QUEST 2024

three people with butterfly nets on a dirt road

1. FISHAIR: Dive into Form and Function with Machine Learning THIS SESSION IS FULL  

for STEM teachers in grades K-12, July 21 - 26, 2024 (Sunday afternoon 7/21 online and on campus 8:30AM-3:30PM Monday 7/22 - Friday 7/26).

Prior to the discovery of DNA and DNA sequencing, scientists have used visual observations to understand life on Earth. Just as the study of DNA was transformed into Genomics, the study of images is giving rise to a new field, Imageomics. The role of technology in learning has increased drastically, but what is the role of learning in technology? Can computers “see” something in images that scientists are not yet able to? Machine Learning has enabled computers to see the world and sort the most abundant source of information about life - photographic images. Computers dramatically speed up scientists' processes by analyzing vast amounts of data and have the potential to “see” traits that scientists can’t capture. By helping make the invisible, visible, scientists are discovering new biological relationships, asking new questions, and answering questions they could not answer before to better understand the rules of life. In a cyclical manner, computers are informing scientists and scientists are informing computers. A revolution in computational biology is underway.

In science, one of the easiest ways to connect people to nature and how it operates is to explore the feedback loop between “form and function”- form shapes function and function based on environmental circumstances, shapes form. Understanding “form” in the field can be done by visually capturing an organism, such as a fish, through photos then quantifying the traits that define its form. During QUEST, educators will explore the role of machine learning in biology through experiential learning. They will investigate their own questions about local living things through the lens of “structure and function”. In this mini-research experience, educators will venture outdoors to take pictures of fish collected from a variety of water systems, create structured data sets from the images, dive into curated fish images from ‘big data’ fish collections such as FISH-AIR, and collaborate with peer educators. 

We encourage educators to let their sense of wonder lead as they explore the process of scientific inquiry through images! If you ever wondered why fish take on the forms they often do and why these forms often correspond with  particular features of the rivers they inhabit? Or are the forms of predatory fish more or less varied than the forms of the fish they prey on? Or which type of body traits and shapes are most sensitive to the environmental features of a habitat that particular fish live in? If so, then this course is for you!

Join us for this summer’s six-day QUEST program beginning virtually on Sunday, July 21st, and continuing on-campus Monday, July 22nd through Friday, July 26th and follow your curiosities through experiential learning. Seminal readings and discussions with Princeton University’s Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology Emeritus, Senior Scholar | EEB and a member of the Program in Teacher Preparation Faculty Committee and Dr. Leanna House, Associate Professor of Statistics at Virginia Tech(link is external) will provide background information on the emerging new field of Imageomics. We'll collaborate with Scott Collenburg, Senior Fisheries Biologist, New Jersey DEP Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries who will support our field work in NJ. Lead Teachers Helen Corveleyn, Mercer County Teacher of the Year and Hopewell Valley Regional School District STEM Educator, Wahab Ashraf, Science Park High School and 2023 DSST Winner and Dr. Jessica Monaghan will guide you through the learning process and data collection that will culminate with the presentation of your research, giving you a chance to apply this learning experience to enhance your own practice. 

2. Beneath the Surface: Exploring the Hydrologic Cycle, Leveraging Technologies, and Envisioning our Collective Water Future

for STEM teachers in grades 6-12, August 5 - 9, 2024, 9AM-3PM on campus.

Water is the lifeblood of our planet, essential to the survival of all living organisms. Despite its fundamental significance, our understanding of water extends beyond its basic role, prompting us to question and explore its intricate behaviors, anticipate its future availability, and comprehend the intricate web of factors influencing this indispensable resource. During this QUEST program, educators will dive into a week-long experiential learning program designed to deepen their understanding of the critical role water plays in our world and the urgency of effective water management. Participants will engage in lessons and activities that highlight various components of the hydrologic cycle, exploring the interconnectedness of water systems and the profound impact they have on ecosystems, communities, and global sustainability, particularly in the face of climate change. 

Throughout the week, educators will actively participate in hands-on activities that involve collecting and analyzing hydrological data, allowing them to develop practical skills in monitoring variables including soil moisture, snow water equivalent, and groundwater levels. The program will also delve into the application of hydrological modeling, enabling participants to grasp the intricacies of predicting water behavior in different environmental landscapes and how we can use this tool to predict future water availability and behavior. Educators will also explore the integration of machine learning techniques in hydrology, gaining proficiency in leveraging advanced technologies to address contemporary water challenges. By the end of the week, participants will not only possess a comprehensive understanding of the hydrologic cycle but also be equipped with practical tools and knowledge to inspire the next generation of environmentally conscious citizens through their educational endeavors.

This program will be facilitated by Reed Maxwell Princeton University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI), Lisa Gallagher Education and Outreach Specialist, Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center, CEE along with Lead Teacher Heidi Wachtin, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District. With support from Mario Soriano Jr., Postdoctoral Research Associate, HMEI, Elena Leonarduzzi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Research Institute WSL and MeteoSwiss, Amy Defnet, Research Software Engineer, Bill Hasling, Senior Research Software Engineer, and Harry Stone, PhD Student CEE.

3. Climate Change: Exploring Solutions to a Complex Problem

for STEM teachers in grades 6-12, August 19 - 23, 2024, 9AM-3PM on campus.

What is the role of human activity in the changing climate? How do we know if a proposed strategy or solution for minimizing CO2 in the atmosphere will be effective? Climate change is at the forefront of scientific and societal discourse, and its impacts on the planet are more evident each year. As educators we can empower the next generation to make informed choices when responding and adapting to the changing climate. In collaboration with Professor Laure Resplandy, who conducts research on the global carbon cycle and its influence on the Earth’s climate, STEM educators in grades 6-12 can take a deeper dive into the complexities of climate change during this five day QUEST unit. Participants will use climate models to deepen their understanding of climate change as well as assess and compare creative strategies to minimize climate change and global warming. They will collaborate with peers across the state for a hands-on and minds-on learning experience at Princeton University’s campus, including experiments to explore geoengineering solutions using plants to offset the CO2 increase in the atmosphere and solar radiation interaction with the Earth surface. Throughout QUEST, educators will work with cutting edge researchers in climate science and a lead teacher to reflect on their experience as learners and key “takeaways”. 

This program will be facilitated by Prof. Laure Resplandy, Princeton University Department of Geosciences and High Meadows Environmental Institute; Danielle Schmitt and Abigale Wyatt, Princeton University Department of Geosciences; Steve Carson, Princeton Public Schools and formerly with the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; and Lead Teacher Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Hillsborough Township Public Schools.

Registration is now closed

Fee schedule as follows:

  • Early Bird $250 (before 4/26)
  • Full Rate $300

Space is limited and we may not be able to accept all applications. 

In addition to 30 professional development hours, a $150 honorarium will be paid to all teachers upon the completion of each QUEST unit.

QUEST 2024 Sponsors

Thank you Professor Rubenstein and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Professor Leanna House, Virginia Tech Department of Statistics, Professor Reed Maxwell, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Lisa Gallagher, the Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center, Professor Laure Resplandy, the Department of Geosciences, High Meadows Environmental Institute, NSF, and NSF Career Award for their generous support of this year's QUEST programs! 

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A small number of need-based Scholarships are available. Please apply for this opportunity if you are interested in attending and being an active participant at QUEST, but attendance would cause a financial burden.


We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully. To request an accommodation for a disability (e.g. step free access, large print, etc.) or for inquiries about inclusive spaces (e.g. inclusive bathroom, meditation/prayer room, lactation room, etc.), please contact [email protected] or [email protected] at least two weeks prior to attending QUEST.