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Sternberg Camps: Returning Students

Sternberg Museum Science Camp Students Find Their Inner Selves in the Outdoors

Hays, KS – Most of us find intrinsic joy in being out in nature, and for some, thinking about the science of the natural world brings them even more joy. Middle and high school students who are fascinated by science topics like why there are so many species or how animals live in severe environments can satisfy that curiosity at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History Science Camps. Each summer, David Levering, Director of Education at the Sternberg, leads camps in which students can immerse themselves in paleontology and biology.


The camps are equal parts education and adventure. Camp students have explored the sparkling white sands in the Chihuahuan Desert, stunning rock formations at Arches National Park, and areas full of fossils right here in western Kansas.

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Over the past three years, the Sternberg has offered Field Naturalist Camp and Paleontology Expedition Camp for middle school students, and Southwest Biology Camp and Sternberg Paleontology Camp for high school students. The two paleontology camps make use of the rich fossil resources in Kansas, while Field Naturalist Camp takes students to Utah, and Southwest Biology Camp take students New Mexico.

The benefits of attending one of the camps are many. Jackson Stanton, a high school student from Hays who participated in the Southwest Biology Camp said, “I have found a calling for my life.” Stanton plans to pursue a career in herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles.


For Emiri White, a middle school student who attended the Paleontology Expedition Camp, getting to find and identify fossils the way a paleontologist would was a “great learning experience.” White added, “That was probably the part I most enjoyed about the camp.”

The popularity of the camps is due to how they are structured. Camp students learn science techniques by being allowed to try them out for themselves. It’s not uncommon for a camp student to hold a wild bat or dig out part of a mosasaur fossil – under supervision, of course.


At first some students may feel a bit unsure or uncomfortable working outside, holding animals, or operating equipment. Those feelings quickly fade as students get practice doing these new techniques in a safe environment. After returning from camp, students reported feeling more confident when approaching new challenges.

Levering and the other camp instructors welcome and encourage questions from participants, and hold regular discussions to enrich each student’s understanding of science. These conversations complement the field-based portions of the camps by building the educational foundation behind the activities in which students take part. “This [structure] sets our program apart from the way other programs operate,” Levering said.

The instructors also talk about college and career paths – topics that are especially timely for the high schoolers. Christopher Noll, a student from California, participated in the Sternberg Paleontology Camp and didn’t expect to hear about these topics, but commended the instructors for talking about them. “I am better prepared for college in general having spent . . . two weeks at camp,” Noll said.

In addition to the regular biology and paleontology camps in 2017, the Sternberg will offer Expedition: Ecuador Camp, featuring a trip to the Andes Mountains during which students will observe and document the unique plant and animal life in the region.




Maggie Wolf of Kansas City is planning on attending the Expedition: Ecuador Camp. Ecuador is home to hundreds of amphibian and reptile species, hundreds of mammal species, and over a thousand bird species (many of which, Wolf is eagerly looking forward to seeing). Getting to explore an area with such biodiversity is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the camp students. Wolf said, “I’ve never been to an area like where we will be going and the animals will be entirely new to me, so I can’t wait to see all there is to see!”

Next summer will be Wolf’s third year in a row of attending one of the Sternberg Museum Science camps. In fact, a number of students – “camp veterans” – come back year after year. Wolf said that she benefited from returning because she was able to ask “more informed and thoughtful questions” about the topics that interested her. Arabelle Konrad, another camp veteran from Michigan, said having prior knowledge from the previous year made getting into the swing of things easier the second time around. “I still remembered the fundamentals and I knew what to expect when out in the field,” Konrad said.

Sternberg Paleontology Camp 2015

The students also enjoy seeing friends they’ve made in previous years and creating new friendships. “We all are interested in biology,” Wolf said. That common interest keeps the camp students learning and growing together.

Registration for the 2017 Sternberg Museum Science Camps is now open at If you are interested in supporting the camps, visit the donations page:

Story written by Medhavi Ambardar (adjunct professor of biology, FHSU).

BySternberg Museum

Summer Science Camps Survey

Please take just a few minutes to tell us what you think about the science camps we are currently offering as well as what camps you would like to see in the future! We want to make sure the best camps are offered based on your opinions and the wants of you  and/or your kids!

How interested are you or your child/student in our Sternberg Museum Summer Science Camps?

How interested would you be in a 3-4 day Paleontology or Biology Camp, in the state of Kansas, if we were to offer it?

In a 1 week Paleontology or Biology Camp in the state of Kansas?

In a 2 week Paleontology or Biology Camp in the state of Kansas?

In a 2 week Paleontology or Biology Camp outside of the state of Kansas?

In a 2 week International High School Biology Camp? (Outside of the U.S.)

How interested are you in applying for financial aid for any of the above camps if it is available? (This could be for partial or complete coverage of the associated costs)

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Register Today!

Join the Sternberg Museum Director Dr. Reese Barrick this June for an incredible journey to the mountain cloud forest of Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands!


Galapagos Islands and Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
June 3rd – 14th , 2017
10 days total, $5000 per person


All participants must be age 21 or older at the time of the trip.

