Expedition Australia

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Starting Location: Los Angeles Airport
Los Angeles, California (July 14th)

Ending Location: Los Angeles Airport
Los Angeles, California (August 2nd)

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Journey to Queensland, Australia for an adventure of a lifetime! Students will learn foundational concepts in sedimentary geology, skeletal anatomy, evolution, and ecology against the backdrop of the incredible Australian Outback. Explore the natural history of Australia as we excavate fossilized giant fish and marine reptiles, and learn the history of the amazing wildlife that inhabits Australia today. This program will include groups of American and Australian high school students working and learning together in the classroom and in the field. During this trip, students will work with expert paleontologists and science educators in established field areas and dig sites, collecting material that will contribute to ongoing research on Australian natural history.

Overarching themes will include critical thinking skills, use of the scientific method, understanding the process of biological evolution through natural selection, applied geology, ecology, and generating an informed argument through the use of evidence. This camp is designed to be an immersive learning experience for students interested in biology, geology, or paleontology. Our goal is to make sure any student planning to pursue a career in life or earth science will leave our camp with relevant, practical skills and knowledge in both scientific disciplines.

The FHSU Sternberg Museum is thrilled to offer this program in cooperation with Kronosaurus Korner Museum in Richmond, Queensland!


Paleontologist, doctoral researcher (University of Texas)

Instructor: Josh Lively 
Josh is a vertebrate paleontologist, specializing in extinct freshwater turtles and marine reptiles called mosasaurs. The majority of the animals Josh researches are from the Cretaceous Period, especially the last 30 million years of the Age of Dinosaurs. He is interested in understanding environmental drivers of evolution during periods of globally warm climate. He is currently finishing up his PhD in Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and serves as an instructor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Josh has over 8 years of experience in field paleontology, helping lead expeditions to remote areas across western North America. He has prospected for fossils and done geological work in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Peru, and Alberta. Josh also has many years of experience in museum collections, and is passionate about the importance of incorporating specimen- and field-based studies into his research.




Camps TA Marjie Cone with a piece of fossilized fish bone.

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.”



Project Summary

Students will work with Sternberg Camps and Kronosaurus Korner Museum staff on ongoing excavations of Cretaceous marine vertebrates (mostly large fish and reptiles) in the Outback of Queensland. This excavated fossil material will be incorporated into the research collection at the Kronosaurus Corner Museum, providing important insights into the ancient seaway that once covered a large portion of inner Australia! These finds provide important information about the evolution of this seaway and its ecosystem, with direct relevance to better understanding the Cretaceous Interior Seaway that used to cover Kansas. 

Students will also have the chance to work with Kronosaurs Korner research staff on research collections projects, including identification of pterosaur teeth and photographing curated marine reptile material. 

Cretaceous Marine Fossils

Upon arriving in Richmond, home of the Kronosaurus Korner Museum and dig sites, students will get right to work learning to survey field sites using professional field paleontology techniques and tools. Before digging can begin at a new site, it must be carefully assessed for clues about the rock layers a team is working in. Students will learn to use geologic maps, field survey compasses, and GPS units as they establish geologic context for the field site. This will be the first time such work has been formally done for these field sites. 

Using professional excavation tools and methods, the team will learn to excavate marine vertebrate fossils at established dig sites in and around Richmond. This includes training on hand-tools, field notes, and safety protocols to keep everyone working while staying healthy and injury-free! 


Research Collections

Taking a break midway through the fieldwork portions of camp, students will spend a few days learning about paleontological research collections at the Kronosaurus Corner Museum. While there, students will assist with ongoing projects, and have the chance to assist instructor Josh Lively on a data collection exercise concerning fossil sea turtles. Understanding the function of research collections and how to work in them is crucial for any paleontologist, and we are super excited to have this opportunity while in Australia! 

Curator Michelle Johnston with the fossilized ends of a Kronosaurus’ upper and lower jaws.

Along with assisting with projects, students will get to tour the collections to see the incredible variety of fossil life discovered in the marine rocks in and around Richmond. From the massive Kronosaurus to a range of smaller vertebrates like sharks and pterosaurs, the record of prehistoric life here is truly incredible.

Great Barrier Reef

To fully understand any ancient organism or ecosystem, paleontologists make use of modern examples. This camp is focused on understanding a Cretaceous marine ecosystem and the organisms it supported, making a trip to the Great Barrier Reef the perfect educational opportunity to better understand modern marine ecology. While there, students will explore the full extent of the geological and biological processes going on in the reef today. From ongoing sedimentary geology and conditions for preservation into fossils, to food webs and evolutionary ecology, students will have an incredible opportunity to work through research-based questions about ancient ecosystems using examination and exploration of the Reef system. 

With a certified lifeguard on staff (Marjie Cone), the students will be able to take guided snorkeling trips out into the Reef, addressing geological and biological topics covered throughout the camp. Students will work through comprehensive observation and inquiry-based learning objectives to tie the whole camp together, bridging understanding of the past, present, and potential future of shallow marine ecosystems of Australia. 

