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Camps Blog: Hello from the Head Outdoor Nerd

Welcome to the Sternberg Science Camps Blog! My name is David. I’m the Director and lead instructor for the Sternberg Science Camps. 

Let me tell you, in abbreviated fashion, how a pop-up book brought me to Kansas. 

When I was three years old, living in California, my uncle got me a pop-up book of dinosaurs. Now I work at a museum in Kansas. 

Oh… Too brief… 

So this pop-up book of dinosaurs also featured pop-up paleontologists! Little paper people digging up little paper dinosaurs. Apparently, digging up dinosaurs and showing them off to everyone was an actual job grownups do! At age 3, that sounded like the raddest way I could possibly spend my time. I quickly set to work practicing by digging up a small stick in the backyard, which I proudly proclaimed was a mammoth tusk. I carried the “tusk” around for quite some time, telling everyone I could about it. From kindergarten onward, I was *that kid* in all my classes. If I had my way, everything I did would somehow incorporate fossils and prehistoric creatures.  EVERYTHING. 

Along the way, I dabbled a bit in Boy Scouts and did a lot of camping with my family. Scouts was fine, but I was far more interested in looking for cool rocks and flipping logs for critters than building towers with poles and twine. (I definitely picked up a ton of useful skills in the Scouts, but the culture of it never really jived with me.) Then, one summer in high school, my parents got me signed up for a paleontology camp in Alberta, Canada. BOOM. BEST TWO WEEKS EVER. While on that camp, I got recruited as a counselor for a science camp program in Oregon. Three summers later (by then I was a junior in college at Oregon), I was leading that same paleontology camp with my own group of high school students. This was, next to that pop-up book, one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I loved teaching the students new skills. I loved talking to them about their interests and goals, and how they could work to achieve them. I loved helping them explore and learn and grow. This is what I needed to be doing, somehow. 

While I still had my sights set on being a professor or some such occupation eventually, these camp experiences – as a student, and as an instructor – stuck in my brain. An overall successful misadventure in graduate school later, and I landed here at the Sternberg, intent on establishing my own outdoor science education programs.

Education Director David Levering (far left) with his first group of high school paleontology camp students. (Summer 2006)

Education Director David Levering (far left) with his first group of high school paleontology camp students. (Summer 2006)

Four years later, and the Sternberg Camps are flourishing. I could not be more thrilled to be working with such bright, driven, inquisitive students each summer. I can’t wait to see what paths they take, and what discoveries and contributions they make along the way.

Thanks for reading! I’ll have a few new posts up soon. One, about the use of music as a sneaky team-building tool in outdoor education, and a guest post from camps intern and alumna Maggie Wolf, about her work this past fall curating field data from the high school biology camps.


Going over mapping skills with 2015 Sternberg Paleontology Camp students in Kansas.

Going over mapping skills with 2015 Sternberg Paleontology Camp students in Kansas.

BySternberg Museum

New Rat Species Described

New Rat Species Described; Paratype identified in Sternberg Mammal Collection

A new paper published in the Journal of Mammalogy describes a new species of big-eared climbing rat from Chiapas, Mexico. The new species, Ototylomys chiapensis Porter et al. 2017, the La Pera big-eared climbing rat, is characterized by a host of unique morphological and molecular characters. Based on these data, the specimens collected from 11 kilometers northwest of Berriozabál at Pazo de Petrόleo were identified as unique and different from the previously described Ototylomys phyllotis. The Sternberg specimen (FHSM 9092), which includes both skin and skull, was included in the species description (paratype) and currently is the only known individual collected outside of the type locality described above. This specimen, originally identified as O. phyllotis, was collected in 1970, 26 kilometers north of Ocozocoautla. It is suggested that this species could be critically endangered due to only two known localities and the reduction in the extent and quality of the habitat at or near these locations. The authors located this specimen in the Sternberg mammalogy collection by searching VertNet, a global database with which Sternberg shares its data in order to make the data more accessable and maximize the use of our invaluable collections. This is just one case of the value of scientific collections in our museum, as well as those around the world.




Porter, C.A., N.E. Beasley, N. Ordόñez-Garza, L.L. Lindsey, D.S. Rogers, N. Lewis-Rogers, J.W. Sites, Jr., and R.D Bradley. 2017. A new species of big-eared climbing rat, genus Ototylomys (Cricetidae: Tylomyinae), from Chiapas, Mexico. Journal of Mammalogy 98 (5), pp. 1310-1329.


Curtis J. Schmidt

Zoological Collections Manager


Photograph of the paratype of the La Pera big-eared climbing rat (Ototylomys chiapensis Porter et al. 2017) housed in the Sternberg mammal collection.

BySternberg Museum

Sternberg Museum Membership

With Valentine’s Day coming up, what better way to show your love than with the gift of discovery! Give your loved ones a Sternberg Museum Membership.

Member Benefits

  • Free Sternberg admission for person(s) named on card
  • 10% discount in Excavations Gift Shop
  • Free admission to more than 350 museums and science centers worldwide
  • Subscription to The Pteranodon online newsletter
  • Invitations to members-only events
  • Personalized Membership Card
  • List of ASTC reciprocal museums
  • Priority reservations for events and programs
  • Discounts on Summer Camps and Other Programs
  • All cardholder benefits valid for 12 months
  • Dues tax-deductible to the extent of the law
  • Students and seniors receive additional discounts on selected membership levels

Rates effective: June 1, 2013

Individual – $35.00 (Seniors & Students: $25)

  • Regular benefits

Family – $65.00 (Seniors/Senior Couples: $55)

  • Regular benefits plus
  • Free museum admission for two adults and all children 17 or younger living in the same household or for two grandparents and their grandchildren 17 and younger.

Lifetime Family – $1000.00

  • Lifetime family level benefits

Sponsor’s Club – $125.00

  • Family level benefits plus
  • Free admission for two (2) guests each visit
  • Name listed on plaque near the museum entrance
  • Free admission to behind-the-scenes tours of museum collections

Curator’s Club – $275.00

  • Family level benefits plus
  • Free admission for four (4) guests each visit
  • Name listed on plaque near the museum entrance
  • Free admission to behind-the-scenes tours of museum collections

Director’s Club – $550.00

  • Family level benefits plus
  • Free admission for eight (8) guests each visit
  • Name listed on plaque near the museum entrance
  • Free admission to behind-the-scenes tours of museum collections

If you have additional questions, contact Brad Penka at or call 785-628-5569.

BySternberg Museum

Darwin Day 2018

Join us on February 11 from 1-5 to celebrate Darwin Day 2018! This FREE day will cover the topic of “Everyday Evolution.” This includes the topics of:

  • Animal Husbandry
  • Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Deforestation

Come join the fun and learn about evolution all around you!


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.