• jungle trees

    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.

About CAP

The NRCA Conservation Ambassador Program is great for high school students (grades 9 to 11) who want to enjoy the outdoors and be a changemaker in their community. Through a summer field experience at UConn and a community environmental action project, students will explore environmental topics in a fun, exciting, and hands-on way, and receive multi-layer mentorship support and resources as they carry out a community environmental action project and contribute to real community solutions!


VIEW FLYER

students helping each other prepare to do field work
students around a map

Important Dates

Date Event
May 13, 2022 Application Due

Complete this short online application

May 20, 2022 Applicants Notified of Acceptance

Sent to your email used in application

June 12, 2022 Enrollment Forms Due

Mailed to your address used in application

July 17-23, 2022 Summer Field Experience

At UConn

August, 2022 - March, 2023 Environmental Action Project

In your community or town

March, 2023 Showcase Your Project

At UConn

Program Elements

Do you want to enjoy the outdoors and be a changemaker? Join the Conservation Ambassador Program!

team building exercise

Summer Field Experience
Spend a week in July at UConn exploring environmental topics like forestry, wildlife, and mapping. Stay in dorms and get a taste of campus life, including Dairy Bar ice cream! Enjoy fun activities like BBQs, lake swimming, campfires, and more!

collecting data

Environmental Action
Apply new skills gained from the field experience to an environmental effort that benefits your community. Get support from a UConn undergraduate near-peer mentor and adult community partner as you carry out an environmental action project from July to March.

student showcasing research

Showcase Your Accomplishments
Share your environmental action project at the Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources in the spring. This is a fantastic opportunity to develop public speaking skills, network with environmental professionals, and be celebrated for your efforts.

Learn More about Topics Taught in CAP

Remote Sensing, GPS & Orienteering

Description: Geospatial technologies such as Geographic Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) and Remote Sensing (RS) technologies play a very important role in conservation and natural resources management. Such technologies can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of conservation programs and practices, and will serve as an underlying subject throughout the field experience. This first full day of the field experience introduces students to a range of mapping tools and techniques, and demonstrates the role that geospatial technologies play in conservation planning, implementation, and tracking. An overview of geospatial technology will be presented and the students will have a chance to participate in fun hands-on activities, such as paper map and compass orienteering and GPS geocaching.

Freshwater & Green Infrastructure

Description: Water is one of the most important resources on earth and is essential for life. Students will get in the water and learn how to measure flow in a stream, map a watershed, conduct a stream biotic survey, and sample parameters of a lake. Students will also learn about green infrastructure practices that reduce stormwater pollution, such as rain gardens, pervious pavements, and green roofs.

Forests & Soils

Description: By providing important ecosystem services and goods, such as wildlife habitat, clean water and air, recreation, timber, and scenic landscapes, forests play a vital role in human health, livelihoods, and well-being. Connecticut is 60% “forested” (i.e., covered with trees), but every year forest cover shrinks across the state. Most of the week is spent in and around the 2,100 acre UConn Forest, where students learn about sustainable forestry practices including management and conservation. Participants use newly acquired skills in paper map and compass orienteering and GPS technology to navigate large forest areas and different forest habitats.

Description: Soils are the foundation for all life on Earth. Everything comes directly or indirectly from the soil. Soil is an integral natural resource in all cycles of the Earth, but many do not understand its significance. Students will get "dirty" in soil pits and learn about the properties, features, and interpretations of typical Connecticut soils.

Fish & Wildlife

Description: Fish and wildlife are among the principal natural resources held in the public trust. While at the field experience, students will gain an appreciation for the tasks that fish and wildlife biologists undertake on a daily basis. Students will also participate in outdoor activities in and around the UConn Forest that demonstrate how data are gathered on fish and wildlife living in the forest. For example, students will join expert faculty and graduate students in tracking a wild creature with radio telemetry, seining for fishes, and measuring habitat quality.

Biodiversity in the Night

Description: The relative quiet of Connecticut forests during the day may give an impression of little biodiversity, yet there is great biodiversity. The forest comes to life at dusk as many animals have crepuscular or nocturnal habits. Joining UConn researchers in the woods at dusk, students will be introduced to our forest’s nocturnal biodiversity through acoustic monitoring for bats and through black lighting for insects.

Ready to Apply?

Applications due by May 13, 2022

APPLY NOW

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply?

