Cordilleran Section - 115th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 35-11
Presentation Time: 11:35 AM


WESTBY, Elizabeth1, MELANDER, Sonja M.2, GROSKOPF, Abigail2, ALLSTADT, Kate E.3 and DRIEDGER, Carolyn L.4, (1)U.S. Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory, 1300 SE Cardinal Ct, Bldg 10, Suite 100, Vancouver, WA 98683, (2)Mount St. Helens Institute, 42218 NE Yale Bridge Road, Amboy, WA 98601, (3)U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 966, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, (4)Cascades Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, Bldg 10, Suite 100, 1300 SE Cardinal Court, Vancouver, WA 98683

It begins on an August morning at Mount St. Helens; 25 middle-school girls gather in a grassy open space to meet scientists, staff and volunteers. Over the next five days, they hike to field sites, map geologic deposits, identify landslides, deploy seismometers, and track landscape changes using photogrammetry. On the last day, they participate in a crisis mission, applying what they’ve learned to a scenario of increasing volcanic unrest. Throughout the week, the girls engage in authentic science and engineering practices and explore crosscutting concepts (patterns, cause/effect, stability/change) to gain knowledge of and preparedness for natural hazards (NGSS ESS3.B).

The program is remarkable in that young girls—the next generation of scientists—engage with women scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI), public agencies, universities, and private sector. The scientists share stories of how they chose their careers and what they studied in school. The girls learn about challenges and ways in which difficult scientific problems can be resolved. The professionals create an environment where science is “doable” not daunting, which encourages girls to pursue their passions.

The GeoGirls program began in 2015. The USGS scientists share research projects and MSHI oversees applications, logistics, and follow-up, including pre- and post-program surveys that assess skill and attitude changes. The survey uses a Likert-scale rating for statements on science identity, the outdoors, and empowerment/grit. Before the 2018 program, 34% of participants said they were undecided or did not agree they knew about volcanic hazards; 30% said they were undecided or did not agree they valued conducting science outside. After the program, 100% of the GeoGirls reported they knew about volcanic hazards and valued conducting science outdoors; 92% said they can overcome challenges and find support from others to help them face challenges; and 96% now see themselves as scientists.

The GeoGirls program provides an impactful outdoor learning opportunity to share knowledge about Mount St. Helens, volcano hazards, monitoring technologies, science careers and hazard education. To learn more, visit

  • GeoGirls_Rock.pdf (7.4 MB)