2021 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 2021. 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, 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.

Meet the 2021 Scholars

2021 Earth Sciences

The Earth Sciences Teen Science Scholars experienced a wide range of Paleontology aspects, including preparation, curation, collections management, and research. Primary project emphases were put on collections and Digital Imaging projects, curating and digitizing fossils for research and exhibition access. The Earth Sciences collections staff carefully manage fossils and data, the Digital Research Lab segments and models fossils, and the Paleobotanists study the fossils to decipher past environments and ecosystems.

2021 Prep Lab to Genetic Sequencing

During the summer of 2021, the Zoology Prep Lab partnered with the Genetics Lab to give three teen interns a well-rounded view of the ornithology work done at the museum. The teens started in the prep lab, where they prepared animal specimens by collecting tissue samples, and documenting important physical identifiers to group the species by relatedness. The interns then took thier tissue samples to the Genetics Lab where they extracted, amplified, and sent out DNA for sequencing. Once the results were returned, they trimmed the sequences and performed species identification in an effort to match their groups desribed by physical description to the groups determined through genetics.

2021 Zoology Collections

In the coming years, City Park near Boettcher Plaza will be transformed into a nature play area with more native plants as part of our Nearby Nature initiative. Starting in 2021, Teen Science Scholars helped to monitor the insect fauna of this area in order to detect any changes caused by this transformation. The scholars collected insects with sweep nets, by hand, and at night by attracting them with a special light.

2021 Ancient Sandal College

The Anthropology Teen Science Scholars ran Online Ancient Sandal College in 2021. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science has an extensive array of 800-2000 year old sandals from the US Southwest. Ancestral Pueblo People made amazingly beautiful and functional footwear from fiber (cotton, yucca). These were both essential in some desert environments and conveyed meaning (identity, social status). We know lots about sandals -- but we don't know how long they lasted.

Six Teen Science Scholars studied the cost-benefit (time to produce vs. how long they lasted), by

  1. studying the ancient sandals in the collection
  2. reverse-engineering how to make them
  3. ordering or finding supplies like yucca
  4. making sandals
  5. terrain testing them on rocks, gravel
  6. recording the data on production and use-life and
  7. writing up their results as an academic paper and presentation at a conference.

Throughout this process they received help (online and in person) from 10 guest speakers that include indigenous artists, weavers and engineers, archaeologists, collection managers, staff at the Denver botanical gardens and museum professionals. They also recorded each step of the process and put it on various social media platforms so anyone can learn about ancient sandals and sign up to make or try them out! (The students mailed dozens of packets of supplies to volunteers and posted the videos/chats/tweets/FB posts/Tik Tok with all the information to do it home, collect the data and participate. It was a crowd-sourced, online, experimental archaeology project – one that we hope to do again soon!

2021 Conservation

In Summer 2021, Conservation Teen Science Scholars Brisa and Shannon participated in two projects, the Northwest Coast Collection Grant and the Snowmass Conifer Cones Project.

For the Northwest Coast Collection Grant, they observed and documented the condition of items from the Anthropology Department’s Northwest Coast Collection belonging to five tribal nations: the Kwakwaka’wakw, the Nuu-chah-nulth, the Makah, the Haida, and the Tlingit. This included writing condition reports for the items, detailing their appearance and any areas that showed damage or deterioration; photographing the items; and researching their histories and designs to better understand the items.

For the Snowmass Conifer Cones Project, the teens recorded quantitative and qualitative data for a series of experimental modern cones being tested to determine which solution will best preserve ancient, damaged conifer cones from the Ziegler Reservoir site in Snowmass, CO. This 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.  

2021 Mentors

Erin Baxter, PhD

Acting Curator of Anthropology

Kathryn Reusch, PhD

Conservation Technician

Megan Salas, MA

Objects Conservator

Kristen A. MacKenzie, MS

Earth Sciences Collections Manager

Lindsay Gaona Dougan, MS

Digital Research Lab Technician

Nicole Neu-Yagle, MS

Earth Sciences Assistant Collections Manager

Andrea (Andie) Carrillo

Zoology Preparator

Tiffany Nuessle, MA

Research Manager in the Genetics Lab

Jeffrey T. Stephenson

Science Liaison

Frank-Thorsten Krell, PhD

Senior Curator of Entomology


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

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