High school students (grades 9, 10, or 11) need to submit a completed online application form by May 13, 2022 to be considered for the Conservation Ambassador Program. We encourage you to prepare your application responses in a text document, and then copy and paste your answers into the form before submitting. Preparing your responses in a text document will allow you to thoughtfully reply to the questions, check for any typos or other errors, and get the contact information (e.g., email) of one adult recommender (e.g., educator, coach, counselor, mentor, current or former employer, etc.) before you submit your application. Please note: you will no longer need to submit a teacher recommendation.

 

Applications are due May 13, 2022. If you have any questions or need assistance with the application form, please feel free to email Laura Cisneros (NRCA Director) at laura.cisneros@uconn.edu at any time.

How much does it cost and what is included?

It is our goal to make the Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP) available to all students regardless of financial circumstances. Thanks to generous funding sources, the cost of CAP ranges from no cost to a reduced fee.

No Cost:

CAP is free to...

  1. students attending a qualifying school (i.e., Title 1 schools or schools with >50% of the student population qualifying for free/reduced lunch; check if your school qualifies here: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/)
    or
  2. students who qualify for free/reduced lunch themselves

Reduced Fee:

For students who do not meet the above requirements, CAP program fees are determined by a sliding scale that takes into account annual household income and the number of claimed dependents. Additional financial assistance may also be provided on a case by case basis. See the 2022 sliding fee scale below:

2021 Household Adjusted Gross Income 1 Dependent 2 Dependents 3+ Dependents
Less than $30,000 $80 $65 $50
$30,001-$50,000 $164 $132 $100
$50,001-$70,000 $248 $199 $150
$70,001-$90,000 $332 $266 $200
$90,001-$110,000 $416 $333 $250
$110,001 and up $500 $400 $300

 

Environmental Action Project Stipends:

Thanks to a Giving Day campaign, we are able to provide five (5) need-based stipends! This means five (5) CAP students can get paid as they work on their environmental action projects. These stipends will be awarded based on financial need.

 

What We Provide to All CAP Students:

  • Field experience activity supplies
  • Field experience food and lodging
  • Field experience transportation
  • Community project guidance and multi-layered mentorship for 9 months
  • Some field equipment supplies for community project
  • Connecticut Conference on Natural Resources (CCNR) registration fees for student, community partner and one adult and poster printing

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Laura Cisneros (NRCA Director) at laura.cisneros@uconn.edu at any time.

Where and when is the summer field experience held?

Where:

The field experience is held at the University of Connecticut’s Storrs Campus. During the one-week training experience in July, students will stay in college dorms and eat in the dining halls. With the 2,100 acre UConn Forest as a classroom, students will explore various components of the natural environment, as well as nearby lakes, streams, and wetlands.

 

CAP students will stay in a residence hall with gender-separated floors of the building or on separate floor wings, and will have gender-separated bathrooms and shower rooms. All CAP students will share common areas of the residence hall for meetings and activities. At check-in, CAP students will learn which dorm room they will be staying in. The graduate student and Difference Maker Mentor staff will stay in the dorms to supervise CAP students.

 

Directions: Details on where to go for check-in and pick-up coming soon...

 

When:

  • Check-in: July 17, 2022 (Sunday) between 11:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. outside resident hall (details and directions to specific resident hall coming soon)
  • Pick-up: On July 23, 2022 (Saturday), families and friends of CAP students are invited to attend the field experience closing ceremony at 9:00 a.m. (details and directions to specific location coming soon). Check-out of the dorm will follow the closing ceremony.

What is a typical day like?

Typical Day at the CAP Field Experience:

Time of Day Activity
7:00-8:00 Breakfast
8:00-8:15 Community Check-in & Orientation of Day's Events
8:15-12:00 Field Activities
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-5:00 Field/Lab/Computer Activities
5:00-7:00 Dinner & Break
7:00-10:00 Evening Fun Activities with Staff (e.g., BBQs, lake swimming, campfires, and more!)

CAP Field Experience At-A-Glance:

CAP Schedule

What should or should I not bring?

Items to Bring:

Each day will be packed with fun activities! You should expect to spend a lot of the day outdoors and being active, including walking and hiking throughout the day. Also, keep in mind the potential for variable weather. When packing, choose items that can get dirty, are comfortable, and provide appropriate cover for walking through forests. We suggest the following:

 

Clothing: Comfortable, casual clothing is appropriate for most sites and activities. Please remember that you will be working with university professionals – we encourage you to dress in a manner that is respectful to students and staff members. Also, please keep in mind the potential for variable weather and for varied temperatures within buildings (e.g., it might be hot outside but cold in an air-conditioned building). We encourage you to bring extra clothes for times when you get dirty and would like to change during the day. Please consider the following suggestions and site-specific expectations for clothing items:

