“Science is Amazing”: GeoGirls Explore Mount St. Helens During Outdoor Science and Technology Program

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Twenty-five middle school-age GeoGirls spent five days conducting hands-on research and interacting with female scientists, educators and older students, all while learning about active volcanoes, natural hazards and modern scientific monitoring technologies below the summit of Mount St. Helens.

Girls hike along a trail at Mount St. Helens

The GeoGirls hike the Pumice Plain at Mount St. Helens, examining lava outcrops and volcanic sediment.

(Credit: Emily Shirron, USGS. Public domain.)

“It’s an amazing experience having all these women around us who are scientists as well as teaching science to future generations,” said GeoGirl Samantha Garcia-Hernandez. “It’s amazing to just be in a community where everyone loves science.”  

From Aug. 4 to 8, 2019, U.S. Geological Survey women scientists, university researchers and Mount St. Helens Institute staff led the science-loving girls from Washington and Oregon in the fifth annual GeoGirls outdoor volcano science program at Mount St. Helens, Washington.

They camped, hiked to field sites and worked on research projects examining volcanic deposits from past eruptions, and toured a 2,000-year-old lava tube. They deployed seismometers and analyzed earthquake data, collected sediment samples and learned about ecological change in the volcano’s blast zone as they explored Mount St. Helens’ Pumice Plain.

The goal of the GeoGirls program is for participants to emerge with a stronger understanding of the volcano in their backyards and to feel confident in choosing careers in science, technology, engineering, math or other related fields. The program is free to student participants thanks to grant funding from the American Association of University Women-Lewis County, EMPOWER Women + Girls Clark County, the Frank L and Arlene G Price Foundation and many private donors who give to the Mount St. Helens Institute, a nonprofit organization focusing on helping people understand and protect the volcano.

Mount St. Helens is the most active volcano in the Cascade Range, and it is the most likely of the contiguous U.S. volcanoes to erupt in the future. The USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory maintains a close watch over Mount St. Helens, along with nine other active volcanoes of the Cascade Range in Washington and Oregon. CVO scientists study the history of volcanoes, develop new tools and ideas to understand volcanic systems, monitor current volcano behavior, assess future impacts and communicate with other government agencies, public officials, emergency response groups, educators and the public regarding activity at the volcano, hazard awareness and preparedness for the next eruption.

Video Transcript

During Aug. 4-8, 2019, U.S. Geological Survey women scientists, university researchers and Mount St. Helens Institute staff led 25 middle-school girls from Washington and Oregon in the fifth annual “GeoGirls” outdoor volcano science program at Mount St. Helens, Washington.

Liz Westby, USGS

(Public domain.)

More information about the GeoGirls program is available online.

Read more about USGS women in science, in “A snapshot of women of the U.S. Geological Survey in STEM and related careers.”