Student Voices

Visits from local environmental experts.“I have learned so much. I’ve learned how to apply information to the real world and what it means outside the classroom. I’ve learned how much fun environmental science is and the passion people have for it. The number of opportunities are astounding!” – Trevor Hamlett, Jordan High School

“My favorite part of ESSP was going down to the creek [and] finding crayfish, fish, and a lot of salamanders, caddisflies, stoneflies, mayflies. They were all incredible. I could just scoop them up with the d-net and they were all there.”– Justin Witherspoon, Southern School of Engineering

“Our guest speakers have expanded even beyond what we were talking about urban streams and the Durham water system. It was really nice to get this broader view as well as the focused view [on New Hope Creek].” – Katie Reiter-Lavery, Durham School of the Arts

“I had a great time and really appreciate being able to be a participant in this program. I will remember this forever!” – ESSP Student


Our vision is to cultivate environmental leaders in our own community. Durham’s ecotoxicologists, oceanographers, environmental journalists, and civil engineers of tomorrow need high-quality, real-world experience today.

The Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke answers this call. Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment has partnered with Durham Public Schools to select talented high school students in Durham and the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, to participate in a 2-week intensive environmental science program at Duke University. Students selected for our program have the opportunity to:

  • Work with outstanding interdisciplinary faculty
  • Explore local environmental issues
  • Collect data in the field
  • Interact with experts in a range of environmental fields
  • Receive training with the Nicholas School’s own first-rate Career Services professionals
  • Learn to give a presentation, ace an interview, and create a resume
  • Receive one-on-one college counseling

Students participating in the Environmental Science Summer Program (ESSP) at Duke are situated in the heart of main campus. During the program, students experience the Nicholas School of the Environment’s state-of-the-art facilities and Duke’s renowned outdoor laboratory: the Duke Forest. Since 1931, Duke University has managed the  7,000 acre reserve  as a hands-on outdoor teaching and research  facility.

ESSP students also investigate local water quality in New Hope Creek, which dissects Duke Forest and supplies a portion of the Triangle’s drinking water. The creek provides a perfect setting to explore aquatic biology, water chemistry, land use, and environmental justice. With the help of experts from Duke University, the City of Durham, and local conservation organizations, the students analyze water conservation issues, begin their own data collection, and communicate their findings to the public.

With a strong emphasis on career development, the Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke positions students for success in college and careers in the environment.

This program is supported by generous funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and a private donor.