The SIFT program is an introductory field skills training program at Shaw Nature Reserve designed to engage teenagers in scientific exploration of the natural world.

Training activities emphasize collaboration, field skills acquisition, and scientific knowledge gain. SIFTers are exposed to a variety of field projects and career field scientists over all four seasons. Participation includes learning and paid fieldwork during the summer and the following school year. Transportation from the St. Louis area is provided.

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The Student Experience

During a one-week training session in June, 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 maps, compass and 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. Teens are paid a stipend for their fieldwork.

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SIFT Participation Timeline

  • December: SIFT application becomes available
  • March: application deadline
  • May: orientation meeting for accepted SIFT participants and parents
  • June: five-day summer training session with overnight Thursday to Friday at the Dana Brown Overnight Center
  • June, July, early August: weekday work opportunities on field research projects
  • August-March: weekend work opportunities on field research projects
  • September: full-day Saturday session
  • January: winter weekend with overnight
  • March: full-day Saturday session

Application information for Summer 2018

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 two teacher recommendations, personal interests, and education/career interests.


  • Application will become available in December 2017.
  • Application deadline is Monday, March 26, 2018.
  • Recommending teachers must submit on-line form by Monday, April 2, 2018.
  • Notification of selection or wait list status will be via email by Friday, April 13, 2018.

Important dates

  • Mandatory orientation for selected and wait listed participants is Sunday, May 6, 2018 from 1:00-2:30 pm at Shaw Nature Reserve.
  • SIFT Training Week is June 18-22, 2018 (with overnight from Thursday to Friday) at Shaw Nature Reserve.
  • St. Louis Green Teen Alliance Career Summit is Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • SIFT Fall Saturday is September 29, 2018 at Shaw Nature Reserve.
  • SIFT Winter Weekend (with overnight) is January 19-20, 2019 at Shaw Nature Reserve and Tyson Research Center.
  • SIFT Spring Saturday is March 2, 2019 at Shaw Nature Reserve.

Questions may be directed to Aileen Abbott.

application deadline is Monday, March 26, 2018