Teens contributing to conservation science

Imagine spending your summer in the forests of Pepperwood helping scientists better understand how our coastal redwoods are responding to a shifting climate. Picture having to lay on your stomach to take a great photo of a sparkling blue beetle.

Every summer this is how over two dozen TeenNat interns do real on-the-ground science at Pepperwood. The TeenNat internship program engages diverse youth in citizen science, provides them with technical skills, and connects them to nature. Interns contribute data to Pepperwood’s Sentinel Site project helping researchers to better understand the distribution of plant and animals populations in Northern California.


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Pepperwood’s nationally recognized five-week TeenNat summer internship gets teens outdoors and introduces them to the world of conservation science.

TeenNat interns learn about ecological concepts like biodiversity and species distribution, and develop valuable skills including data collection and management. Throughout the internship they interact with researchers and other natural science professionals, gaining insights into career pathways.

TeenNat interns collect data, photo by Richard Morgenstein.

ABOVE: TeenNat interns collect data on Pepperwood's redwoods. Photos by Richard Morgenstein.

Making an Impact

TeenNat interns gain valuable, real-world experience in conservation science. During field time, they are given instruction on the use of equipment, plant and animal identification, use of field guides, the nature of scientific inquiry, and wilderness safety. TeenNat interns also learn about natural science careers and the program includes a career day in which interns get to interview professionals. At the program’s close, the interns’ photos are shared via a public nature photography exhibit held in Pepperwood’s gallery.

Data that Matters

TeenNat interns are trained to use digital cameras and Global Positioning System (GPS) units to document plant and animal species and their locations via expeditions on the preserves. Interns learn how to use laptop computers to manage visual, written, and geographical data as they share, verify, and upload their observations to iNaturalist.org, a worldwide database for researchers and the scientific community. Each year, TeenNat interns also contribute critical data to Save the Redwoods League's Fern Watch and Redwood Watch citizen science projects.

Ongoing Mentorship

Upon completion of the summer internship, interns can elect to be part of the TeenNat Leadership Program. TeenNat Leaders commit to a greater level of service by continuing to gather biodiversity data, assisting new interns, participating in other citizen science initiatives, serving as volunteers at Pepperwood events, and writing about their experiences. They take part in other Pepperwood events including our Discover Nature lectures, and the Christmas Bird Count for Kids. They also assist with subsequent internships and help facilitate discussion on our TeenNat Facebook Group.

Virtual TeenNat 2020

As the spread of COVID-19 continued to grow and Pepperwood  remained closed to the public, our education team made the hard decision to transition our summer teen program, TeenNat, to a virtual program for 2020. Virtual TeenNat looked a bit different than a typical year, but the main tenets of TeenNat remain the same: connection to the natural world, connection to science, and connection to each other. These teens explored nature close to home in their backyards, neighborhoods, and local parks.

Virtual TeenNat culminated with student-driven projects including creative short films, nature journals, storybooks, photography, and poetry, as well as trash clean-ups and research projects on plants, animals, and ecosystems they chose to study.  We invite you to explore the diverse gallery of projects the teens completed, and to hear about their work in their own words!

Virtual TeenNat Project Gallery



Inclusion in the Upstream Investment Portfolio

TeenNat was endorsed by Sonoma County's Upstream Investments Portfolio! The Portfolio is a select collection of local, evidence-based programs proven to help eliminate poverty in Sonoma County and ensure equal opportunity for quality education.

How to Apply

We are now accepting applications for 2020!

TeenNat is made possible by the generous support of our members and donors. There is no charge to participate. Teens can apply by filling out an application available below. Applications are generally due in the beginning of April - see flyer below for exact dates and other important information. At the start of TeenNat, youth and their families are invited to take part in an orientation meeting in which new participants can mingle and families can set up carpools.

TeenNat 2020 Flyer     Apply Online Here

Applications for TeenNat 2020 are now due May 1st, 2020.

If you apply online, you'll have the option to save your progress and finish the application later. Or click below to download an application in MS Word format to submit by email or fax.

Download English Application    Download Spanish Application

For questions or issues with the application process, please email teennat@pepperwoodpreserve.org.


Esta pasantía gratis es una oportunidad para un grupo de adolescentes, de 13-18 años de edad para llevar a cabo las ciencias y el arte, mientras que explorar un preservo natural de 3,200 acres. Durante esta programa de cinco semanas los participantes adquirirán los conocimientos ambientales, aprendan habilidades técnicas, estarán activos afuera, y contribuirán a la investigación científica con la ayuda de nuestros científicos.

TeenNat: Fechas, horarios e información

No se preocupe si no tienes un paseo en coche. ¡Vamos a ayudar a establecer coche compartido para todos!

Para aplicar

Por favor llene completamente la aplicación electrónica que se encuentra abajo o puede descargar, imprimir y envíelo a Pepperwood antes del 1 de mayo.

Aplica Aquí   Descargar la aplicación en español

Para más información envia un correo electrónico a Nicole: nbarden@pepperwoodpreserve.org.

Se habla español y ingles.