Northwest Volcanology


Due to the Covid19 pandemic, all of our 2020 in-person camps have been cancelled. We have transitioned to online-based summer camps with our instructional teams. To learn more, click here.



Exploring the Lava River Cave near Bend, Oregon. (Part of Newberry National Volcanic Monument.)

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!


Concepts and Skills

Students learning about guest instructor Dr. Emily Johnson’s NSF-funded volcanology research in Oregon. Students had the opportunity to help her collect some rock samples for her research later in the day!

Here is an overview of the content students can expect over their two weeks at camp:

  • Igneous geoscience
  • Volcanology
  • Volcanic hazards science
  • Data collection and management
  • Minerology
  • College academics 
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Outdoor safety
  • Camping
  • Maps and navigation

Conditions Summary

Mini-lecture from 2019 instructor Michelle Muth on day 2.

These categories are presented to help applicants determine if a program is a good match for their preferences. We have set up a separate page here outlining how to interpret each category, and how to interpret the respective scores.  

Physical Exertion: 7
Academic Pace: 8
The concepts in igneous earth science covered are beyond the reach of most high school earth science classes. Students will be learning a high volume of new information that includes chemistry and physics concepts in geoscience right from the beginning. While we are very deliberate with making sure content is clear, students should be prepared for a lot of new information coming at them on a very regular basis. 
Outdoor Intensity: 8
In this case, variation in temps earn the camp a high rating. Up in the mountains, nights will be consistently cold, likely in the low 40s. During the day in central Oregon, daily highs will likely reach the mid to high 90s. Thunderstorms can occur, but are typically not frequent or sever.
Computers and Mathematics: 4
Art and Graphics: 4
Writing: 6

Projected Number of Field Days: 9.5
Projected Number of Indoor/Lab Days: 3.5

Students learning to collect field samples with 2019 instructor Michelle Muth at her field site at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Campus Lab Work

Examining the mineral collection at the UO Earth Sciences building.

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

Exploring volcanic rock types in the blast zone of Mount St. Helens’ infamous 1980 eruption.

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

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. 

Exploring the incredible Big Obsidian Flow in Deschutes National Forest.

Cascades and Crater Lake

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.

Additional Information and Logistics

Drop off is 8:00am on the first day at the University of Oregon. Specifics on the drop-off location will be provided to admitted applicants.
Pick up is by 5:00pm on the last day, 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 by May 2, 2020. (See the Admission Decision Schedule tab below for our five application and admission periods from January to May.) 
  • Student applicants must be ages 14 to 18 as of June 2020.
  • Complete online application.
    • To do this, you will need to set up an account with CampDoc. 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.
    • If you already have an account with CampDoc, simply log in. Your personal information should all be saved from your last application.
    • 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 January 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: January 11
    • Admission notifications: January 20-24
  • Application period 2
    • Cutoff: February 15
    • Admission notifications: February 24-28
  • Application period 3
    • Cutoff: March 14
    • Admission notifications: March 23-27
  • Application period 4
    • Cutoff: April 11
    • Admission notifications: April 20-24
  • Application period 5
    • Cutoff: May 2
    • Admission notifications: May 4-8

Program Cost

Tuition is $2,007 for Sternberg Museum of Natural History or Dinosaur Ridge members, and $2,230 for non-members. Tuition includes food and lodging costs during the camp.

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 16, 2020 payment 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?
Refund Policy:
Cancellations must be submitted in writing, via email or typed letter. Deposit fees for camp(s) applications are fully refundable until the applicant is officially accepted for admission. Prior to admission, the deposit is fully refundable in the case of cancellation submitted in writing. Denial of application acceptance will result in a full refund of the deposit payment for each camp the applicant was not accepted to. Following application acceptance, the deposit is no longer fully refundable, and each camp registration is held to a minimum 10-percent cancellation fee. For cancellations 30 to 10 days prior to the start of a camp, half of the total fee is refundable. For cancellations made 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 or to accepted participants. Funds provided Sternberg Science Camps in the form of any financial scholarship to the participant will be withheld in any case where a scholarship awardee or their parent(s)/guardian(s) cancels an accepted application.

Cancellation Policy:
In the event of a trip being cancelled, either due to insufficient enrollment, sudden onset of extensively unsafe travel conditions, or other unforeseeable impairments, the Sternberg Science Camps will provide a refund of all tuition and/or deposit fees paid up to the point of cancellation. Any scholarship funds awarded to the applicant to aid in attendance will be retained by the Sternberg Science Camps program. We are unable to reimburse the cost of any travel expenses paid to transport successful applicants to and/or from their camp(s). We strongly recommend attendees insure their travel to and from their respective camp(s) being attended.

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.

Parent Testimonials
Student testimonials
Become a Member

Other 2020 high school camps!