  • Sneakers/hiking shoes (e.g., comfortable shoes that are good for doing a lot of walking and can get muddy)
  • Water shoes
  • Hat
  • Swimming suit
  • Clothes appropriate for outdoor activity and fieldwork (clothing that can get dirty)
    • 7+ pairs of field pants
    • 3+ pairs of field shorts (you will wear pants more often than shorts)
    • 7+ t-shirts
    • 3+ long sleeve shirts,
    • 1+ sweatshirt(s)
  • Comfortable clothes for indoor activities to change into after field activities
  • Rain coat
  • One nice outfit for the closing ceremony presentation

Personal Items:

  • Toiletries (e.g., toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant
  • Medications (labeled)
  • Shower caddie
  • Extra set of contacts/glasses
  • Towel for lake swimming

Other Items:

  • Laundry detergent (optional)
  • Alarm clock (optional)
  • Backpack
  • Pens/pencils
  • Notebook/paper
  • Laptop (optional)
  • Water bottles
  • Camera (optional)
  • Fan (rooms will not have A/C)

Please note that while the program does not prohibit students from bringing cell phones, they are to be used in an appropriate setting (i.e., in dorm rooms in the evening after daily activities) and maintained by the student. Students will not be allowed to use these devices during daily activities. Neither the NRCA nor UConn is responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged personal items.

 

If you need help getting any of the suggested items above, please email Laura Cisneros (NRCA Director) at laura.cisneros@uconn.edu for assistance.

 

Items NOT to Bring:

Most of the housing necessities you will need are provided for you while at the field experience, including:

  • Pillows/bed linens (unless you want your own pillow)
  • Blankets
  • Food (food and snacks will be provided)

Students are NOT permitted to bring TVs or appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, or air conditioners. Students should leave the following items at home:

  • Car/bike
  • Video games
  • TVs, microwave, A/C units or other appliances

What about medications, allergies, or special meal requirements?

As part of your enrollment forms (specifically the Medical History Records Form), we will ask you to indicate allergies and physical exercise limitations. Administration of medication will be the responsibility of the participant. Only bring as much medication as is reasonably needed during the week. Medical kits, supplies, and certain permitted over-the-counter medications will be provided to students, if needed.

 

UConn routinely accommodates a wide range of special meal requirements, which you can indicate on your enrollment forms as well. We will also make sure to accommodate any food requirements for snacks and meals that occur outside of the UConn dinning halls.

Can you tell me more about the community environmental action project?

Each CAP student has the opportunity to carry out a local environmental action project. But you won't be alone! You will receive multi-layered mentorship support from an undergraduate student Difference Maker Mentor and a local community partner. You will also have extra guidance, support and resources from Dr. Laura Cisneros (NRCA Director) and a graduate student mentor.

 

The projects will be tailored to your unique interests and local community need. The goal is for the project to have a positive impact or benefit to your community (as identified by you and your community partner). How much time you commit to your project can be very flexible to accommodate your schedule, and you can gradually work on your project from July 2022 to March 2023.

 

We make every effort to support students in identifying environmental actions they are passionate about and help students identify potential community partners during and shortly after the field experience. Students are welcome to contact the Laura Cisneros (NRCA Director) at laura.cisneros@uconn.edu to chat about environmental action ideas or potential community partners.

If I’m a high school senior, how can I participate in a CAP-like program?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept applications from students that are currently in 12th grade (planning to graduate in Spring 2022) as CAP participants need to be in high school through March 2023.

 

However, if you are interested in gaining similar field experience, consider applying for UConn's Pre-College Summer Environmental Conservation course, which is taught by NRCA faculty leads, Nicole Freidenfelds and Laura Cisneros. If you have any questions about the PCS Environmental Conservation course, email nicole.freidenfelds@uconn.edu or laura.cisneros@uconn.edu.

I have more questions.

Do you have more questions? Please contact Laura Cisneros (NRCA Director) at laura.cisneros@uconn.edu and she'll be happy to answer additional questions you may have!