(Trip cost includes hotels, guides, most meals, and transport on the Galapagos Islands and the cloud forests. Trip cost excludes cost of airfare to and from Quito, Ecuador. June 3rd and 14th are travel days; Activities in Ecuador and the Galapagos islands start early in the morning on June 4th. For more information, contact Sternberg Museum Education Director David Levering at, or by phone at 785-639-5249.)




We will be opening full registration and updating the details of this trip soon. To get on our information emailing list, which will include an alert when our online registration system opens, please email Sternberg Education Director David Levering at

In June 2017, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History will be leading a 10-day adventure trip to South America. Our first three days will be spent exploring the cloud forests of Mindo and Alambi, near the city of Quito, Ecuador. There, you will get to explore gorgeous forests full of amazing wildlife, including an incredible diversity of hummingbirds! Other activities for the three day Mindo/Alambi portion include a visit to a butterfly farm, an orchid garden, and tube-rafting down the Mindo River. If you love wildlife and breathtaking scenery, you will have the time of your life in the cloud forests!

Rufous Hummingbird

Following your adventure in the cloud forests, you will depart for the Galapagos Islands for a 6-day adventure full of snorkeling, beachcombing, and sightseeing.

This Galapagos land tour will keep you busy, snorkeling at Kicker Rock, hiking Sierra Negra Volcano and kayaking in a bay off the coast of Isabela Island. You can expect to be immersed in the wildlife each day, while having the chance to connect with the inhabitants of the islands during your free time exploring towns like Puerto Ayora and Puerto Villamil.

Lounging sea lions, gliding rays and plenty of tropical fish and sea turtles may greet you in the water, while the lava lizards and iguanas will entertain you on land. If you’re seeking a trip that offers a mix of adventure and culture, this is for you. Each island you visit has a historical site worth visiting to learn about the human history of the Galapagos and the importance of sustainable tourism in this fragile environment.The Interpretation Center on San Cristobal, the Breeding Center on Isabela and the Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz will help you gain a deeper understanding of some of the most unique Galapagos animals – giant tortoises!

Galapagos giant tortoise

Optimizing your time in the Galapagos, you’ll spend your first two days on San Cristobal before flying to Isabela Island the next two days. You can expect to visit a range of ecosystems from beachside mangroves to lush forests in the highlands. Your Galapagos land tour will finish on Santa Cruz, after enjoying a boat ride from Isabela, where you may spot dolphins or whales along the way.

As busy as this Galapagos tour is, you’ll still have enough free time for souvenir shopping and enjoying a few cold drinks by the beach. But if go-go-go is more your style then the optional activities like diving and surfing may be of interest!

After your trip to the Galapagos, you will have most of a day in Quito, Ecuador to explore the city before catching our flight back to the United States. This is your opportunity to check out the local sights and culture, including the Basílica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow), and sample some Ecuadorian cuisine.

Kicker Rock

This trip will be led by Sternberg Museum of Natural History Director Dr. Reese Barrick, and Sternberg Museum Chief Curator and Paleontologist Dr. Laura Wilson.

Dr. Reese Barrick
Sternberg Museum Director

The Galapagos Islands are a bucket list must see travel adventure for anyone with an interest in natural history, specifically me.  As a child, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom featuring Marlin Perkins sparked the passion for learning about life all over the planet.  My first fossil (a trilobite), given to me by my brother Neil, made me wonder about life in deep time and how it is all connected with everything alive today.  The distribution of animals and plants on islands around the world (island biogeography) has a prominent role in the development of evolutionary theory.  The great adventurer, Alfred Russel Wallace developed his theory on the origin of species while studying life on the islands of Indonesia.  The Galapagos Islands are a centerpiece Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory of natural selection.  The idea of adventure around the world and seeing things never seen by others was (and still is) an exciting prospect.  It is why paleontology was a strong calling card when choosing a direction in my life.   I was born too late to be the first to see an island but finding an 80 million year old fossil allows for a bit of that excitement without the general risk to life and limb that many of the earlier explorers faced.  As an undergraduate studying both biology and geology I had the opportunity to study evolution from both a perspective of ecology and genetics as well as that of the fossil record.  Both paths led back to Charles Darwin and his Voyage on the Beagle.  The idea of taking the opportunity to add to our knowledge of the evolution of life is why I chose to pursue a PhD in paleontology.  The opportunity to travel to one of the places featured prominently in Darwin’s travels and critical observations is one I have always dreamed of.The Galapagos Islands are unique in that they are extremely isolated from both South America and other larger island chains.  This has resulted in the unique evolution of the parent species that arrived on the islands long ago and can be found nowhere else on the planet.  The most famous of these include Darwin’s finches and the giant Galapagos tortoises.  The thermophysiology of the giant tortoises was an important jumping off point in my graduate research on dinosaurs.  I have always wanted to see them in their natural environment.  The currents from the Antarctic and North Pacific cool the climate of the islands that just happen to straddle the equator.   Thus you will find penguins on the islands as well as the Galapagos fur seal (the smallest eared seal in the world).   Flightless cormorants and the marine iguana are endemic there and fully half of the world’s population of Blue-footed boobies breed there.  National Geographic specials are wonderful however this trip to the Galapagos Islands will be the adventure of a lifetime.


