BIO-RETS: Urban Ecology Research and Environmental Justice

Summer Research Experience for High School Science Teachers

The University of Louisville is recruiting high school biology and/or environmental science teachers to participate in a National Science Foundation-funded Project: Urban Ecology Research and Environmental Justice. Upon application, eight applicants will be selected to participate in a research-based, immersion experience in June/July 2024 with biologists at UofL that can be applied to local issues of environmental justice. Teachers will engage with and learn from urban ecology researchers and experts in environmental justice that will help them:

  1. infuse their curriculum with immediately relevant environmental justice issues
  2. develop a stronger understanding of empirically derived evidence and critical science literacy, and
  3. Build professional community with other teachers and researchers.

Professional learning will also incorporate key aspects of the Next Generation Science Standards and experimental design. Project sessions will include a mix of individual and cohort-based learning experiences.

Over the course of the fellowship, selected participants will receive in total, a $9000 stipend for their efforts along with $750 for classroom materials. Support will also be provided for travel to the National Science Teachers Association conference.

Register with ETAP (Personal Information, Demographic Information, etc.) and submit your application at:

Note: the application includes 3 ‘essay-style’ questions the project team will review.

Initial DEADLINE for full consideration is March 17, 2024.

Notification of Acceptance will be March 22, 2024.

Please contact Dr. Justin McFadden ( with any questions.

Further information about the project can be viewed HERE

In this BIO-RETS Project

  • 6-weeks working on site at the University of Louisville as part of a biology research team that culminates with a poster presentation at a campus-based research conference.
  • Exposure to a range of topics and approaches to studying urban ecology research within local and global issues of environmental justice.
  • Professional learning centered on building pedagogical skills for creating and facilitating opportunities for students to engage with authentic science practices and connecting research experience to teaching practice.
  • Ongoing professional development and support during the school year to implement summer learnings.

Research Labs

  • Urban habitat quality and songbird physiology with Dr. Mikus Abolins-Abols.
    • Research conducted by teachers will focus on testing the effect of anthropogenic disturbance on songbird stress physiology and assessing how variation in urban habitat quality affects songbird health, stress, and reproductive indices. Teachers will use a combination of experimental and correlative approaches; both field-based and within the laboratory. Teachers
  • Effects of pollution on cave salamanders in urban green spaces with Dr. Perri Eason
    • Teachers will design experiments that use field methods to examine the impacts of Louisville’s very strong local urban heat island on cave salamander behavior and predict the effects of more general global warming on salamanders
  • Drivers of greenhouse emissions in aquatic systems with Dr. Andrew Mehring.
    • As human populations have grown, more reservoirs have been created to provide water or energy resources. These water bodies contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, especially when located near urban areas. Teachers will compare emissions and uptake of greenhouse gases in ponds and reservoirs with differing water quality. Within each site, they will examine the contributions of floating and emergent plants, algae, and open water to GHG emissions and carbon storage.

Project Team

Linda Fuselier

Linda Fuselier is a Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biology Department. I am interested in the intersection of science education with science studies and inclusivity in the classroom and laboratory. My background is in evolutionary biology, fish biology and plant ecology. Although my research has turned toward biology education, all of my work is informed by content knowledge in biology, making my research “discipline-based education research” (DBER).

Justin McFadden

Justin McFadden is a science education faculty member who has worked with pre-service and in-service science teachers within Jefferson County Public Schools and across the state of Kentucky for several years. His scholarship investigates: (1) how various supports for teachers can be leveraged to enact appropriate and necessary instructional change, and (2) the influx of STEM-integrated learning experiences in science education

For Further Information, Click Below


  • Teachers must have taught for at least two years by the end of the 2023-2024 school year.
  • Applicants must hold a current Kentucky teaching credential for science at the secondary level.
  • Teachers must be committed to teaching science to students in at least one grade level for the 2024-25 school year.
  • Applicants teach within the greater Louisville metropolitan area (preferably within Jefferson County Schools) and are able to commute to the Louisville campus daily in the summer

We are particularly interested in teachers who:

  • work with historically marginalized and underserved students.
  • work in under-resourced schools, including those in rural and urban communities.
  • are committed to disrupting systemic inequities in their science classrooms.
  • want to engage in the translation of cutting-edge research into meaningful learning experiences for their students.


How are participants compensated:

  • Participants are eligible for a variety of financial support including:
    • Up to $9,000 in stipends paid throughout the program.
    • $750 in the 2024-2025 school year to be used for materials, equipment, software, or other supplies for developing classroom instruction and experiments.


What participants will be committing to if selected for the 2024-2025 program:

  • Summer research experience that runs from 6/03/2024 - 7/26/2024
    • Spending ~20-25 hours per week working on a collaborative research project.
    • Spending ~8 hours per week preparing for and participating in professional learning sessions.
    • Spending ~10-12 hours per week developing a curriculum that incorporates their research experience into classroom instruction
  • Presenting research at a poster symposium in late July.


How will I spend my time in this program if I’m selected?

  • During the 6 week summer experience, you’ll spend about 20-25 hours per week working on your research project, and you will spend ~15 hours a week engaged in building your pedagogical skills and creating activities to take back to your classroom.
  1. Research Experience with an Biologist, as an Biologist: The primary purpose of the project is to have you engage in urban ecology research with a faculty member (i.e., professor) from UofL. Each faculty member (or mentor) has a specific area of research expertise that two of you will be partnered with – 4 mentors total with two teachers per mentor (8 total teachers). You’ll be introduced to each mentor and their research area in the first week and will be asked to select your preference of mentor/research area. We’ll try and accommodate your preferences as best we can. Depending on the project you are assigned to, your experiences may vary. You’ll be provided the opportunity to understand and engage in real-world, hands-on research with a knowledgeable mentor. These experiences will take place in a laboratory and/or field-based setting and your mentor will properly introduce you to the project, setting, and additional personnel.
  2. Environmental Justice Presentations: Lead by a team of faculty from English, Geography, Nursing, and Biology, teachers will learn about environmental justice issues in Louisville. From these experiences, teachers will develop multi-dimensional curriculum that draws on elements from their professional learning (e.g., via various workshops) and research experiences.
  3. Professional Learning: You’ll be engaged in what’s commonly known as teacher professional development (PD) during specific days. During these times, you’ll be engaged in professional learning related to any of the following topics: NGSS-aligned instruction, curriculum development, or science/engineering lesson examples.

Would I need to commute to Louisville every day during the summer experience?

  • You’ll be working in your lab ~4 days per week. You will coordinate with your mentor about the specific times and days that you are in the lab.
  • For ~1-2 days a week, we will be doing professional development on campus.

Would I need to pay for parking when I come to campus?

  • You will need to pay to get to campus. If you choose to drive to campus, we will provide you with a parking pass for the summer.

Why does this program continue during the school year, if the research experience ends during the summer?

  • We firmly believe that transformative professional development is on-going, and we want to support you when you apply what you’ve learned in the summer to your classroom practice. We also know that the school year is busy, so we will only engage in ~6 hours of contact over the school year.