Research Methods 1

Create and investigate research questions using professional data collection and analysis techniques.

Starting location: Sternberg Museum
Hays, Kansas (July 7th)

Ending location: Sternberg Museum
Hays, Kansas (July 12th)


You asked for it, and here it is! A full week introducing participants to the basics of designing and conducting a scientific research project. Students will start out learning how to construct a quality research question, and how to approach the process of addressing that question in an efficient, productive manner. Using local wildlife and skeletal collections at the Sternberg Museum, the group will collect a useable data set in teams, which they will then work to combine and organize. These data sets will be put into use immediately, as students learn how to visualize data and test hypotheses through various descriptive statistics and graphing methods. To best prepare students for future research work in college, the bulk of the statistics and graphing work in this camp is carried out via coding in the free software language R. The R statistics and graphics platform is a widely used research tool that can be used to answer a variety of questions in the earth and life sciences. The coding and statistical tests students will learn will provide them a foundation of knowledge that will help them excel in their future science experience.


Paleobiologist, doctoral researcher (University of Oregon)

Instructor: Dana Reuter
Dana has always been interested in the natural world and has tried on many scientific hats over the years. She has worked as a research assistant on glacial lake sediment flow in Svalbard, Norway, as a sample collector in the Grenville orogeny in Canada, and as a research student studying milk tooth morphology of the Carnivora (group that includes bears, dogs, cats, and weasels) at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. In 2015, she received a B. A. in Geology and an Honors in Biology from Mount Holyoke College. Now, Dana is a PhD candidate working with Dr. Samantha Hopkins in the University of Oregon Vertebrate Paleontology lab. Her research on mammalian paleoecology focuses on reconstructing ancient food webs from fossil localities, tooth variation in the Carnivora, and the evolution of omnivorous diets. Alongside her research, she has a passion for teaching and was named a 2018 Summer Institute Scientific Teaching Fellow. When she is not working on understanding ancient mammals she is getting lost in the woods, playing board games, and reading philosophy books. 

Designing a Scientific Study

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a scientific discovery. From the beginning curiosity and the data collection to the final product, scientists have to make many informed decisions about how to proceed with a study. By working in groups on question development and hypothesis identification, students will both work through past studies and design their own scientific questions. Students will then learn about different kinds of data and will do hands on activities collecting their own data. Finally, students will learn how to describe their data and test their statistical significance using both excel and the coding language platform R.

By reading example studies and working with real datasets students will learn about every step in the process of doing scientific research. This course will start them on the road to becoming well rounded scientific thinkers.

Data Projects

Students will work with staff on a data collection and analysis projects, learning an abundance of new skills along the way!

  • Using carnivorous mammal molar measurements to infer body size. 
  • Measuring dimensions of mammal eyesockets relative to skull size to assess potential nocturnality.
  • Surveying plant communities on the Sternberg Museum’s Howard Reynolds Nature Trails.

Program Cost

Tuition is $630 per Sternberg Museum member, and $700 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 the deposit and any 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: If a camp is cancelled, full refunds of any amounts paid up to that point by participants will be refunded. Any awarded financial aid funds will be retained by the Sternberg Science Camps program. If a student withdraws from a camp they have been accepted to, refund amounts will vary depending on the trip, and timing. See below for details. 

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!


Additional Information and Logistics

Drop off is 8:00am on the first day at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. Pick up is by 5:00pm on the last day.

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.

Contact Us

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

Application Requirements

– All application materials must turned in no later than May 14th, 2019.
– Student applicants must be ages 14 to 18 as of June 2019.

– 2 page (5-7 paragraph) letter of interest from the student applicant. (Click here for tips on writing your cover letter. Also, tips for constructing good paragraphs.)
– Letter of recommendation from the non-family member for the student applicant.
Financial aid application paperwork (if applying for financial assistance).
Complete online registration.


Developing a workable research question involves more than canned hypothesis testing often used in science class. It requires the investigator to refine potentially large questions into smaller, approachable studies with a defined set of variables and collectable data. Students will be guided through the process of generating questions, and turning those questions into realistic, productive research projects.

Once a research project question is defined, it’s time to set to work figuring out what data you will need to collect! But how much data do you need? How does one go about collecting that data?? Where is the data located? Yeah, there’s a lot to it! Students will work with staff to learn the necessities of data collection, how to avoid common mistakes and problems, and proper organization practices.

Students will put these lessons to work, collecting group data sets in the Sternberg Museum research collections and on-site nature trails.

Once data has been properly and completely collected, students will organize measurements and notes into spreadsheets that can be used in analyses. From basic descriptive statistics to significance testing and data visualization tools, students will learn how to conduct basic, essential analytical methods in pursuit of addressing group project questions. Analysis and graphics will be done via the coding language platform R, which is widely used among professional earth and life science researchers.

Students will take an active part in the learning process in this program. Through discussions in groups to reporting on example studies, students will be asked to develop their critical thinking skills in a student focused learning environment.

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