MODs (Summer Orientation Modules)

The welcoming and engaging community that we have at YSE is what makes our school truly special, and MODS is really where that sense of community begins to grow.
— YSE alum, and prior MODster

MODs will be held August 8 – August 25, 2022

All incoming master’s degree candidates are required to participate in three weeks of summer orientation modules (MODs) that impart field knowledge and problem solving techniques considered indispensable to students intending careers in environmental science, management, and policy.

Whether you plan to pursue a career in science, land management, conservation, business, policy or education, you will benefit from a basic understanding of field data, the basis for all environmental science and policy.

MODs introduces students to both the collection and analysis of field data and a systems thinking approach that applies to any environmental field.  We do this in two settings: the urban environment of New Haven, and the forested landscape of Connecticut. For some students, this will be new; for others, this will be old hat. Even if students never plan to collect field data again, you will have a better understanding of the usefulness, challenges and limitations of ecosystem analysis.


  1. Introduce students to systems measurement and analysis techniques that are a foundation of environmental science, management & policy.
  2. Build community and a sense of belonging by setting the stage for a diverse, equitable & inclusive community.
  3. Connect personal perspectives and understanding of fellow students to our perceptions of the environment.
  4. Using an EJ perspective, examine how historical patterns and decision-making processes shape present ecological conditions.
  5. Introduce students to the landscape they will be living, studying, and working in for the next few years.
Teamwork is critical to success in any endeavor, and MODs is the place where you first work in teams with your fellow students.  This will prepare you for, and ease your transition into, the intensity of team work on class assignments and projects, and student-led activities at YSE.

MODs are required for all first-year master’s students enrolled in two-year or three-year programs, as well as for the one-year midcareer degree program students, and doctoral students. Waivers may be granted from one of the MODs only upon faculty review and approval of evidence that the student requesting a waiver has acquired these skills through previous course work or professional experience. Nonetheless, we do not recommend you waive MODs regardless of your prior experience – it is seminal to your experience at YSE, particularly for immersion into the YSE community.


There are three interrelated MODs for masters students:
  1. Urban Ecosystem Analysis takes place in New Haven
  2. People and Pathways takes place in New Haven
  3. Ecosystem Science takes place at the Yale-Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut
MOD 3 (Ecosystem Science) requires students to be away from New Haven for 4 days in comfortable but rustic accommodations.
I particularly enjoyed being exposed to the different environments that are an integral part of the full experience as a student at YSE.
— YSE alum, and prior MODster


Connecticut map with MODs sites highlighted
Map of Connecticut with New Haven (NH), Great Mountain Forest (GMF) and Yale-Myers Forest (YMF) highlighted.
Activities within each MOD are for the most part conducted in the field. One of the MODS takes place away from New Haven and requires that students bring sleeping bags; indoor accommodations are available, but those wishing to camp are encouraged to do so. Meals – including vegetarian options – are provided. Students who have specific medical or religious dietary restrictions must make these needs known to the School prior to their arrival so accommodations can be made. Many activities will take place outdoors despite inclement weather.  Weather in Connecticut during August is typically hot and humid, but it can be rainy and cold, especially in the forest – the camps are not heated. So students should come prepared for all types of weather, and bring rain jackets and warm clothes.

Students will be expected to prepare for the following day’s field work with assigned readings. There will be evenings dedicated to instructional activities as well as opportunities for discussions, fun activities, and just ‘hanging out’ with new friends.

Teaching Assistants

The Teaching Assistants (TAs) are all YSE students or recent graduates, who are very enthusiastic about meeting the new students. They are there to help you and answer your questions, not only about the MODS program, but about any aspect of life at YSE.

Health Advisory: Epi-Pen

During each of the three field modules, you will spend significant amount of time outdoors in natural areas. Thus, you may encounter insects, such as mosquitos, ants, ticks and bees. If you have a known allergy to bee stings, please bring  your own Epi-Pen. An Epi-Pen is considered a “controlled substance” and as such, there are strict guidelines to procure only by prescription. Our instructors will only have basic first-aid kits, which will not include an Epi-Pen.