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Apprentice Ecologist Initiative™

The Apprentice Ecologist Initiative™ (officially recognized by the U.S. EPA) has engaged tens of thousands of young volunteers (kids, teens, and college-age youth) from around the world in environmental cleanup and conservation projects since 1999. This program has received multiple awards from the City of Albuquerque, a "Best Community Impact" award from Eastern Kentucky University, and is featured on thousands of web sites. View recent Apprentice Ecologist Projects and past Apprentice Ecologist Awards to get ideas for your own environmental stewardship project. The goals of the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative™ are to:

  • Elevate youth into leadership roles by engaging them in environmental cleanup and conservation projects,
  • Empower young people to rebuild the environmental and social well-being of our communities,
  • Improve local living conditions for both citizens and wildlife through education, activism, and action.

Here's how to become an official Apprentice Ecologist and be considered for a scholarship:

  1. Conduct your own environmental stewardship project in 2014 .
  2. Take a few digital photos of your project in action.
  3. Write an essay about your project and what it meant to you.
  4. Register and upload your favorite project photo along with your essay.

Examples of projects that other Apprentice Ecologists have completed in the past include:

  • Removing and recycling trash from a local park, river, beach, or other natural area
  • Planting native trees at a school, local park, or in a deforested area
  • Starting a community or school recycling/composting program
  • Protecting a terrestrial or aquatic area for native wildlife
  • Promoting the conservation of an endangered species or area
  • Educating others about wildlife or conservation issues
  • Removing graffiti from natural areas
  • Taking steps to prevent pollution/contamination locally
  • Removing nonnative vegetation so that native vegetation can flourish
  • Improving awareness about the importance of using renewable energy sources
  • Reducing soil erosion by maintaining established trails and closing off short-cuts
  • Assisting the elderly with their yards by planting/maintaining vegetation that provides native wildlife habitat
  • Building a rain garden that utilizes roof runoff to grow vegetation that provides native wildlife habitat

After uploading your project photo and essay, we will publish your work on our Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists and provide links to download an official Apprentice Ecologist heat transfer (for T-shirt). Please only upload an image that you took or one that you have permission to post (this avoids copyright problems). If you do not have a project photo, simply upload the NWP logo image along with your essay. An NWP tote bag (made with organic cotton) will be awarded to the authors of the 10 best essays on an annual basis. School and community groups, especially those working with at-risk and disadvantaged youth, are highly encouraged to participate.

Three scholarships totaling $850 will be awarded annually to the authors of the three best Apprentice Ecologist essays. The top author will also receive a personalized crystal award courtesy of Crown Awards & Trophies. By registering and submitting your essay, you will automatically be considered for a scholarship. Be sure to include your full contact information (always private) when registering so that we can process any scholarships/awards that you may win. Scholarships are available to any student (ages 13 to 21) who is a candidate for a degree/diploma at a primary (middle school), secondary (high school), or accredited post-secondary (undergraduate at college or university) educational institution from any country around the world. The award covers 1) tuition and fees to enroll in or attend an accredited post-secondary (undergraduate or graduate at college or university) educational institution and/or 2) fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for courses. Applicants should embody the spirit of the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative™ by demonstrating personal leadership, initiative, and environmental stewardship in their project. Essays will be judged by a committee of Nicodemus Wilderness Project board members, volunteers, and past Apprentice Ecologist award winners. Please see tips below for additional elements that the committee considers important when judging essays. While there is no minimum/maximum length for essays, most of our past winners have written essays that ranged from about 750 to 1,500 words long. The deadline for uploading your Apprentice Ecologist project essay is midnight GMT on December 31, 2014 . Winners of the annual Apprentice Ecologist Awards will be published online on Earth Day (April 22).

Note: There is a separate Apprentice Ecologist Open Space Initiative scholarship if your project benefitted any lands managed or co-managed by the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division.

Important tips for writing an award-winning essay about your Apprentice Ecologist project:

  1. Briefly describe your personal background and why you chose to do an Apprentice Ecologist project on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project.
  2. Name and describe the area where you conducted your project.
  3. Provide details about what you did and accomplished during your project.
  4. If your project was part of a multi-year effort, focus your essay on the work that you conducted in 2014 .
  5. Describe why you think it is important to take care of the area where you conducted your project.
  6. Explain how your project helps benefit your community and the environment.
  7. Describe how your Apprentice Ecologist Project has helped to enrich your life and what it has inspired you to do in the future.
  8. Check and correct any spelling and grammatical errors prior to submitting your essay.

Important tips for conducting a safe and successful Apprentice Ecologist project:

  1. Listen to weather reports and plan your project accordingly.
  2. Always stay with at least one other person. Teams of three or more are preferable.
  3. Make sure that someone knows where, when, and for how long you will be out.
  4. Look out for poisonous plants, venomous snakes, and stinging insects.
  5. Leave syringes and needles alone! Notify authorities about their location.
  6. Bring or wear: boots, gloves, hat, sunscreen, first aid kit, water, food.
  7. Notify landowners about your plans prior to conducting your project.

If you need help or have questions, you can contact us any time at: mail@wildernessproject.org