GeoGirls: Five days of discovery at Mount St. Helens

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Detailed Description

Twenty middle-school girls from Washington and Oregon participated in the 2016 “GeoGirls” outdoor volcano science program at Mount St. Helens, jointly organized by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Mount St. Helens Institute. 

The GeoGirls spent five days conducting hands-on research and interacting with scientists, educators, and older students, learning about volcanoes, natural hazards, and modern scientific monitoring technologies. They camped, hiked to field sites, worked on research projects with scientists, and learned how to document and share their scientific findings by building a public webpage. Highlights from the week are showcased in this video. 

The goal of the program is for GeoGirls participants to emerge with a stronger understanding and connection to Earth systems and feel confident in choosing careers in science, technology, engineering, math or other STEM-related fields. 

The program was led by female scientists from the USGS, the Mount St. Helens Institute, UNAVCO, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, University of Washington, Western Washington University and Oregon State University. This is the second summer of the GeoGirls program, which will continue in 2017. 

To apply, visit the Mount St. Helens Institute website.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:06:34

Location Taken: Mount St. Helens, WA, US

Video Credits

Images by Angie Diefenbach, Beth Bartel, Carolyn Driedger, Carrie Lindsay, Sonja Melander, and Liz Westby
GeoGirls graphic by Alicia Hotovec


Ashley:  I’m Ashley, and my favorite part of GeoGirls was, I guess it was, like actually going out and doing geology.  Like, it made me feel professional.  And I actually like, before I came here, I was like, well I like rocks, yeah, you know.  But after I came here, I actually love geology, like I could do this for the rest of my life and I would never get bored.

Graphic:  Mount St. Helens Summer 2016 GeoGirls

Text from GeoGirls blog: Mount St. Helens Lava Tubes

In the cave we saw bathtub rings, cracks from rapid cooling, gutters from faster moving lava, meatballs, cave slime, and glaze created by gases and minerals in the lava.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Trail of Two Forests

We followed Carolyn through the forest and listened to her talk about how the lava took over the old forest and how the new forest grew on top, 2000 years ago.

Loryn:  Hello, my name is Loryn.  And my favorite thing about GeoGirls is probably all the trips that we took to different places.  Because we didn’t just sit around and we didn’t just say oh, this means this and this is this, we went out and actually experienced what people would do in the field.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Reading the Story in the Rocks

Stratigraphy Viewpoint was formed when a lahar (volcanic mud flow) flowed through creating a canyon where we see the layers of rocks from past eruptions.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Mapping on the Pumice Plain

Mapping deposits helps understand the history of Mount St. Helens.  We used an aerial map and stereoscopes to "see" the Pumice Plain. Then we went hiking to find what we saw on the maps.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Digging for Tephra

We saw tephra layers, made observations and recorded measurements in our field notebooks.  We added our data to the isomap to understand the different dates and times of different eruptions.

Alina:  Okay, I’m Alina and my favorite thing about GeoGirls was doing the camping and stuff.  And doing the activities, especially the plant one we did - the time we went hiking at Pumice Plain and stuff.

Kate:  My name is Kate and what I liked best about GeoGirls was the ecology day and we counted all the shrubs and trees in the forest.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Ecology of the Blown-down Forest

We hiked Ghost Lake trail to study trees, shrubs, canopy cover, and life-forms, to see how the ecosystems are doing and how they grow back after all of the destruction.

Text from GeoGirls blog:  Aerial Mapping by Balloon

Angie used a tank of helium to inflate the balloon. Then we secured the balloon to the bottle-camera device. We attached everything to a large spool of rope.  Slowly, we let the rope out and released the balloon to the sky.

Text from GeoGirls blog: How the landscape formed and changes with time.

Our hypothesis is Coldwater Lake was created by a landslide. We tested our theory by seeing where there were hummocks.  Next, we did an experiment using the sieve and measuring the size of sediments along the lake shore.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Hammer Time!

We went on a 7-mile hike on Coldwater Lake trail to one of the alluvial fans.  There, we learned about different ways to identify rocks, different fault types, and landslides at Coldwater Lake.

Text from GeoGirls blog: How scientists track changes on the volcano.

Scientists monitor things like surface changes and Earth's gravity.  It is important to know what is typical and when there are changes that could mean the volcano is becoming active.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Listening for earthquakes with seismometers

We went to each location, dug a hole and buried the seismometer inside.  We retrieved it after an hour of recording data and filled the holes.  We then downloaded and analyzed the data.

Christa:  My name’s Christa.  A couple of my favorite things about GeoGirls were the seismology activity and discovering that seismometers can feel airplanes.  That was really cool.

Catie:  I’m Catie.  And, the thing I like the most about GeoGirls was the fact that it was all female scientists.  And it was showing how there are so many female scientists and so many different jobs that you don’t even think of.  And how 100 years ago that wouldn’t even have been okay.  You wouldn’t have even been able to get these jobs.

Jane:  Like, I didn’t know there were so many women that did this kind of work.  It’s crazy.  It’s just pretty cool.

Text from GeoGirls blog: Interviews with scientists about their careers

We learned how scientists started their careers.  Most all of them agreed you have to do what you love and to set your dreams high and fight for them.

Read the GeoGirls 2016 Blog

To apply for the GeoGirls program, visit the Mount St. Helens Institute,

Marina:  My name’s Marina and I didn’t have a favorite thing about GeoGirls because I loved everything.

GeoGirls is jointly organized by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Mount St. Helens Institute.

The goal of the program is for GeoGirls to emerge with a stronger understanding and connection to Earth systems and feel confident in choosing careers in science, technology, engineering, math or STEM-related fields.

The GeoGirls program is free, thanks to volunteers, grant funding from the National Science Foundation, and the generosity of donors to MSHI, including the American Association of University Women, Chevron, and Association for Women Geoscientists.

2016 GeoGirls Staff and Volunteers:  Abi Groskopf, MSHI; Alyssa Biel, WA DNR; Amy D'Andrea, Woodbrook Middle School; Angie Diefenbach, USGS; Beth Bartel, UNAVCO; Carolyn Driedger, USGS; Carrie Lindsay, petroleum geologist; Cat Samson, Western Washington Univ; Corina Forson, WA DNR; Evelyn Roeloffs, USGS; Heather Wright, USGS; Jenny DiGiulio, Oregon State Univ; Kate Allstadt, USGS; Katy Daniel, MSHI; Kristina Gustovich, Western Washington Univ; Liz Van Boskirk, UNAVCO; Liz Westby, USGS; Melissa Drignon, Oregon State University; Nora Utevsky, Oregon State University; Rachel Sadri, Evergreen Middle School; Sarah Baumann, MSHI; Sarah Polster, UW; Sonja Melander, MSHI.


August 7-11, 2016

Images by Angie Diefenbach, Beth Bartel, Carolyn Driedger, Carrie Lindsay, Sonja Melander, and Liz Westby

GeoGirls graphic by Alicia Hotovec

Video by Liz Westby


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Participants’ graphics; USGS graphic