicholas Motmans
  • 2019 CT Volunteer Water Monitoring Conference - Student Poster: Grace Berthiaume (2nd place), Brooke Tillotson (3rd place)
  • 2018 National FFA Highlighted Project: Fiona Haggerty
  • 2018 Aquarion Environmental Champion Award: Kailee Puzzo
  • 2017 City of Hartford Public Works & Tree Advisory Commission Certificate of Excellence: Naieem Kelly
  • 2017 CT Science & Engineering Fair: Tessa Rock
  • 2016 Westbrook Conservation Commission Osprey Award of Merit: Terri Potvin

Past and Current Funders

  • Original private family foundation
  • USDA Women & Minorities in STEM
  • NSF Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers
  • Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut
  • NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning
  • Goldring Family Foundation
  • Diebold Foundation
  • SURDNA Foundation
  • CT Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation Matching Fund