‘Demystifying’ science: USGS team teams up with schoolgirls on Mount St. Helens

Isabel Vander Stoep / For the Reflector

Volcanoes do not discriminate when to erupt. So why should we over-represent certain groups of people in order to better understand their impact?

Scientists at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Mount St. Helens Laboratory in Mount St. Helens want to spread the message that everyone can play a role in geology, regardless of age, gender, or otherwise. thinking about.

Thus GeoGirls was created.

One GeoGirls volunteer, Kaitlyn Trestrail, was one of two girls in her department when she recently graduated with a geology degree. Now, through a geology camp for middle and high school students (held for the first time this week since the outbreak of the pandemic), Trestrail can be a part of expanding her horizons and validating girls’ dreams. She’s about to become a scientist or something.

“It takes a lot of guts and resilience,” she said. “But being able to pass on advice and pass on the experiences we’ve learned the most from to younger generations, these campers, is invaluable.”

On the morning of Wednesday, August 10, at the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center, the girls I was wrapping up a week-long geological project from all over Clark County. Three groups are arranged around the volcanic monument, one group studying the Coldwater Lake and North Fork Tuttle River sediments, and another group using seismometers to study avalanche and lahar seismic features. and a third group used microscopes to look at volcanic rocks.

In sediment research, Lenny Hoyland, 14, of Battle Ground was one of the researchers. Several girls using milk bottles to collect water samples from a coldwater lake. She explained how the scientist had a similar sample from her 1949. By submerging the bottle in water and slowly collecting samples, she was able to observe the changes caused by the 1980 eruption, she said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Lenny. “I thought it would be fun to meet people, and I like camping.”

In a seismological study, the girls made buckets of mud and collected rocks before descending the hills near the seismometer.

By pouring mud onto the hills, they were simulating the seismic waves seen throughout the lahar. With large rocks, they simulated an avalanche.

When these events occur naturally, they are difficult to predict. Through this project, geologists can train artificial intelligence to recognize and interpret lahars and avalanches in nature.

“And if it’s on a large scale, it could help alert downstream communities because people live near or recreate rivers there.” is using what they’re using right now and they can see how it works. I feel like.”

Camas’ Rainy Wu, 13, totally agrees, saying she’s never done anything similar to camp hands-on learning in her middle school class. According to her and her new friend Miranda Hubert, 15, who lives in Vancouver, her biggest accomplishment from GeoGirls is a newfound confidence and connecting with others with common interests. is the ability to form

“There was no awkward pause. Everyone just started talking and we found common ground. And although I’m older than most people here, we seem to be the same age. Me There is no difference between us, we are here to enjoy nature, to learn and to experience it all,” said Miranda.

Rainy adds: After this I definitely became more interested in geology. ”

Paige Molyneux, 14, of Battlegrounds, a group studying rocks, described how she observed a crack in one pumice stone under a microscope while recreating the scene using watercolors.

As she explained this, others at the table were painting landscapes and other scenes. I said that I should record it.

Ray Yurkewycz, executive director of the Mount St. Helens Institute, said: You get better connections and more equity in how people go through these things. … I feel like I can do science. You are actually doing science with scientists. ”

For more information about the institute, please visit mshinstitute.org/. Learn about GeoGirls or sign up at mshinstitute.org/learn/for-parents/geogirls/geogirls.html.

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