Northwest Volcanology

Field Volcanology and broader igneous geology in Oregon and SW Washington.

Starting location: UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Eugene, Oregon (June 23rd)

Ending location: UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Eugene, Oregon  (July 5th) 



Crater Lake, the now water-filled caldera of Mount Mazama. (Photo credit Marli Miller)

Head out for a two week trek into Oregon, SW Washington, and Northern California as we explore the volcanic geology of the Pacific Northwest! Students will work with professional volcanologists (volcano scientists) out in areas of active ongoing research. This will include in-depth exploration of volcanic geology, tools used to conduct research, and how data is collected in field settings! Students will learn how volcanic geoscience is investigated in lab facilities in the University of Oregon Earth Sciences Department, including interacting with graduate students and faculty. A variety of field areas will be visited over the two week program, exploring numerous eruptive sites from massive lava floods to the cores of ancient long-dead volcanoes. We’ll also be making stops at world-famous volcanoes Crater Lake and Mount St. Helens! Join us as we explore igneous geoscience, and how it played a key role in shaping the landscape, fossil record, and modern ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest and beyond!

This program is unique in the whole of the US, being offered to high school students through two public research university museums.

The FHSU Sternberg Museum is thrilled to offer this program in cooperation with the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History!


Volcanologist, doctoral researcher (University of Oregon), NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Instructor: Michelle Muth
Michelle is a doctoral researcher at the University of Oregon. She studies volcanology and geochemistry. Before coming to Oregon in 2015, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Earth Science from Rice University in Houston, TX. During her time in Houston she worked as an outdoor guide and educator, sharing her love of camping and hiking with students and families from all around the city. After graduating she spent a year working as a geoscientist in an environmental consulting firm located in her hometown of Philadelphia before moving to Oregon to start her doctoral research. At UO she uses natural rock samples to study how magmas form beneath volcanoes in the southern Cascades. She is a published researcher who was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2016. When she’s not polishing, analyzing, or writing about rocks, she enjoys baking, catching up on her favorite reality TV shows, and spending time outside.




Camps Director, science educator, paleobiologist

Instructor: David Levering (Certified Wilderness First Responder)
David joined the Museum staff in 2013. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelors degree in geology in 2007. He also worked as a teaching assistant in the Zoology department at Oklahoma State University from 2010 to 2013, where he graduated with a Master’s of Science. Before coming to the Sternberg, David spent seven summers working in the youth science camp industry. He also worked three summers with the National Park Service at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in southern Idaho. There, he carried out paleontology field and lab work and worked with kids showing them geology and paleontology. He is a published researcher, collaborating with professional academics on work focusing on mammal paleobiology and mechanics. David manages the entire camps program, and oversees program logistics and curriculum design.




Geosciences student, camps alumnus

Teaching Assistant: Marjie Cone (Certified Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard)
Marjie is a student at University of Illinois, majoring in Geology with emphasis on paleontology. Marjie has had a lifelong love of fossils and minerals, leading her to pursue geoscience as a career path. During the summer, Marjie works as a camps program assistant in the field and in the office, working with students and managing logistics. During the school year, Marjie helps with the development and improvement of the camps program. In her own words: “I began my affiliation with the Sternberg Museum in 2015 when I was looking for some way to gain experience in the field, and found the Sternberg’s summer science camps. I participated in the paleontology field camp as a sophomore in high school and I loved it so much that I have been returning for the past two summers as a camp counselor/ teaching assistant. These camps are more than just a fun experience, but a unique educational opportunity that has enabled me to expand my horizons and give back to the scientific community.”

Campus Lab Work

Students will work in UO Geosciences lab spaces to investigate the essentials of volcanology, and where is stands in the broader field of geology. Using special microscopes, students will learn to identify common mineral components of volcanic rocks, and what those minerals can teach us about the conditions of that volcano, and even particular eruptions! Identification of volcanic rock types in hand-sample will prepare students for the field components of the camp. 

While on campus, students will get to visit active igneous geoscience (a broad field of geology that includes volcanology) research labs to chat with faculty and graduate students about their work. This will give students a look at the kinds of questions being explored by researchers, and some of the more advanced equipment they use to investigate those questions. 

Mount St. Helens

View of Mt. St. Helens stratovolcano from near Johnston Ridge Observatory, Washington. Photo shows the crater, lava dome, and devastation area from the 1980 eruption. (photo by Marli Miller)

Mount Saint Helens‘ 1980 explosion is one of the most notable volcanic eruptions in recent history, particularly in the United States. The blast it generated leveled an entire forest, with further long-term environmental impacts beyond the destructive eruption itself. Ash from the eruption fell as far west as  North Dakota, and as far south as Colorado! Students will have a chance to visit this incredible volcanic site, and explore the Mount Saint Helens National Monument area and the associated Johnston Ridge Observatory. Using roadcuts and hiking trails, students will be guided through reassembling the geologic history of this incredible volcano. 