CAP At-a-Glance

216

Students

85

Schools

100

Towns

175

Projects

Instructors & Difference Maker Mentors

Name

CAP Role

Position/Affiliation

Environmental Motto & Superpower

LauraCisneros

Laura Cisneros
(she/her/ella)

NRCA Director
Leadership Team

Assistant Extension Professor
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment; Institute of the Environment

Motto: Promoting collective action for environmental conservation & cultural celebration
Superpower: Partnership forger

Freidenfelds

Nicole Freidenfelds
(she/her/hers)

NRCA Program Lead
Leadership Team

Visiting Assistant Extension Educator
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Motto: I brake for snakes!
Superpower: Box turtle whisperer

Chris Cane

NRCA Grad Mentor
Leadership Team

Master's Student
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Motto: Reciprocity, compassion, and cooperation are essential to a thriving ecosystem
Superpower: Curiosity, inquiry, and wonder

person

Leilani Duarte
(she/her/hers)

NRCA Difference Maker Mentor
Leadership Team

Undergrad Student
Natural Resources Major

Motto: Protecting wildlife, protecting ourselves
Superpower: Conducting research related to wildlife

Leah Gichuru
(she/her/hers)

NRCA Difference Maker Mentor
Leadership Team

Undergrad Student
Molecular & Cellular Biology Major

Motto: Conserve the environment that your future generation deserves
Superpower: Ability to network and connect with people from different backgrounds, and communities and bring them together to achieve a common goal

Ilana Goldner
(she/her/hers)

NRCA Difference Maker Mentor
Leadership Team

Undergrad Student
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Major

Motto: Be kind to and care for all things on Earth; from mountains to streams, trees to leaves, gorillas to slugs, and all people
Superpower: Being in awe of the world and sharing its beauty to help people discover their own ways of connecting with nature

Erin McKeehan

NRCA Difference Maker Mentor
Leadership Team

Undergrad Student
Economics & Environmental Studies Majors

Motto: "When you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou
Superpower: Care and connection

Sydney Seldon
(she/her/hers)

NRCA Difference Maker Mentor
Leadership Team

Undergrad Student
Environmental Science & Environmental Policy Majors

Motto: "We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to
be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. We need not wait to see what others do.”- Gandhi
Superpower: Empathetic Connection Architect

CaryChadwick

Cary Chadwick
(she/her/hers)

Geospatial Instructor

Extension Educator
Department of Extension; Center for Land Use Education & Research (CLEAR)

Motto: Maps make anything seem possible
Superpower: Telling you where you’ve been, where you are going, and where your headed…with maps!

Xóchitl A. Garcia
(she/her/ella)

TEK Instructor

Urban Farmer & Agriculture Educator

Motto: Local action, global impact
Superpower: Growing organic veggies and flowers in places that you otherwise wouldn't think, like an abandoned parking lot!

Christine Georgakakos
(she/her/hers)

Water Instructor

USDA Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Motto: Water is a great connector: I strive to ensure that connection remains positive after water interacts with human systems
Superpower: Enthusiasm! (Especially for tea and propagating plants)

AshleyHelton

Ashley Helton
(she/her/hers)

Water Instructor

Associate Professor
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment; Center for Environmental Sciences & Engineering

Coming Soon!

Jacob Isleib
(he/him/his)

Soils Instructor

Resource Soil Scientist
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Motto: Dig soil!
Superpower: Enthusiasm about soils, landscapes and mapping… able to leap small soil pits in a single bound!

TracyRittenhouse

Tracy Rittenhouse

Wildlife Instructor

Associate Professor
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Motto: Animals need space too.
Superpower: Ability to walk through forest at night in the rain and not get lost.

Debbie Surabian
(she/her/hers)

Soils Instructor

CT & RI State Soil Scientist
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Motto: Don’t treat your soil like dirt
Superpower: I heart soil: the best ally in the fight against climate change

JasonVokoun

Jason Vokoun

Fisheries Instructor

Professor and Department Head
Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Motto: A deep understanding of nature only happens when the false barrier between you and it dissolves: for me that happens most with rivers
Superpower: Similar to batman I have no superpower, rather I wield electrofishing technology in the name of conservation…

MichaelWillig

Michael Willig (he/him/his)

Biodiversity Instructor

Professor & Director
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; Institute of the Environment

Motto: Environmental understanding for sustainable future
Superpower: Integrator

EmilyWilson

Emily Wilson

Geospatial Instructor

Extension Educator
Department of Extension; Center for Land Use Education & Research (CLEAR)

Coming Soon!

ThomasWorthley

Tom Worthley

Forestry Instructor

Associate Extension Professor
Department of Extension; Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Motto: We all live in the woods.
Superpower: I know the names of all the trees, how they grow, their ecological and morphological characteristics, where to find them, other trees with which they associate, and their wood qualities.

Program Resources

Before the Field Experience

 

CAP Participant Handbook

Check out the CAP participant handbook with detailed information on the field experience & environmental action project. Includes information on the program schedule, accommodations & facilities, policies and expectation and a packing list.

2022 CAP Participant Handbook

CAP Core Leadership Team

The 2022 CAP Core Leadership Team is comprised of five undergraduate Difference Maker Mentors, one graduate assistant, a program coordinator, and the NRCA director. Information about all the CAP instructors can be found above.