Dr. Laura Wilson
Sternberg Museum Chief Curator, Paleontologist

As a paleontologist, geologist, and evolutionary biologist, the Galapagos Islands are my Graceland. Charles Darwin’s original studies of the rocks and animals on the Islands changed science and changed the world, and the subsequent century and a half (plus) of research continues to refine our understanding of speciation and evolution. To get to go to a place that has such a huge impact on me personally and professionally is a dream.  And to get to share that with others, makes the experience even more special.  My career is built on education, and this trip provides a unique combination of getting to further my own education while sharing my knowledge and passion with others. Islands in general are biodiversity hotspots, and the Galapagos Islands are no exception – especially since they are surrounded by cool, nutrient-rich upwelling waters. I am most excited to see the vast diversity of plants and animals, in their natural habitats, that I have read about so much.  Birds and sharks of are particular interest to me, and the Galapagos have exceptional populations of both. I have also spent time studying modern penguins, so having the opportunity to see wild penguin populations is amazing!  Considering the rate at which animal and plant species are going extinct, and unique environments are being destroyed, it is important spread appreciation, understanding, and conservation ideas of such habitats while they are still here.

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Video highlights of the 2016 Fort Hays State University student trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

BySternberg Museum

Sternberg Museum’s Fundraising Campaign for New Prep Lab


T.rex broke out his moves at the Inaugural Gala

On April 1, 2016, the Sternberg Museum launched a fundraising campaign to raise money to renovate the fossil preparation lab at the Museum.

To kick things off, we brought in world famous paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner to give public lecture on the Fort Hays State University campus.  Dr. Horner gave an enthralling talk, “Dinosaurs of the Past, the Present, and the Future”, to an enthusiastic audience of all ages. During his talk, he explained how our view of dinosaurs has changed over the past 100 years, and how our view of dinosaurs will change in the very near future thanks to genetic engineering. Much of the research presented on dinosaur biology and behavior is the result of Dr. Horner’s impressive career, and a result of his involvement with the Jurassic Park franchise. After his 60-minute talk, Dr. Horner stayed for another hour, answering every question from the audience!

The following evening, the Museum hosted its Inaugural Museum Gala; Dr. Horner joined us for a second night as the special guest of honor.  Featuring dinner, drinks, dancing, live animals, a silent auction, and demonstrations, it was a night to remember! Museum members, FHSU faculty and staff, and community members came out to support the Museum and have a ball. With all proceeds from both nights benefitting the prep lab renovations, we are on our way to an enlarged and improved space for hands-on learning, visitor interactions, student training, hosting workshop, and conducting scientific research! If you couldn’t join us for the Gala this year, we hope to see you next year – it will be a ROARing good time!

To find out more about the Prep Lab fundraiser, visit our website or contact Curator of Paleontology, Dr. Laura Wilson.



BySternberg Museum

Adventures on the Nature Trails!


The pond is full of wildlife in the spring and summer, including birds, insects, fish, frogs, and even turtles!

The first signs of spring are in the air, and that means the Howard Reynolds Nature Trails are stirring back to life. The nature trails are a great place to come relax, let the kids explore (and burn some energy), and get some fresh air. As we get further into spring and summer, all kinds of plants and animals will begin to arrive, emerge, and become active. From the gorgeous flowers to the birds, bugs, and lizards, the nature trails at the Sternberg Museum are a great place to spend some time outside as the weather warms up!


A stick insect found on the nature trails

BySternberg Museum

Museum Volunteer Opportunitites

The Sternberg Museum of Natural History offers many exciting and unique volunteer opportunities for members of our community.  Current volunteer possibilities include: Education assistants and on call tour guides, exhibits and archival work, and light administrative work.
The museum volunteer program is open to all interested individuals, retirees, working persons, or students. The only requirement is that volunteers must be at least 16 years of age. Younger volunteers may be considered on a case-by-case basis, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Our volunteers come to us with a diversity of skills and interest. Whether you have an interest in natural history or just enjoy working with people, there are numerous opportunities to expand your horizons. Experience is not required. We will ensure that you have the training and support needed.
Contact Museum Outreach Coordinator, Ian Trevethan at (785) 639-4738 or email for more information.


BySternberg Museum



This exhibition explores the science and sensation of the Galápagos—the “cradle of evolutionary biology.” This remote archipelago inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, serves as living laboratory for ongoing scientific research, and became the very first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Sternberg Museum hosts the North American premiere of a new exhibit developed by the Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, Switzerland. Opening Fall 2016.

Visit the Galápagos Islands

Once you’ve seen the exhibit, go see the Galápagos Islands themselves. Join our special 10-day eco-travel adventure. You’ll hike, bike, kayak & snorkel your way to buy drugs from Canadian pharmacy on, visiting each of the 4 inhabited islands. Stay in quaint hotels and dine in local restaurants off the beaten path. Climb an active volcano, explore an ancient lava tunnel and learn about the delicate environment from an authorized Naturalist Guide. View unforgettable landscapes and enjoy many up-close encounters with diverse wildlife. Departing in Spring 2017.