The Rice University Academies for AP® Teachers offer an opportunity to delve deeply into specific course content with higher education faculty and to connect to their discipline’s current work. This unique professional development model provides teachers the depth of content needed to improve their instruction and increase student achievement.

AP Environmental Science applies concepts from the Life and Earth sciences into human land-use contexts, placing this course at the interface between Science and Social Studies, and requiring students to make meaningful connections between fields of inquiry that are often compartmentalized in high school curricula. This AP Summer Academy will help experienced APES teachers dig deeper into their course content as we hear from college professors about the latest research developments in environmental science, and from prominent area stakeholders and land-managers as they discuss the real-world challenges of applying environmental science principles to real world land use decision-making. APES students are often able to memorize individual science concepts, but they can sometimes struggle when asked to make meaningful connections between complex real-world phenomena, especially when the answers to environmental problems are multi-faceted, and often open-ended. This course will help teachers find ways to bridge this learning gap, increasing student’s success on the AP exam while also building their real-world environmental literacy.

Lead Instructor Biography:

Matt Wells, MEd is an award-winning teacher and educational consultant based in Houston, TX. Having performed ecological research in Madagascar and Guyana, Matt became a teacher in 2001 and launched his school district’s AP Environmental Science program in 2005, where he has taught APES for 13yrs in a low-income urban public school setting. He is a College Board Reader for APES, a AP consultant for the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), a regular conference workshop presenter, and has led several APES workshops for Rice University over the years. Matt has conducted Summer Institutes, Mock Exam Readings, Student Study Sessions and other kinds of AP trainings across the US, receiving numerous awards for his work, including the Texas Chemical Council’s “Award for Excellence in Environmental Education”, the TMA’s “Butler Award for Educational Excellence”, and NABT’s “Outstanding Biology Teacher Award”. He has also been selected as a Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction, “Teacher of the Year” at his High School, and been inducted into his school district’s “Wall of Fame” three times. As a national educational consultant and Past-President of both the Science Teacher’s Association of Texas and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers, Matt has seen many different ways to teach APES around the state and the country. Whether urban or rural, wealthy or in poverty, large or small, Matt believes that APES can be taught effectively in any school setting, and he is passionate about helping teachers develop their programs in ways that that enable them to connect their students to the world around them in meaningful ways, and prepare them effectively for the rigor of the exam.


Guest Speaker Biographies:

Dr. Anna Armitage is an Associate Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston. Dr. Armitage is a community ecologist with research interests in food webs and coastal habitat restoration. The goal of her research is to apply an understanding of coastal ecosystem ecology in order to improve the management of restored and impacted habitats.

Dr. Evan Siemann is a professor in the Biosciences Department at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He received his AB from Cornell University in 1990 and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1997. The focus of his research has been investigating how local environmental factors (e.g. enemies, resources, disturbance regime and recruitment limitation) interact with post-invasion adaptation to determine the likelihood and severity of Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) invasions into East Texas coastal prairie, mesic forests, and floodplain forests. The results of this research have been highlighted in Science Daily, Environmental News Service, and The Sciences. He has also recently begun to explore the ecosystem level impacts of exotic tree invasions into coastal prairies. His research group is also engaged in a number of applied research projects related to controlling exotic plant and animal invasions into Texas ecosystems.

Dr. Adrienne Correa’s lab at Rice applies interdisciplinary approaches to quantify how microorganisms influence hosts and ecosystem-level processes, particularly under environmental stress. Our primary research interests include the diversity and evolutionary histories of marine microorganisms; the context-dependent roles of dinoflagellate symbionts, bacteria and viruses in host health and disease; and the influence of microbes on ecosystem function and persistence.

Diana Foss has guided urban wildlife policy as part of the Wildlife Diversity Program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department since 1993. She also coordinates the Houston Area Bat Team, a group of trained volunteers who monitor bat populations in our region. Ms. Foss has a B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University.

Lisa Gonzalez is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). She is responsible for the strategic direction of HARC and its research programs which are designed to facilitate sustainable management of air, energy and water resources. She served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of HARC from 2012-2016, overseeing the implementation of HARC’s 5-year strategic plan, development of HARC’s communication strategy, a reorganization of administrative operations and the design and construction of HARC’s new green headquarters. In addition to leading HARC, Ms. Gonzalez is active in research focused on the analysis and dissemination of data concerning the health and productivity of Texas Gulf Coast bays, estuaries and watersheds. Her expertise includes analysis of coastal monitoring data sets and the development of indicators and outreach products describing coastal fish and wildlife populations, invasive species, coastal habitats, water quality, freshwater inflows, seafood safety and climate change.

Dr. Tracie Phillips is a senior toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. She holds a B.S. in Bioenvironmental Sciences with a minor in Environmental Soil Science and a Ph.D. in Toxicology from Texas A&M University. Dr. Phillips’ graduate research focused on investigating the genotoxic and carcinogenic interactions of complex polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) mixtures. She has over seven years of experience as a regulatory toxicologist, where she develops effects screening levels, reference values, and unit risk factors for ambient air in accordance with sound scientific principles and agency guidance. She also helps develop media-specific (soil, sediment, groundwater, etc.) cleanup levels and determines the adequacy of data collected for use in risk assessments. She conducts advanced toxicological evaluations to determine potential health risks associated with exposure to environmental contaminants, including health effects reviews of ambient air monitoring data and risk assessments for site remediation. She serves on the USEPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Human Health Regional Risk Assessor Forum's State Coordination Work Group, the Texas Toxic Substances Coordination Committee (TSCC), the Environmental Health and Toxicology Workgroup Subcommittee of the TSCC, and the Texas Environmental Health Institute. She is a current member of the Society of Toxicology, the Lone Star Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology, and the Society of Toxicology Risk Assessment and Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Sections.

