2022 Projects

The Teen Science Scholars program invites 20 teens from around Colorado to complete hands-on summer internships with Science Division staff at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The aim for this program is to provide an opportunity for students from underserved audiences to have an opportunity to work alongside our scientists in order to gain experience and opportunity they might not be exposed to otherwise. While in the program, teen scholars strengthen their investigative and communication skills, develop a peer network of students from across the state of Colorado, and share their work and experiences during a Showcase event at the end of the summer.

Scroll down to see an overview of the projects completed in 2022. To learn more about the program and how to apply, click here.

Teen Science Scholars is made possible with support from the Harvey Family Foundation, Daniels Fund, the Gateway Fund II of The Denver Foundation, the Paul and Harriet Rosen Teen Science Scholars Endowment, Dr. Paul & Mrs. Harriet Rosen, Marx-Stark Family Foundation, Robert Walker & Cristy Godwin, Phillip & Susan Greenberg, John G. Duncan Charitable Trust, Robert Zupkus & Janet Burda, Jon & Roxanne Isenhart, and Lael Moe & Cathy Fennelly, among other donors, and Dr. Richard Stucky, who was instrumental in founding the program.

2022 Showcase

Watch our 2022 Teen Science Scholars showcase the amazing projects they worked on here at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science during the summer.

Teen Science Scholars Success Stories

From Teen Science Scholar to paleontology graduate school - hear 2017 Teen Science Scholar Isiah Newbins' story on how the TSS program impacted his life and scientific career.

2022 Vertebrate Paleontology

Research into the Late Cretaceous rocks of northwestern New Mexico has revealed a number of new dinosaurs and other fossils from the landmass of Laramidia 75 million years ago, and has resulted in a large and diverse fossil collection at DMNS. In 2022, two Teen Science Scholars learned about the vertebrate skeleton and used that knowledge to improve the fossil collections from New Mexico. In addition to unpacking and organizing new collections fresh from the field, they identified and cataloged specimens for research, rehoused delicate fossils in new "foam-homes," and organized the collections for future work. In a unique blending of science and art, they also worked with a world-renowned paleoartist to update the reconstruction of the horned dinosaur Pentaceratops based on a complete skull collected by DMNS scientists, helping with the Museum's efforts to communicate active science.

2022 Geology

In summer 2022, our team focused on “paleomapping” – the science and art of creating maps of what the earth looked like in deep time. Using the Rocky Mountain region as a case study, we compiled paleontologic information from each major geologic period, plotting the distribution of fossils in different areas in each time period. The environments represented by each fossil group were characterized (i.e., marine, coastal, terrestrial) and plotted atop of the paleoenvironments that had previously been inferred based on sedimentologic data. The goal was to employ this fossil data to falsify, refine, or confirm the established paleoenvironmental interpretations of this region and then to update our community’s maps of each geologic interval accordingly.

2022 Entomology

During the summer of 2022, Curator of Entomology, Frank Krell, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Paula Cushing, and Collections Manager of Education collections, Jeff Stephenson co-mentored four Teen Science Scholars. These TSS students learned how to sort arthropods (creepy crawlies) to different orders by sorting specimens collected by Dr. Cushing during her field expeditions. Once the teens became proficient in sorting this material into groups (e.g., Diptera or flies, Hymenoptera or ants/bees, Coleoptera or beetles), they participated in their own fieldwork, collecting insects in City Park. The DMNS Nearby Nature initiative plans to re-vegetate a part of City Park with native plants and transform the park into a more natural area where kids can play. As part of this project, Dr. Krell and Mr. Stephenson are collecting data on arthropod diversity in City Park that can be compared to changes in the biodiversity once the park becomes “re-wilded.” The TSS students efforts are part of this project.

