Jupiter High’s JERFSA participates in national, collegiate conference



JERFSA students gather specimens for their environmental research projects.

The Jupiter Environmental Research and Field Studies Academy had seven students selected to participate in an annual event hosted by the American Water Resource Association. Students presented their experiments to expertised college graduates from around the nation via Zoom on Nov. 8.

The students conducted independent studies on the environment and on how it’s affected by a variety of factors, like climate change. JERFSA students were the only high school students selected to attend the conference. 

Mercedes Cassidy, a junior in JERFSA, was excited by everything she learned from the experience and by working with people who are highly experienced in the environmental field.

“The experience was amazing. I am super grateful to have received feedback from field experts and receive guidance from Dr. Thornton,” Cassidy said. 

Dr. Teresa Thornton, a JERFSA teacher, spearheaded the program that allowed students to participate in the national conference.

Cassidy, with the counsel of Dr. Thornton, worked on her research project for the past year and a half and even created additional elements for her independent study once she learned of the opportunity.  

“Once I collected a sufficient amount of academic and field data, I began the application process. The application process included creating an abstract, poster, and a voice recording with my findings and its implications,” Cassidy said. 

The biggest takeaway for Cassidy was realizing there was always more to learn.

“There is always further research; scientific answers always pose new questions,” Cassidy said. 

Parker Cameron, a junior in JERFSA, also participated in the national conference and gained the chance to work with successful people who inspired him to achieve bigger goals. 

“It felt like a huge accomplishment because I was working with people who have gotten their PhDs, and it felt like something special to be a part of,” Cameron said.

Cameron’s project focused on Jonathan Dickinson State Park where he studied for over a year, walking through trails and experimenting with the park’s ecosystem. He focused on areas that had little human interaction.

“It was really cool to see the ecosystem when nobody was there to interfere with it,” Cameron said. 

Dr. Thornton was honored to find out her students were selected to participate in such a competitive event after working so hard on their environmental projects.

“I am incredibly proud of them. They worked very hard, and they were dedicated,” Thornton said. “It’s absolutely amazing.” 

Thornton explained her students had been working tirelessly on their projects to be able to participate in the national conference. 

“Some students started last year and have been working all through summer. It’s been a very long process, but our students spent all summer, every other week, going out and keeping track of this,” Thornton said. 

Additionally, JERFSA was able to collaborate with the International Water Association when working on their studies. 

“The fact that this international association is so supportive of our students and selected them to compete with college students and graduates is just thrilling,” Thornton said. 

Tammy Deleonardo, Jupiter High’s Choice Programs Coordinator, was pleased knowing JHS students were given this opportunity. 

“These students had this opportunity because they are in the environmental academy, you know they’re special because no one else in the country did this, our students did this,” Deleonardo said. “This is very exciting because they are presenting meaningful information that will help them in their future endeavors.”