Paleobiology Research: Ancient Beasts


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.



Students learning about statistical methods and data visualization from 2019 instructor Dana Reuter.

Interested in pursuing your own research project in college? Or maybe getting ready to start a high school senior honors project? If this sounds like you, and you love paleontology, this camp is an excellent opportunity to learn how the science gets done by professionals. While there isn’t as much fieldwork time as some our other high school paleontology camps, we make up for it with a lot more time in museum fossil collections, delving into research papers and methods, and learning how scientists explore ideas and make discoveries.

Students will work on mini-projects, analyzing data sets assembled themselves in pursuit of research questions they design under the guidance of instructional staff. Data collecting activities include measuring modern and fossil specimens, and exploring searchable online databases. While visiting research collections at University of Oregon, students will learn about how specimens are organized and cared for after being brought in from the field. (We’ll be doing a small field methods section in the middle of the camp, with a trip out to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.) 

Fossil cat bones in the University of Oregon paleontology research collection.

To properly analyze their data, students will be instructed in the use of statistical concepts and mathematical tools essential to any scientist. Students will put these lessons into practice as they learn to write computer code (we use the R language + platform) to build statistical analyses and visualize their results.

In addition to technical methods training, students will learn about professional practices and career pathways in paleontology. This includes opportunities to talk with staff and guest presenters about college pursuits, jobs in earth and life sciences (and related areas), and ask questions they have about topics in the field. 

Concepts and Skills

2019 students measuring the skulls of carnivorous mammals for one of their projects.

From research collections to designing research questions, this camp includes a ton of opportunities for students interested in a career in paleontology. Here is an overview of the content students can expect over their two weeks at camp:

  • Paleoecology
  • Vertebrate Paleontology
  • Data collection and management
  • Fossil collections curation
  • Phylogenetics and evolution
  • Statistical tools
  • Designing a research project
  • Computer coding
  • Research-relevant computer software
  • Ethics in paleontology
  • College academics 
  • Leadership and teamwork

Conditions Summary

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: 3
Academic Pace:

Concepts in this camp are built on at a pace that will challenge any student. This includes a range of college-level topics in biology and paleontology, as well as integrating hands-on practice with established research methods. Students will get an in-depth look at paleontology research including collections curation, research question design, data collection, analysis, and presentation skills. 
Outdoor Intensity: 3
Computers and Mathematics: 9
Statistical tools are also extensively explored, along with digital data management practices crucial to any research project. This includes professional software tools, and coding in the platform R to create analysis packages and customized graphics to visualize data. 
Art and Graphics: 4
Writing: 7

Projected Number of Field Days: 3
Projected Number of Indoor/Lab Days: 10

Additional Information and Logistics

Fossil camel skull

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 $1,833 for Sternberg Museum of Natural History or Dinosaur Ridge members, and $2,037 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.

Other 2020 high school camps!




Parent Testimonials
Student testimonials
Become a Member