A public garden & cultural center

Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship

Become a WERM!

Wave Hill’s Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship Program offers a unique opportunity to experience a whole new type of learning adventure. This new, 14-month program enables motivated New York City high school students to take two free college courses and conduct important field research with working scientists―all while getting paid! 

The program begins with immersion in science and field research. During the first summer, students spend two days a week taking two courses at Lehman College, and three days a week at Wave Hill completing ecological data collection projects.  After the summer, students spend the academic year learning additional research methods by working with a team of field scientists, restoration specialists and Wave Hill staff.

Toward the end of the academic year, students will be paired with a mentor, under whose tutelage they will design a relevant research project. This project will be completed during the second summer, working closely with their mentor.

The deadline for the 2014-2015 program is Sunday, April 6, 2014.

July 2014–August 2015

  • Summer 2014: 4‒5 days per week for approximately 30 hours per week  
  • Academic Year 2014-2015: 4‒5 days per month for approximately 5 hours per week
  • Summer 2015:  4‒5 days per week for approximately 30 hours per week 


  • Currently enrolled in the 10th or 11th grade in a high school in New York City  (9th graders demonstrating exceptional academic achievement may be considered)
  • Strong interest in science research and the urban environment
  • Strong academic record, especially in the sciences
  • Ability and motivation to work independently
  • Must meet STEP requirements.  Learn more about STEP here.

Program Benefits

  • Total stipend: $1,200
  • Six college credits
  • 30 hours of community service (with opportunities to earn more)
  • Merit scholarships for exemplary work
  • College counseling
  • Career advice and alumni network

Program Description

Summer 2014: Lehman College Coursework, Introduction to Field Work and Data Collection

During the first summer WERMS take two college courses—Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Environmental Conservation—at Lehman College. As part of the courses, students  come to Wave Hill three days a week to collect data in our woodlands. Students use this data to complete final projects for both courses, creating an exciting and hands-on learning experience.

On Wave Hill days students participate in restoration field work projects with interns in Wave Hill’s ongoing, signature Forest Project Summer Collaborative program. Time at Wave Hill also includes guest speakers, learning activities and review sessions for tests and quizzes. By the end of the first summer, students will have had significant exposure to forest ecology, standard methods for data collection and the use of GIS as a tool for scientific inquiry and analysis.

Learn more about the Environmental Conservation Course (pdf)

Learn more about the Geographic Information Systems Course (pdf)

Academic Year 2014–2015: WERMShops and Ecological Monitoring in RIverdale Park

The academic year will be dedicated to helping students build an understanding of the methodology used to engage in scientific research, as well as knowledge of the ecology of New York City’s woodlands. There will be a series of “WERMShops”—educational activities taking place on weekends and occasionally afterschool. The purpose of the WERMShops is to expose students to local natural areas and to working scientists, while teaching them skills like reading scientific journals, data collection methods, GPS and GIS.  Some examples of WERMShops include:

  • Water testing in Newtown Creek
  • Assessing tree health in Newtown Creek
  • Canoeing the Bronx River to learn about ecological restoration projects
  • Hiking in Black Rock Forest
  • Environemtnal ethics discussion with working scientists

Students also participate in an ecological monitoring project at Riverdale Park. This is a dynamic, hands-on experience.  Using techniques they learn from the WERMShops, students collect a variety of data that will contribute to existing research efforts in the park. Some of the work will be independent in nature and some will involve the whole group. During this phase, students will be asked to reflect on the data, and will begin to pose scientific questions they may want to look at more closely.

Before the start of the second summer, all the students in the program will be split into small teams and then thoughtfully paired with a mentor. They will meet with the mentor several times to identify an area of interest, and lay the groundwork for their final project. The goal is to make sure each group is ready to hit the ground running for the start of their final summer.  

Learn more about WERMShops (pdf)

Summer 2015: Mentor Pairing and Culminating Project

In this final phase, students devote their time to working on their research projects with their mentors. Projects will vary in location, time frame and focus. For example, a project might be heavily GIS-oriented and involve significant time in the computer lab, or it may require additional data collection at a different natural area in New York City. WERMS will meet with their mentors at least once a week. Students will be expected to spend at least an additional 10-15 hours a week working on their project with their team.  

Wave Hill staff will be available to assist the students with projects, and weekly meetings will be scheduled to monitor progress. Students will have access to Lehman College computer labs, as well as Wave Hill equipment. Their research will culminate in a final poster or paper, which they will present in a formal symposium.


The WERM Program is made possible by a grant from The Pinkerton Foundation.