Volcanics of Eastern Oregon

Obsidian flow outcrop. (Photo credit Marli Miller.)

Eastern Oregon is an area rich with volcanic geology! From the massive obsidian site at Newberry Caldera, to the basalt rock landscape of Cove Palisades State Park, students will have the opportunity to visit some of the most spectacular volcanic sites in the United States. Atthese sites, students will be guided through past localeruptive conditions and how they can be interpreted in the rocks visible today. 

Smith Rock State Park, in eastern Oregon. (Photo credit Marli Miller.)

Cascades and Crater Lake

Crater Lake, the now water-filled caldera of Mount Mazama. (Photo credit Marli Miller)

Turning southwest, the group will head back into the Cascade Mountains to visit Crater Lake National Park. The volcano itself, Mount Mazama, was blown apart in a massive eruption approximately 7,700 years ago. This is quite different from the massive lava flow deposits seen in eastern Oregon. Students will learn about geological interactions in the Earth’s mantle that can affect volcanoes, and practice field observation and research skills used to unravel the secrets of such explosive eruptions.

Research Labs and Lassen Volcanoes

In week two, students will get a chance to visit research labs in the University of Oregon Department of Earth Sciences. Here, they’ll get a chance to see tools and techniques used by geoscience researchers once they return from the field with their samples! From super high-powered electronic microscopes to lasers that help determine a rock’s chemical makeup, this is sure to be a fascinating, eye-opening experience for the students. 

Our last major stop is at Lassen Volcano National Park, home to instructor Michelle Muth’s research field area. Students will work on advancing their geology field skills by exploring and documenting volcanic features in and around the Park, using lessons from the rest of camp to solve more advanced questions, and practice their newly gained field skills at an active research site.


Additional Information and Logistics

Drop off is 8:00am on the first day at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History (UO MNCH).
Pick up is by 5:00pm on the last day at the UO MNCH, unless other specific arrangements are made well in advance with Camps staff. 

Please see Frequently Asked Questions for information about attending the camps for out of state students.

You can follow along with our camp programs on Twitter and Instagram at @SternbergCamps.

Application Requirements

  • All application materials must turned in no later than May 14th, 2019. (But, the see the Admission Decision Schedule tab below for our four application and admission periods from February to May.) 
  • Student applicants must be ages 14 to 18 as of June 2019.
  • Complete online application.
    • To do this, you will need to set up an account with CampDocs. You can do this by clicking the link above. Once this is done, you’ll be able to log back in to your account as you complete the application process. 
    • The waiver can be found in the online application. 
    • The financial aid application can be found in the online application.
  • 2 page (5-7 paragraph) letter of interest from the student applicant. 
    • You can find suggestions for writing your letter of interest here. 
    • This must be submitted through the CampDoc application system. 
  • Letter of recommendation from the non-family member for the student applicant.
    • This must be submitted through the CampDoc application system. 
    • You can find instructions for recommendation letter-writers here.
    • Returning students in good standing do not need to submit a recommendation letter. 
      • Standing is determined by staff. A student not in good standing will be expressly notified by the Camps Director.

Admission Decision Schedule

We run on a rolling admission schedule from February to May. Each month, we will evaluate students with complete application files to determine admission and scholarship award decisions. If your student is denied admission to a camp, you will be specifically notified. Below we have listed evaluation period cutoff dates, and notification periods. 

Please contact us at if you have any questions about this process. 

  • Application period 1
    • Cutoff: February 23
    • Admission notifications: February 24th-28th
  • Application period 2
    • Cutoff: March 23rd
    • Admission notifications: March 24th-28th
  • Application period 3
    • Cutoff: April 20th
    • Admission notifications: April 21st-25th
  • Application period 4
    • Cutoff: May 14th
    • Admission notifications: May 19th-24th

Program Cost

Tuition is $2,025 for museum members (Sternberg, or UO MNCH), and $2,250 per non-member.

A 10% deposit is paid at the time of registration. Students who are accepted into the camp must then have the remainder of the registration fee paid by the May 14th, 2019 registration deadline.

Q: What if my student is not accepted into the camp they applied for? Do you refund tuition?
A: 100% of paid tuition is refunded to any students not accepted to a camp they applied for. This includes the initial deposit paid at the time of initial application.

Q: What is your cancellation and refund policy? 
A: Our refund policy for cancellations is dependent on which kind of camp you are signed up for (domestic or international), and when the cancellation is received.