2022 Anthropology

The Anthropology Teen Science Scholars tackled 2000 L of dirt this summer – for SCIENCE. Each day the teens constructed an outdoor archaeobotanical flotation laboratory, complete with troughs, basins, buckets, hoses, screens and (the occasional) water fight. Their efforts went towards better understanding two archaeological sites: the Jones Miller Bison Kill site (c. 10,000 BP, Eastern Colorado), and the W.S. Ranch Ruin (c. AD 1000 West-Central New Mexico). Excavators in the 1970s collected soil samples containing valuable information about the climate, ecology and activities at these sites – if the data could be extracted! In order to separate dirt from data, the teens “floated” the soil samples – so that organic data in the form of charcoal, seeds, pollen and bone floated to the top and was screened and preserved so that we can analyze microscopically. This work will answer important outstanding questions on these sites. For The Jones-Miller site – “what was the seasonality of the bison kills” “was there more than one hunting episode” “does the C14 data we collected support the projectile point dates we found.” For W.S. Ranch – “what was the landscape and ecology nearby?” “had they overexploited nearby resources” “what were their subsistence and farming strategies.” ALL of these questions will be answered from the data collected by the Anthro TSS. A valuable contribution indeed. 

2022 Paleobotany

During the summer of 2022, our Paleobotany team assisted with research on fossil plants from Corral Bluffs (Colorado Springs, CO), which grew before and immediately after the asteroid impact that killed the non-avian dinosaurs at 66 million years ago. These plants document how ecosystems changed from the age of dinosaurs, the Cretaceous, to the rise of mammals during the Paleocene. The TSS were instrumental in the collection of fossil plants from Corral Bluffs, where we spent a day digging 65-million-year-old fossil plants, and also the important work of organizing and cataloguing these specimens back in the DMNS collections. Their work included sorting fossil specimens that had been recently collected, unwrapping the fossils from their protective bandages, and helping to catalogue those specimens. Once specimens were catalogued in the digital collections software and labels were glued to each specimen, the teens then helped photograph these fossil leaves and fruits. In particular, the teens assisted research on legumes (bean plants), which were found at Corral Bluffs and are the oldest known bean fossils. 

2022 Conservation

In Summer 2022, Conservation Teen Science Scholars Jake and Ellie participated in two projects: ongoing work on the Northwest Coast Collection and the Snowmass Conifer Cones Project.

The Teen Science Scholars observed and documented items from the Anthropology Department’s Northwest Coast Collection as part of ongoing work on an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant (MA-245839-OMS-20) to perform a condition assessment of items that originate from five communities: the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw, the Nuu-chah-nulth, the Makah, the Haida, and the Tlingit. This included writing condition reports, which describe the items and note any areas that show damage or deterioration. Jake and Ellie also got hands-on experience stabilizing a Tlingit cedar bark mat that dates to the early 20th century and comes from Angoon, Alaska. Jake and Ellie documented the mat, performed gentle surface cleaning, and stabilized breaks with toned Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste.

For the Snowmass Conifer Cones Project, the teens helped determine which solution will best preserve ancient, damaged conifer cones from the 130,000-70,000-year-old Ziegler Reservoir site in Snowmass, CO. They did this by creating preservative solutions, putting a group of experimental modern cones and the scales of two of the ancient cones in the solutions, then recording the quantitative and qualitative data for the cones and scales. The data collection involved weighing and examining the cones for signs of damage caused by sitting in the solution, including sloughing surface layers, color changes, and crystal formation, and entering this data into spreadsheets for further analysis. The teens then removed half of the experimental cones and scales from solution and put them in the freeze dryer to dry so that we could see which solution best preserved the material.  

2022 Mentors

Erin Baxter, PhD

Acting Curator of Anthropology

Megan Salas, MA

Objects Conservator

Kristen A. MacKenzie, MS

Earth Sciences Collections Manager

James Hagadorn, PhD

Tim & Kathryn Ryan Curator of Geology

Holger Petermann, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Nicole Neu-Yagle, MS

Earth Sciences Assistant Collections Manager

Frank-Thorsten Krell, PhD

Senior Curator of Entomology

Jeffrey T. Stephenson

Science Liaison

Paula E. Cushing, PhD

Senior Curator of Invertebrate Zoology


Learn more about applying here: https://www.dmns.org/about/teen-science-scholars/.

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