Suzanne Simpson oversees the protection and enhancement of BLC’s conservation lands, as well as BLC’s No Child Left Inside environmental education program. She is responsible for assessing the ecological values of new conservation projects and maintaining key landowner relationships. Her stewardship philosophy balances protecting wildlife habitat with the importance of community access to natural spaces. She has a B.S. in Biology from Texas A&M University and an M.S. in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida, where she studied the thermal ecology of an invasive anuran. When she’s not outside working for BLC, she enjoys “herping” (searching for reptiles and amphibians) and hanging out with her ever-growing menagerie of critters.

Becky Martinez oversees land project management and strategic planning for land conservation at BLC. She has a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Florida and an M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries from Texas A&M University. Her previous experience was focused on environmental regulatory compliance, wetlands permitting and mitigation banking. Becky’s goal is to increase and maintain BLC’s preserved lands and reconnect people to the area’s natural beauty. In addition to her love of the local outdoors, she enjoys traveling, working with her hands and playing/coaching/watching soccer.

Jeff Evans is at National Weather Service Houston/Galveston

Dr. Jorge Loyo is the Associate Director of Education at NEWT, Rice University. He joined Rice in January 2016 as a lecturer for the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT), and he became NEWT’s Associate Director of Education in January 2017.  In the latter role, Jorge coordinates and runs NEWT’s REU program.  He developed and runs NEWT’s Core Course, offered to the center’s first-year graduate students.  Jorge collaborates with NEWT’s Innovation Ecosystem Director, and the Student Leadership Council in the planning of educational and professional development opportunities for NEWT graduate students and postdocs.  At Rice, Jorge is an Adjunct Professor in the Civil & Environmental Engineering and Bioengineering Departments, where he developed and teaches CEVE/GLHT 314: Sustainable Water Purification for the Developing World, a project-based course on sustainable strategies for safe water supply in low-income and developing regions of the world.  He advises undergraduate students in other project-based courses at Rice, and he works with the Center for Civic Leadership in the development of activities to promote student community engagement, such as Alternative Spring and Fall Breaks and summer experiences with water-related NGOs in Mexico.  Jorge’s previous research and teaching experience as a postdoctoral scholar (UC Berkeley and Ryerson University) and assistant professor (Monterrey Tech) fall within the areas of water quality assessment, water and wastewater treatment, emerging organic pollutants, and ecotoxicology.  He holds a B.Sc. in Food Chemistry from the National University of Mexico, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Jeff Lindner, (the “Hero of Harvey”), is a Meteorologist at Harris County Flood Control District

Juliana Moore is the Information Specialist at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department- Sea Center Texas

Emily Manderson is the Director of Conservation at the Houston Arboretum

Alizé Carrère is a National Geographic Explorer researching and documenting climate change adaptation in practice. Raised in a house wrapped around a 300-year old oak tree, her childhood primed her for a unique perspective on what it means to respond and adapt to environmental change. After moving to Montreal to complete a B.A. at McGill University in Environmental Sciences and International Development, she spent time living in Panama before returning to McGill to complete an M.Sc. in Bioresource Engineering. During this time, she lived in the Middle East working on water resource management and electronic waste between Israel and Palestine. In 2013, Alizé received support from National Geographic to conduct research in Madagascar, where she spent several months uncovering an unlikely agricultural adaptation in response to severe deforestation. Learning of farmers who were turning erosional gullies into fertile pockets of farmland, her work evolved into a greater story of creativity and resourcefulness amongst the oft-repeated narrative of climate doom. She continues to study innovative adaptations to climate change, and is working on a film project that highlights the remarkable resilience of the human species. The first episode, documenting community adaptations to sea level rise in Bangladesh, won Best Short Film at the New York Wild Film Festival and the Norman Vaughan Indomitable Spirit Award at Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. Alizé is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.

Cindy Wilems is Director of Education at the Galveston Bay Foundation. graduated from Texas A&M University at Galveston with a degree in Marine Biology in 2002. Prior to joining the Galveston Bay Foundation, she taught biology and aquatic science at J. Frank Dobie High School in Pasadena ISD, where she won teacher of the year at Dobie in 2013 and was named a 2015 Leader in Education for PISD. Cindy has always instilled a love for the environment in her students. Her classes participated in Galveston Bay Foundation’s Get Hip To Habitat program, Trash Bash, and Bay Day for 6 years. In 2015, Cindy received the Galveston Bay Foundation Guardian of the Bay award for her work to encourage students to protect Galveston Bay. In 2016, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Missisquoi Valley Union High School in Vermont, her alma matter, for her work in environmental education. Cindy’s goal is to encourage more students to go outside and inspire them to love the environment.


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