Early environmental field research career exploration: An analysis of impacts on precollege apprentices

Susan K. Flowers, Katherine M. Beyer, Maria Pérez, Donna B. Jeffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Research apprenticeships offer opportunities for deep understanding of scientific practice, transparency about research careers, and possible transformational effects on precollege youth. We examined two consecutive field-based environmental biology apprenticeship programs designed to deliver realistic career exploration and connections to research scientists. The Shaw Institute for Field Training (SIFT) program combines introductory field-skills training with research assistance opportunities, and the subsequent Tyson Environmental Research Fellowships (TERF) program provides immersive internships on university field station-based research teams. In a longitudinal mixed-methods study grounded in social cognitive career theory, changes in youth perspectives were measured during program progression from 10th grade through college, evaluating the efficacy of encouraging career path entry. Results indicate SIFT provided self-knowledge and career perspectives more aligned with reality. During SIFT, differences were found between SIFT-only participants compared with those who progressed to TERF. Transition from educational activities to fieldwork with scientists was a pivotal moment at which data showed decreased or increased interest and confidence. Continuation to TERF provided deeper relationships with role models who gave essential early-career support. Our study indicates the two-stage apprenticeship structure influenced persistence in pursuit of an environmental research career pathway. Recommendations for other precollege environmental career-exploration programs are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberar67
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


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