We’ve seen a lot!

We spent a second day at Pictured Rocks on a cruise to view the rock formations from the water, as well as some time to relax on the beach. Students got in swimming and Camila finally found a Lake Superior agate (a first for Earth Camp – she was determined after I described them to her)!

Next on to Marquette, MI. We went to the famous banded iron formation deposits in Ishpeming, MI

Nest to Preques Isle State Park to view the Jacobsville Sandstone, and then find the Great Unconformity. (today was a day of famous rock outcrops – I would put The Banded Iron Formation and The Great Unconformity in top 10 well-known outcrops in the world, both are textbook examples that you will find in any Intro Geology textbook, so we love taking students to see them up close!)

And of course, got to end the day at the 1.7 billion year old peridotite that forms the Black Rock cliffs here. As a thank you to the cliffs for being such an amazing geologic formation, we jump off them into Lake Superior!





Heading north!

Today we visited Kitch-iti-kipi Springs – our first time stopping there for Earth Camp – and a first visit for all the staff and students. We weren’t disappointed, it was beautiful, and a great learning experience. There is a raft with a  glass bottom attached to a cable that is “self-pulled”, so we powered ourselves across the spring and viewed the bottom. Crystal clear water, trout, and turbid sand at the bottom where the spring water was flowing in. Check out the video of that below.

Next it was heading north to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We hiked to Miner’s Falls, then along the cliffs to get a view of the rock layers visible here from above.

Earth Camp Upper Peninsula got started on Mackinac Island!

We had a great day for the start of our Upper Peninsula trip. We spent a few hours in the St. Ignace library learning about Michigan glacial history from 21,000 years ago to the present. During this deglacial time, water levels of the Great Lakes fluctuated and there is evidence of these past lake levels in the land around us. We learned about Glacial Lakes Algonquin and Nipissing stages to prepare to go see the evidence on Mackinac Island in the afternoon. We also spent some time sedimentary rocks, how they form, and specifically the Michigan Basin. Students got to make their own mini Michigan Basins with Play-Doh – who doesn’t like acting like a little kid with Play-Doh again!

We split up into a few group for the bike adventure around Mackinac Island. My group did about 10.6 miles and made it to the very top of Mackinac Island. All around the island, there are prominent rock features composed of Mackinac Breccia (our students now know all about!) that are shoreline features from glacial Lake Nipissing (water level was ~50 feet above present-day Lake Huron) and glacial Lake Algonquin (water level was ~221 feet above present-day Lake Huron). And yes, because water level was so much higher, students had to bike up, up, up the island to see those glacial Lake Algonquin features!

Welcome Earth Camp Class of 2019!

We are excited to welcome a new group of 20 rising 10th grade students to campus for a week of exploration and hands-on learning. Everyone got to meet each other and push themselves to try new things at the UMich Adventure Education Center where they spent the day practicing collaboration, developing trust, and having fun. The adventure ended with the climbing wall.

Our first full day of Earth Camp focused on water quality and exploring the Huron River. Students spent the morning comparing water quality a two different sites using the presence of different macro invertebrates species as an indicator of water quality, as well as chemically testing the water for dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, pH, turbidity, and temperature as more indicators of water quality.

These measurements led a discussion on non-point source pollution and how it affects drinking water, as well as recent water quality problems in Ann Arbor Arbor, Toledo, and Flint.

The students spent the afternoon kayaking up the Huron River from Argo Pond towards the Barton Dam – they were an impressive group and took to it easily.

Application Workshop and Campus Visit

Had a number of our newest Earth Camp alumni and their parents visit campus today for an application workshop, laboratory tours, and a backyard tailgate. They got their application and essay questions answered and met with a number of graduate students and faculty who stopped by – Professors Gregory Dick, Naomi Levin, Jena Johnson, and Chair Marin Clark. It was nice to see them all again – I’m looking forward to seeing where they all end up next year!

A new group of Earth Campers! Michigan 2018

After a week in Wyoming with our Earth Camp veterans, it was time to welcome a new class to Ann Arbor for their first summer experience. After checking into the dorms, we got right to work getting to know each other during the low-ropes course and climbing wall activity at the U-M Challenge Program.

Day 2 – We focused on water quality today – comparing macroinvertebrate distribution and chemistry in two different water bodies (macroinvertebrates are a proxy for stream health), then headed out on the Huron River in kayaks to explore and enjoy the resource we just studied.


Day 3 – We spent our last day in Ann Arbor on campus. Students built solar cells in the morning and used GPS units to find their way around campus on a scavenger hunt. We had a special treat when our Michigan-bound Earth Camp alumni on campus before their freshman fall semester joined us for lunch.

Day 4 – We left for the west side of Michigan to see and explore the sand dunes and Lake Michigan – this was the first time for many of our students visiting the sand dunes, and for some, hanging out on the beaches of one of our 4 Great Lakes. We started with a dune ride to cover a larger area than we can on foot, then headed up north and promptly got in the (cold!) water – lots of fun on the beach and walk out to the lighthouse.

Day 5 – We lucked out with weather – it was gorgeous our whole time up north. We mapped Sleeping Bear Dunes, took measurements to create beach profiles, and ended the night with a bonfire on the beach. Another great trip with a superb group of new students – excited to explore and learn more in the future with them!


