Teacher Researcher

Applications for summer 2024 now closed. Check back next year!

2023 Teacher Researcher, Victoria Romero, collects pollen from an Echinacea angustifolia plant to assess pollen characteristics in burned and unburned prairies.

Join our team to investigate ecology, evolution, and conservation biology in fragmented tallgrass prairie under the beautiful skies of Douglas County, Minnesota! We explore biological processes in remnant prairies and collect data in 27 long-term experiments. We conduct cutting-edge research on plant populations, insect communities, pollination, prescribed fires, and prairie management. You will be a part of a diverse science team including professors, teachers, and students (undergraduate, graduate students, and high school). You will develop an independent project by building on this ongoing work or branching out in a new direction. You will return to the classroom with a plan and funding to encourage your students with new techniques and experiences gained in the field.

The Echinacea Project is recruiting an enthusiastic K-12 or community college educator for a paid professional development opportunity researching tallgrass prairie during the summer field season. As an NSF-funded RET (Research Experiences for Teachers) participant, you will gain hands-on experience collecting experimental data, ask novel questions by developing an independent research project, and design a plan to bring scientific concepts and methods into your classroom.

Previous RET participants’ projects have included:

  • Designing a lesson plan for students to generate and test hypotheses about plants their natural habitat
  • Developing bee collection methods for secondary and post-secondary classrooms
  • Establishing an experimental prairie restoration for students to develop science skills such as hypothesis testing and data collection
  • Creating an experimentation-based outdoor lesson plan and assessing students’ responsiveness to different learning techniques
  • Constructing a dichotomous key for pollen identification in high school biology classes

If you are interested in research and collaborating with other scientists, please apply! RET participants will receive a stipend, reimbursement for travel costs, and housing near the field site. The dates are flexible based on your school system, but the program generally runs for 6-10 weeks. Previous teacher researchers have often worked from mid-June through August. We strongly encourage educators from underfunded school districts and educators from groups underrepresented in science to apply.

To apply, please download and complete this form and send it to Stuart Wagenius along with your resume. Please arrange for a letter of recommendation to be sent to Stuart as well. Email all application materials to echinaceaproject@gmail.com. Applications for summer 2024 are due by January 5th, 2024. Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and employed as a science educator at a K-12 school or community college.

Britney House (left), RET participant 2022, collects nectar from a flowering Echinacea for her research project. Photo credit: Dr. Rahul Roy

Want to learn more about who we are? Click here to learn about a day in the life of Team Echinacea. Please explore our field blog and follow these links to read blog posts by previous Team Echinacea RETs:

Meet Callin|Meet Greg|Meet Lea|Meet Sara|Meet John|Meet Alex|Meet Britney|Meet Victoria|


Matt (2nd from left) and Lea (center) were RET participants in 2015. Lea continued conducting research with Team Echinacea, and she just earned her PhD at Northwestern University!

“The Echinacea project was great for learning about experimental design and learning techniques for field work that could translate to conducting research in a K-12 setting. Most of the work we do involves low-cost tools and equipment which is perfect for educational settings with no budget for materials.

After a summer with the Echinacea project I felt I was much more equipped to design a project involving real scientific research for my students.

I also loved how the atmosphere of the Echinacea project is community-oriented and breaks down a traditional hierarchy of age and education. Everyone is able to contribute based on the knowledge they bring to the table.”

-Lea Richardson (RET participant 2015)


John (RET participant 2018 & 2019) measures plants in one of our experimental plots with two undergraduate researchers, Jay and Avery

“I’ve gained so much from my summer opportunities there and been able to incorporate lessons into my classroom for my students. I’ve witnessed first hand and helped researchers going the process of actively collecting data and coming to conclusions from their data has been an invaluable experience for me and my students….The students also have the opportunity to design and conduct their own research by asking a question that can be answered by the data they collect on the plots.

For me as an educator, my experience and getting to know other scientists involved with the Echinacea project has provided many opportunities that many kids don’t get to have in a rural public school.”

-John VanKempen (RET participant 2018 & 2019)

Alex (RET participant 2021) takes demography data on a flowering Echinacea


“Not only did I improve my own inquiry and research skills, but I also developed lessons and resources to use with my students and share with other teachers. I also gained a network of people across the country to both collaborate with in future endeavors and to support me in implementing my lessons with my students.

The Echinacea Project encourages ideas and creativity, it is very much a “think tank” type atmosphere. I left the program feeling refreshed, recharged, and excited to teach my new group of students.

I highly recommend considering doing an RET summer with Team Echinacea, it is an amazing experience!”

– Alex Wicker (RET participant 2021)