Environmental Science

COST: $4,600
DATES: July 1-21, 2018

The Hotchkiss Summer Environmental Science program is a cumulative, field-based, two-tier program that introduces key concepts in environmental science and encourages students to become stewards of natural resources on a local, national, and global level. Hotchkiss’s 800-plus acres of woods, pastures, streams, and lakes offer incredible opportunities for hands-on research.

Students are welcome to apply to either level of study, or to repeat a course from previous years.

Levels of Study

Fundamentals of Environmental Science

Students learn the fundamental concepts and practices of environmental science. By developing crucial analytical skills in the field and in the lab, students grow and eventually put their coursework into practice. Students also learn how to use journals effectively as a way to document their observations through collecting, writing, and sketching. Students will spend time working and analyzing the various ecosystems of northwestern Connecticut.

Environmental Science Advanced Practicum

Students who have completed any of the Environmental Science Portals or who have had a previous field experience in environmental science or ecology are invited to join us for the Environmental Science Advanced Practicum. Under the guidance of Portals scientists, advanced students will put their experience, creativity, and curiosity to work as they explore our fields, forests, streams, and wetlands with the eye of a field biologist, uncovering engaging questions and developing a research plan. Through total immersion in an ecological problem and under the mentorship of ecologists Heather York and Chris Tripler, advanced students will contribute to existing projects and do their own research in the field and in the laboratory. Students will design experiments, collect and analyze data, and present their findings to our community. Guided by experts in field ecology research, practicum students will learn to think like and do the work of young scientists.


James Serach

Environmental Science Program Director

James Serach is the pre-K-12 Science Department Chair at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, CT. Prior to working at Greens Farms, he held the Aldo Leopold Chair for Distinguished Teaching of Environmental Science and Ethics at The Lawrenceville School. Serach’s teaching experience ranges from Advanced Placement Environmental Science, biology, chemistry, through numerous electives that include microbiology, geology, tropical biology, and limnology. Serach has the privilege and opportunity to work closely with other teachers from across the country to develop curriculum; discuss teaching and learning; and to observe, reflect on, and critique teaching methods. How to teach and how students learn, outside in the field, is of particular interest to Serach.

He received a B.A. in Chemistry from Potsdam College of Arts and Sciences in 1980 and M.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque in 1985, with an emphasis on the physiological ecology of bats. He partially completed a Ph.D. program in biology at Boston University.

Serach has been deeply involved with the A.P. Environmental Science curriculum since this program began in 1998, as a workshop consultant and instructor, table leader and question leader for the exam reading, He redesigned Lawrence Academy’s science curriculum and conceived of and led several tropical field study courses at Lawrence Academy and The Lawrenceville School.

A scholar of tropical ecology and bat biology for decades, Jim has conducted field research, created curriculum, and led numerous workshops and presentations. His academic travels, for research and leading groups of students, include much of Central and South America, Ghana, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar, Cuba, and Papua New Guinea. His courses are always student-centered and place-based, designed to emphasize skill development and genuine inquiry. He aspires to achieve scientific literacy in all students while including significant laboratory and field components, emphasizing inquiry-based learning, interpreting and collecting data, and using case studies.

Judith Crouch


I teach Nature Journaling and Drawing in Year 1. As a maker of objects, I have kept research journals most of my life. Recently, my journals have formed a substantive part of my work. Other work includes ceramic sculpture, drawing and painting. I have an MA Ceramics from the University of Wales in Cardiff and have studied Fine Art and Education at the Universities of kwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town in South Africa and St. Martins College, Lancaster in England. I was born in South Africa and have lived and worked there and in Botswana, England, Wales and the United States. I have worked at the Maru a Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana; Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts; Atlantic College in Wales; and the Hotchkiss School, where I lived from 2007-2013. I have taught on the Summer Portals program for the last four years.

Place is fundamental to my work; local, community and ecological politics absorb me and I am acutely aware of my immediate natural environment, weather conditions and issues of conservation and sustainability. As a young student in Cape Town, I lived and worked on a communal organic farm and, later, my family and I spent many of our holidays in Botswana camping in the wilds of the Kgalagadi desert and the Okavango Delta, where you have to take with you all your water, food and fuel. Nowadays, I keep bees and protect them from bears. I run and hike and, last summer, I walked Offa’s Dyke—a 200 mile trail that follows the border between England and Wales. I plan to walk parts of the Appalachian Trail this spring. Much of my time is consumed by my work as a director on the board of Women’s Support Services, the local organization that addresses domestic violence. The practice of keeping a journal is a discipline that allows me to thread a daily narrative of enquiry and reflection through the various adventures of my life.

Heather Krieger

Heather Krieger joined the Portals program in 2013 and has taught Aquatic Ecology for the Fundamentals of Environmental Science program since 2016. A native of New York, Ms. Krieger attended Hotchkiss herself and has a special place in her heart for the campus community.

Passionate about closing the achievement gap and rooted in the desire to ensure all students have access to a quality science education, she began her teaching career as a Teach for America corps member. Ms. Krieger taught middle school science in Massachusetts for three years, and is particularly interested in infusing her interests in environmental justice and field-based education into urban school environments. She will soon be transitioning out of the classroom to help coach and mentor new teachers.

Ms. Krieger has her Masters in Education, Curriculum and Teaching from Boston University and her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Biology from Hamilton College. A lover of all things outdoors, Ms. Krieger is happiest when she is outside and enjoys yoga, hiking, and discovering new restaurants.

Michelle Ruby


Ms. Ruby returned to her alma mater in 2003 to teach science in the Ninth Grade Program and coach in the outdoors program and the girls’ ice hockey program. She is now teaching AP Environmental Science and heads up the school’s sustainability committee. During her short break from Lawrence Academy, she attended Williams College, graduating in 2002, and worked at Boston University’s Sargent Center for Outdoor Education in Peterborough, New Hampshire. At Sargent Center, she taught environmental lessons and facilitated high-ropes courses. She works at LA to bring some of the experiential elements of her camp lessons into the classroom. A lover of the outdoors, Ms. Ruby has gone on several backpacking trips in the Southwest and completed a 100-mile bike ride along the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

Christopher Tripler


Heather York


Heather York is a tropical animal ecologist whose research and teaching focus on ecology, evolution, conservation biology, mammals, birds, and arthropods. She has worked extensively in Central and South America on the ecology of leaf-nosed bats, and one of her current projects is the development of a dichotomous key to the bats of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. She is also interested in the use of stable-isotope and molecular techniques in addressing questions in organismal ecology.

Dr. York is a field biologist who has worked extensively with students of all ages in both tropical and temperate ecosystems. She has been a professor of zoology for the last nine years, first at Doane College and then at Buena Vista University. Additionally, she has taught several field courses for the Lawrence Academy and the Lawrenceville School. In 2015, she joined the Hotchkiss Portals Program as an instructor of its second-year environmental science program. We are pleased to welcome her back in 2016 to lead the capstone course of this program, which will include field and lab work and discussions of a variety of biological and environmental topics.

In addition to her skills as a teacher and researcher, Dr. York also serves on the Board of Directors for the North American Society for Bat Research, for which she leads its Education and Outreach Committee. She also has a background in Spanish linguistics and is a nature photographer whose photos have appeared internationally in newspapers, magazines, and books. Her latest endeavor is learning Kenpo karate.