Wyoming 2018

Another great summer experience with Earth Camp in Wyoming. We just finished our week-long adventure and I’m incredibly proud of our group. They learned and accomplished more than I think any of them thought possible before this week. Here’s a recap!

Day 1 – Students headed down to the Hoback River area to take stream measurements to make stream profiles and calculate the discharge, took a dip in Granite Hot Springs (a natural warm spring that has been dammed to create a swimming pool in the mountains), then visited Camp Davis Field Station to hike Mt. Anne and learn about normal faulting in the region, as well as visit with faculty and current U-M students. Phew – busy Day 1!

Day 2 – We took off for Yellowstone National Park early in the morning to make it to Old Faithful before it got too crowded. Got to watch Old Faithful a few times, then toured the rest of the Geyer Basin while learning about past rhyolite flows and how hot springs and geysers are formed.

Day 3 – The whole group made it up Bunsen Peak – super proud of these guys. Saw the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff nonconformity along the hike, then lunched at the base of a cool outcrop of columnar basalt. Learned about the 3 different Yellowstone calderas at Tuff Cliff where they got to touch the tuff and feel the difference in its composition compared to the rhyolite they had been seeing around the rest of the time. A quick stop at Norris Geyser Basin and we called it a day!

Day 4 – Up early and in the vans at 4:30 am – off in search of wolves. We got unlucky this year – no wolves to be seen, but lots and lots of bison moms and their calves (we even got stuck on the road for 20+ minutes while one decided that would be a good place to nurse!), 4 coyotes, our first bear, and a fox. Ended the day at the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone, then back south to Jackson.

Day 5 – Drove to the Gros Ventre Slide area to look at the geology of aftermath of this landslide, as well as discuss the underlying causes behind it. Then into Grand Teton National Park for a hike to Phelps Lake – and a swim to cool off! Ended the day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort – took the gondola up to a mountain-top restaurant where part of our group joined in with the live entertainment.

Day 6 – Saying goodbye to Wyoming. One group hiked up to Cascade Canyon and spent some time reflecting and starting college essays, while another decided to give it all they had an hike 16.1 miles round-trip to Lake Solitude where they were met with snow-covered ground and a chilly alpine lake. They pushed themselves hard and I’m so proud of them.


College Bound!

Congratulations to our first Earth Camp alumni group! These students started with the Earth Camp program the summer after their 9th-grade year in 2015. They were our first group to go to Wyoming the summer after their 11th-grade year.

  • 100% (19/19) of Earth Camp alumni will attend college next year
  • 11 of 19 Earth Camp alumni applied to the University of Michigan (9 LSA, 1 nursing, 1 engineering). 5 of these 11 applicants were accepted (4 LSA, 1 engineering).
  • 4 Earth Camp alumni matriculated to the University of Michigan:
    • Student #1: LSA, will participate in the Summer Bridge Scholars Program, plans to major in environmental policy
    • Student #2: LSA, plans to major in Earth and Environmental Sciences
    • Student #3: Engineering, will participate in M-Engin
    • Student #4: LSA, will participate in the Summer Bridge Scholars Program, plans to major in Computer Science
  • 8/19 plan to major in geology, earth, or environmental science; 10/19 plan to major in another STEM field, 1/19 plans to major in a non-STEM field

Campus Visit

A number of our Earth Camp alumni came to campus with their families for an information session. They met representatives from LSA recruiting and MSTEM Academies, faculty from our department, and got to hear from a panel of current undergraduate and graduate students who stuck around to help review application essays. Afterwards graduate students opened up their labs for tours.

Looking forward to seeing some of these future scientists at Michigan next year!


Earth Camp Upper Peninsula 2017!

Another great week of Earth Camp. This week was our rising 11th graders (who are Wyoming-bound next summer) traveling the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Our first stop was Mackinac Island to see old shoreline features from glacial Lakes Nipissing and Algonquin such as sea stacks, arches, caves, and the former headlands. Also covered sedimentary rocks, Michigan Basin, and the formation of the Mackinac Breccia.

Day 2 was Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to tour the Lake Superior shoreline and see the current features being carved into the sedimentary shoreline. Always neat in geology to see a modern-day process happening, and understand the concept “the present is the key to the past”. As we toured the shoreline, we could see first-hand how a sea arch evolves into a sea stack. Then think back to yesterday and know that when we see ancient sea arches and sea stacks, we can interpret how the formed. “The present is the key to the past” – we will keep coming back to this, especially next summer as we witness active geologic processes happening in Yellowstone.

Day 3 was spent in the Marquette, MI region. Our first stop was to the banded iron formation at Jasper Knob – here we were joined by Professor Gregory Dick to learn about these rocks and how they *might* relate to the great oxygenation event. We found our way to a pillow basalt behind the local Walmart and ended the day learning about a peridotite intrusion at Presque Isle where students got to jump from the peridotite cliffs into Lake Superior.

Day 4 we drove a bit farther to Houghton Michigan to tour the Quincey Copper Mine and visit the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum where the University of Michigan mineral collection is displayed.

Another great Earth Camp experience. I was impressed with how much the students learned, remembered from last year, and all the new activities they were game to try. Looking forward to climbing mountains with them next summer!