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ESF’s Timbuctoo Climate Science and Careers Summer Institute Provides Educational Path to Environmental Science Careers

SYRACUSE, NY – July 25, 2023 — A new innovative and immersive program created by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is introducing climate science, offering career exploration, and addressing issues of access from an equity and justice perspective for high school sophomores and juniors from New York City.

The Timbuctoo Climate Science and Careers Summer Institute (Timbuctoo Institute) provides opportunities for students while focusing on environmental and social justice issues through the lens of climate change, according to Paul Hai, associate director of the Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb and director of the Institute. ESF is partnering with CUNY Medgar Evers College (MEC) to bring 48 high school students to the Adirondacks and Syracuse for three two-week sessions from July 10 to Aug. 18.

“While immersed in nature learning about environmental science, we hope the experience helps students make connections to the natural world around them and spark ideas for careers they may not have previously considered,” said ESF President Joanie Mahoney.

The Institute’s goals include creating a pipeline of awareness and access to academic and professional careers at institutions, organizations and agencies focused on the environment. This includes working with many partners, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and many of their division, like education, Equity and Justice, and Public Protection, home of Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation officers

"Working to resolve the challenges our society faces - including the cascade of impacts from a changing climate, and addressing systemic environmental and social injustices - requires us to work together across disciplines, communities, and cultures in order to be successful. The Timbuctoo Institute models that type of approach bringing together public institutions and agencies, private organizations and businesses, elected leaders and government, all with the goal of providing information and experiences for youth of today to become the leaders and problem solvers of tomorrow," Hai said.

New York’s Adirondack Park was a cradle of the early civil rights movement, dating back to the mid-1800s. Specifically, Timbuctoo, outside of Lake Placid, was the site of an early black suffrage settlement, one of eight known settlements in the Adirondacks that enabled 3,000 black men to meet the property requirements granting them the right to vote in New York. This history of opportunity at Timbuctoo is honored and celebrated by creating a modern Timbuctoo pipeline to empowerment. The Timbuctoo pipeline will connect youth to opportunities at the intersection of climate science and green careers, preparing them for the threats and opportunities of the 21st century.

The program received public support from the Adirondack Council,  spearheaded by Aaron Mair, and was a focus for support from the state’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus. Senator Zellnor Myrie from Brooklyn and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages were key leaders in securing the funding support to the Institute possible.

Once $2.1 million was secured for the program in last year’s state budget, Hai, along with faculty and staff from ESF and Medgar Evers College created a curriculum for the Institute. Recruitment was also a collaborative effort, and has resulted in participants from across Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens.

The Adirondack Park is a national treasure and its unparalleled mix of natural and human communities is ideally positioned to play a leading role in New York’s effort to combat climate change. To be successful in the fight for climate and social justice, efforts must simultaneously work to better connect communities disproportionately affected by climate change with access to New York’s natural spaces.  The Adirondack Park is central to creating this connection and underpinning New York state’s success in facing these existential challenges. 


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.