everyday SCIENCE Girls Explore Yellowstone

Victoria, Kathryn, Xochitl, Latrise, Kassandra, Rana, Arieshae, Mystica, and Jasmine—participants in the All Girls Expedition to Yellowstone—were very excited. They were preparing to go to Yellowstone National Park for a week to do science out in the field. For many of the girls, this trip would be their first time away from Chicago.

The experience began a week before the trip, in a science classroom. Working with scientists, the girls learned about geology, water chemistry, and the wildlife at Yellowstone. They also were introduced to the instruments that they would be using at the park.

Under the supervision of physical chemist Melanie Schroeder, the girls practiced using a thermometer to measure and record water temperature and litmus paper to measure its pH. Biologist Joshua Miller helped the participants build a giant food web by stringing together cards of plants and animals, showing the interconnections among different parts of an ecosystem.

At the end of the week, the group participated in an event called the Send-Off. The girls presented what they learned to family and friends and received a certificate of achievement and a backpack of supplies. Then, with scientists by their side, they were off to Yellowstone for a week of science and adventure.

An early morning start didn’t faze this group. Brimming with energy and excitement, they couldn’t wait to arrive at their destination—even though many were not used to the physical exercise that was central to the experience. But throughout the week, they all showed that they could master what was expected of them—using an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of hot springs, measuring the pH of water in Lemonade Creek, hiking long distances, and using telemetry equipment to track radio-collared coyotes in the wild.

Observation also was a key element of the experience. The girls observed the microorganisms living in Abyss Pool and used a spotting scope to locate animals on distant hills. And after watching steam pour out of Old Faithful, they discussed what geothermal energy is and whether it can be harnessed and used as an energy source for homes and businesses.

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