Collaborative Research: Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology)

September 1st, 2014 - August 31st, 2020 | PROJECT

Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology) was a summer research experience for New York City youth that focused on strengthening their STEM interest, skills, and ultimately, increasing diversity in STEM fields. Through a partnership between an informal science institution (the Wildlife Conservation Society) and a university (Fordham University), 200 high school students conducted urban ecology research at one of four zoos in New York City under the guidance of STEM mentors. A unique feature of Project TRUE was its near-peer mentorship model, in which university professors mentored graduate urban ecology students, who mentored undergraduate students, who mentored high school students Science research projects focused on urban ecology topics, with high school students identifying their own research questions that were nested within the undergraduate mentor’s larger research question, thereby establishing a sense of ownership. Youth collected and analyzed their own data and the experience culminated in the creation of research posters, with teams presenting their posters to the public at a student science symposium.

This project was funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. We studied the impacts of two key parts of the program – conducting authentic science research and near-peer mentorship – on the STEM trajectories of almost 200 high school students who participated in the program from 2015 to 2018. The research explored short-term outcomes immediately after the program and followed up with students multiple years after participation to understand the medium-term impacts of the experience during and after the transition from high school to college.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Spotlight - Project TRUE: Teens Researching Urban Ecology
Project TRUE Year 1 Poster
Aloisio et al (2018), Pre-college urban ecology research mentoring: promoting broader participation in the field of ecology for an urban future
Project TRUE Year 1 Research Report
Project TRUE Year 1 Evaluation Report
Project TRUE Final Evaluation Report
Project TRUE: Mentor Training Toolkit
Project TRUE: Knowledge Building Report
Real-world connections with conservation science through zoos and aquariums
Project TRUE Video
Effect of Research and Mentoring on Underrepresented Youths' STEM Persistence Into College
An influence among influences: the perceived influence contribution scale development and use
Impacts of a near-peer urban ecology research mentoring program on undergraduate mentors

Team Members

Karen Tingley, Principal Investigator, Wildlife Conservation Society
Jason Aloisio, Co-Principal Investigator
Su-Jen Roberts, Co-Principal Investigator
J. Alan Clark, Co-Principal Investigator
Jason Munshi-South, Co-Principal Investigator
J.D. Lewis, Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL, ITEST
Award Number: 1421017
Funding Amount: 577573

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ITEST
Award Number: 1421019
Funding Amount: 568271


Access and Inclusion: Urban
Audience: Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Programs | Higher Education Programs | Informal | Formal Connections | Park | Outdoor | Garden Programs | Public Programs