Program and application information

The Shaw Institute for Field Training (SIFT) program is designed to engage St. Louis area teens in scientific exploration of the natural world. It is an introductory field skills training program that also provides exposure to the environmental biology research career path. SIFT is part of a collaborative educational partnership between Shaw Nature Reserve and Tyson Research Center, the environmental field station of Washington University.

Applicants must submit a complete application form by Monday, March 27, 2017.

Once an application is submitted, recommending teachers will be emailed instructions for access to an on-line recommendation form. Teachers must submit their recommendation forms by Monday, April 3, 2017.
The SIFT program is a summer field training experience at Shaw Nature Reserve combined with additional training and field work activities during the following school year.

During the one-week June training session, teens are introduced to a variety of Missouri ecosystems and gain skills necessary to conduct field research, including plant and animal identifications, biotic sampling and census techniques, testing of abiotic factors, and training in the use of GPS. 

During the rest of the summer and school year, teens are involved in important research and restoration activities at Shaw, Tyson Research Center and other field research sites in the St. Louis area. Fieldwork opportunities may include invasive species management, prairie reconstruction, plant and animal inventories, and prescribed burns.

SIFT participants are paid a stipend for their work. Daily transportation to and from Shaw Nature Reserve is provided for scheduled program dates. Transportation to field work opportunities is often available.

Participation in the SIFT program for 2017-18 entails ALL of the following activities:
  1. Attendance at the SIFT orientation session on Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm;
  2. Completion of the one-week summer field training program (including an overnight from Thursday to Friday) from June 12-16, 2017;
  3. Attendance at two all-day Saturday sessions during the 2017-18 school year on September 23, 2017 and March 3, 2018;
  4. Attendance at the SIFT Winter Weekend (including overnight) from January 20-21, 2018; and
  5. Participation in field project opportunities during summer 2017 and school year 2017-18, for which teens will be paid a stipend.
There are limited spaces available in the SIFT program. While we strive for a mix of teens from across the St. Louis metropolitan area, we are particularly interested in receiving applications from teens who live in North St. Louis City and County. Participants are selected based on teacher recommendations, personal interests, and education/career interests.

You will be asked to answer the following questions as part of the application. Your well-crafted and thoughtful answers to these questions will help us in the selection process. It is strongly suggested that you draft your answers in Word, Pages, or GoogleDoc and save to your local computer. You may copy and paste your final answers into text boxes within the application.
  • Why do you want to participate in field research experiences?
  • How will participating in field research experiences benefit you? What will you do with the skills/information you gain?
  • What characteristics or qualities do you possess that will contribute to the success of group projects and interactions during field research experiences? Please list these and explain why they are important.
  • What are some of your educational and career interests? What has inspired these interests?
  • Please list any volunteer activities, group programs, youth organizations, and/or environmental programs in which you have participated, and briefly describe your experience.
  • Please describe any job experiences you have had (including babysitting, mowing¬† lawns, etc.).
  • Please list any extra-curricular activities (sports, band, etc.) that may interfere with your participation in the SIFT program and explain how you plan to balance everything.
You will be asked to provide contact information for two teachers willing to provide reference for your engagement in science and/or environmental related activities at your school. Each teacher will be emailed instructions for access to an on-line recommendation form that s/he must submit by April 3, 2017 in order for your application package to be considered complete. You are strongly encouraged to speak with these teachers about your interest in the SIFT program prior to submitting your application.

Application deadline is Monday, March 27, 2017.
Recommending teachers must submit on-line form by Monday, April 3, 2017.
Notification of selection or wait list status will be via email by Friday, April 14, 2017.
Mandatory orientation for selected and wait listed participants is Sunday, May 7, 2017 from 1:00-2:30 pm.
Training week is June 12-16, 2017 (with overnight from Thursday to Friday).

Questions may be directed to Lydia Toth via email at lydia.toth[at]