Refund policies Domestic Programs:
For programs taking place within the United States, cancellations must be  submitted in writing, via email or typed letter. Each camp registration is held  to a 20-percent cancellation fee. If you cancel 30 to 10 days prior to the  start of a program, half of the total fee is refundable. If you cancel 9 or fewer  days prior to the start of the program, no amount of the fee is refundable.  Registration fees are non-transferable between applicants.

International Programs:
Cancellations and withdrawals must be submitted in writing, via email or  typed letter. Up to the registration deadline of May 1st, 2018, the program fee is fully refundable. After May 1st, the registration fee is only 50% refundable, as we will have already provided payments for airfares, accommodations, and guide services.

For answers to more possible questions, see our Frequently Asked Questions page!


Contact Us

For questions about the Sternberg Science Camps programs, contact us at or 785-639-5249.

Ape Cave Lava Tube, formed in a 2000 year old basaltic lava flow o the south side of Mount St. Helens, Washington (Photo credit: Marli Miller)

Magma! Lava! Molten ash clouds, and devastating volcanic “bombs“! It’s easy to see the appeal of igneous geology, with its fiery molten rock and magnificent earth-shaping displays. But dive deeper, and you’ll find a field rich with incredible science that incorporates chemistry and physics to understand the very nature of how new land on our planet is formed. Students will be guided through the diversity of igneous rocks from those that cool deep underground, to eruptive flows and explosions on the Earth’s surface. 

In exploring the depths of igneous geoscience, participants will learn to read the incredible stories of Earth processes written in the rocks. Incorporated in these stories are ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, which have been shaped by eons of volcanic activity. Lessons learned in these systems can be directly related to understanding igneous geology and ecosystem interactions around the globe!

Volcanoes have captivated humans for centuries. They can terrify us with their ability to cause destruction yet fascinate us with a rare glimpse into our planet’s interior. During this course, students will learn how volcanoes form, why they erupt, and what drives the incredible diversity of eruption styles we see at the earth’s surface. But we will do more than talk about these things. To see evidence of these processes up close we will use the Cascade Range volcanic arc, located in the beautiful pacific northwest, as our natural laboratory! Students will learn how to recognize clues from the rocks deposited during past eruptions and apply what they learn to deepen your understanding of current and future eruptions.

(Credit Wikimedia Commons)

Subduction zone geology is critically important to our modern understanding of volcanoes, especially the Cascade Range volcanic arc in the northwest United States. In this region, turmoil in the earth’s interior as one tectonic plate dives beneath another creates an amazing array of volcanic features on the earth’s surface. Through discussion and exploration of local eruptive systems, students will gain a better understanding of how plate tectonics drives volcanic activity in Oregon, Washington, and all over the rest of the world. This will be contrasted with hot-spot volcanism in places like Hawaii and Yellowstone, where students will gain understanding of how these systems are different despite comparable eruptive potential.

In exploring the depths of igneous geoscience, participants will learn to read the incredible stories of Earth processes written in the rocks. We will cover the fundamental tenants as laid out by geology’s earliest leaders. Then we will build on these, drawing on concepts from a wide range of disciplines in order to build a ‘toolkit’ for interpreting igneous and volcanic rocks. Incorporated in these stories are ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, which have been shaped by eons of volcanic activity. Lessons learned in these systems can be directly related to understanding igneous processes and ecosystem interactions around the globe!

Knowing some basics of camping is essential to field work. Field paleontology is often done in remote or semi-remote locations, making camping skills necessary to being able to do field work at all!

Training includes:
– Putting up tents
– Camp cooking
– Setting up and breaking down camp
– Leave No Trace strategies
– Efficiently loading and unloading field vehicles
– Environmental injury and illness mitigation
– Building and safely managing a campfire

Smartphones and GPS units can lose their signals, and have batteries that die. It is important for students learning to do field work to understand how to read and orient a map. Students are trained in use of aerial photos and compasses to navigate field areas and locate established field sites using cardinal directions and landmarks.

Use of professional tools and record keeping practices are central to all of our high school science camps. Students will learn from professional geoscientists how various sub-disciplines of research approach collecting data, and how the details of that data collection are recorded in the field. Without good field notes, no form of field science would be achievable! 

Taking initiative, staying organized, and effectively communicating are all important skills for working with a team in the field. Over the course of the program, students are coached on developing these areas. With guided opportunities to lead portions of field work, students are encouraged to develop their voices, organize team efforts, and build confidence in their abilities.

From staying hydrated to use of heavy tools to dealing with bad weather, students are introduced to the hazards of field work and how to effectively, safely deal with them. Staff provide lessons on safety through discussion, making sure students have a clear understanding of problems that can arise and how to effectively avoid them, or mitigate their effects afterwards.

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