Additional Information and Logistics

Additional information regarding the Field Paleontology: Australia camp.

For this international programs, the Sternberg Museum requires complete registration to be complete by May 14th, 2019. This includes completed payment, and delivery of the student cover letter and recommendation letter.  Click here for information about our refunds and cancellations policy.

Students are expected to have arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles, California) by 10pm on July 14th. Travel should be coordinated well in advance with the Camps Director David Levering (DALevering@fhsu.edu) once your student is fully registered and accepted into the camp. Students and staff will be staying in a single hotel the night of July 14th, and departing as a group on July 15th. 

We will be arriving back in Los Angeles in the evening on August 1st, or in the morning on August 2nd. Students must be either picked up by a parent/guardian, or on a departing flight out of Los Angeles International Airport by 6pm on August 2nd. Please make sure to communicate all travel arrangements and logistics for your student to the Camps Director well in advance. 

The Centers for Disease Control advises travelers to Australia to “make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.”

Food on international trips is prepared by guides, professional service staff, or Museum education staff. During travel involving airports, students will need to pay for their own meals. We work with our host organizations and guides to make sure any dietary restrictions are planned for prior to our arrival.

The following are requirements for all student participants for participation in this program:

Valid passport from your home country with at least 6 months remaining validity from the start date of the trip. If you do not have a valid passport that meets this requirement, you must have one in hand before the start date, or you will not be able to participate. 

Proof of travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation & repatriation. Trip cancellation and lost property are also good to make sure you policy includes. Click here for information about travel insurance. If you have any questions, please contact the Education Director at DALevering@FHSU.edu.

Contacting Your Child
During international programs, education staff will do their best to provide status updates for the trip via the Camps Twitter and Instagram (@SternbergCamps) accounts. Access to wireless internet or cellular data will be unpredictable. Please assume no news is good news if there are gaps in our online updates. Along with this, please do not count on being able to reach your student by phone reliably. If you need to contact your child during the program, please email them or the Camps Director (DALevering@FHSU.edu). He will transmit your message to your student as soon as possible, and follow up however necessary.

Transportation for international programs is program-specific. Please see the individual program description, and contact the Camps Director (DALevering@FHSU.edu).

In Australia, we will be traveling via bus, large vans, and short flights to reach field sites. We will also be exploring marine ecology and biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef, with will involve time on a boat. Please make staff aware of motion sickness issues in advance. 

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 SternbergCamps@FHSU.edu 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 $5,000 for members, and $5,200 for non-members. Tuition includes international airfare, lodging, and meals in Australia. 

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 14th, 2019, cancellations are subject to a 20% processing fee. After May 14th, the registration fee is only 50% refundable, as we will have already provided payments for airfares, accommodations, and guide services to groups and individuals in the country we are traveling to.


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 SternbergCamps@fhsu.edu or 785-639-5249.

Digging up fossils is a strange mix of exact, careful work, and smashing rocks with big metal tools. Students learn how to balance these seemingly opposing tasks to extract large fossils while keeping them safe from damage. We also train students to properly document the excavation site, keeping a written and photographic record of the fossil(s) uncovered and work done to remove it.

Tool training includes:
– Brushes
– Picks
– Rock hammers
– Chisels
– Mattocks and polaskis
– Jackhammer and the generator that powers it
– Plaster + burlap for creating the protective jacket around excavated fossils

Gathering new data is essential to any field of science. In paleontology, this means collecting new, scientifically valuable fossil specimens in the field. Like any form of data collection, there are professional best practices that must be followed. Students are guided through these techniques and protocols, with lots of practice and feedback opportunities.


Exploration of the ancient Australian Eromanga Sea and the modern Great Barrier Reef provide a phenomenal opportunity to explore marine ecosystems past and present, and the evolution of their respective organisms. Students will gain a robust understanding of how Australian marine ecosystems have changed over the past 110 million years, and how how the lessons of their history can teach us about other ancient and modern marine systems. 

Geologic map of one of the field areas we will be exploring in Queensland.

Understanding how to read the layers of rock fossils are found in is essential for field paleontology. From the laws of Superposition and Original Horizontality to sediment grain sizes and rock types, students are introduced to the basics of sedimentology in the context of understanding the fossil record.

To understand the fossil organisms paleontologists study, and the changes life undergoes through time, a robust understanding of evolution is absolutely necessary. Students are presented with an initial lesson on the population basis for evolution, and how selection over time leads to new species. We continue lessons on evolutionary biology throughout the program, always relating back to the essential concepts of heritability, selection, and variation of genes and physical features.

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.

In paleontology, fossils themselves are only part of the data we have to collect. Field notes that document the location of the fossil, the kind of rock it is in, and other details of the field work performed are required for the fossil to be scientifically useful. Without this information, a fossil is little more than an interesting rock. Students learn the essentials of keeping professional-quality notes during all of our field work, with checks and feedback from staff along the way to help them improve.

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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Other 2019 high school camps!

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