2022 CAP Core Leadership Team

CAP Field Experience Schedule

Take a peak at the summer field experience week!

2022 CAP Schedule

Field Experience Resources

Forestry Traditional Ecological Knowledge Fisheries and Wildlife Water Soil Mapping Biodiversity in the Night Environmental Careers Panel
Water Quality Data Booklet Jumping Worm Fact Sheet (Cornell) Avenza Maps Bat Acoustic Monitoring Field Guide
Stroud Macroinvertebrate Key Biodiversity in the Night Handout and Field Guide
Macroinvertebrate Field Guide Moth Field Guide
Creek Critters Nocturnal Insects Field Guide
Macroinvertebrate App

Project Resources

Conservation Projects

View all the past Natural Resources Conservation Academy projects in one place! Use the filter options to browse projects based on keyword/topic, program, project location and type of technology used.

NRCA Projects

Project Templates

Use our templates to brainstorm, plan & design your own custom-tailored Wildlife Monitoring, Trail Mapping, Invasive Plant Species or Water Quality conservation project. Prefer to think outside the box? Use our Choose Your Own Adventure template!

Project Templates

NRCA StoryMap

An ArcGIS StoryMap showcasing community conservation projects from past Natural Resources Conservation Academy participants and the geospatial tools and technology used to enhance project outcomes.

NRCA StoryMap

Final Project Form

Fill out this short form to provide a summary of your CTP project so we know what you accomplished. It will magically autogenerate a poster of your project that you can then customize and edit with photos and other graphics.

Final Project Form

Communication Best Practices for Teamwork

View

Conservation Projects & COVID-19 Guidelines

View

Poster Templates

 

Expanded Poster Template

Expanded Template

Classic Poster Template

Classic Template

StoryMap Poster Template

StoryMap Template

Webinars

 

Intro to StoryMaps Webinar

View Webinar

Poster Development Webinar

View Webinar

Data Management Webinar

View Webinar

Additional Resources

Connecticut's Changing Landscape StoryMap

Explore 25 years of land cover and land cover change through an interactive ArcGIS StoryMap.

EJSCREEN

The EPA's environmental justice mapping and screening tool.

GIS & Conservation Presentation

Learn about the different ways GIS is important to conservation.

Bat Acoustic Monitoring

Watch this instructional video and borrow our recording equipment to become an expert in bat acoustic monitoring!
Tutorial Video

Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online (CT ECO)

Online maps and tools for viewing CT's environmental and natural resources.
Reference Activity
Visit the CTECO Website

Insta360 ONE X

We can loan you an Insta360 ONE X camera to capture awesome 360-degree images for your project!

Collecting Field Data with Epicollect5

Smartphone App for Apple iOS and Android devices. Design custom data collection forms and collect field data with location information and media.

Reference Guide

Video Tutorials

Finding and Mapping Trails with AllTrails

Smartphone App for Apple iOS and Android devices. Create trail maps, trace custom paths, import and export GPS data.

Reference Guide

Video Tutorials

Mapping Resources

There are a variety of mapping related activities, tutorials, technology guides that will be helpful during and after the field experience.

Resource Collection

Google Maps

Exporting Data from Track Kit & Epicollect5 into Google Maps.

Hands-on Activity

Creating a custom Google Map.

Google Maps Tutorial

Seek by iNaturalist

Seek allows curious naturalists of all ages to observe organisms (plants, animals, insects, etc.) with on-screen identification using computer vision based on data from iNaturalist.

User Guide

ArcGIS Online

Interactive maps create immersive experiences that take maps from a static view to an opportunity for users to explore.

Authoring an ArcGIS StoryMap

Combine your maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content to create compelling, user-friendly web apps.

StoryMap Tutorial

Using the Track Kit App to Collect GPS Data in the Field

Smartphone App for Apple iOS and Android devices. Collect waypoints, tracks and media.

Program Funding

logo
logo

NRCA’s Conservation Ambassador Program (CAP) is currently supported by a generous 5-year donation from the original private family foundation and from a grant (WAMS-2021-38503-34817) from the USDA Women & Minorities in STEM Fields.

 

CAP began in 2011 as the result of a very generous 5-year donation from a private family foundation. Since then, the program has also been supported by the Goldring Family Foundation, the Diebold Foundation, the Peter Grayson Letz Fund for Animals and the Environment, the SURDNA Foundation, and the CT Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation Matching Fund Program. Intramural support for the program has come from the Department of Natural Resources & the Environment, the Institute of the Environment, the College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources, and the Office of the Provost.

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