Girls on Rock

Girls on Rock is a unique, free wilderness science education programs for high school girls.

Girls on Rock

Girls on Rock is a unique, FREE, wilderness science education programs for high school girls. Each summer a team of 8-9 teenage girls and 3 instructors spend 12 days exploring and learning about the alpine landscapes of the Rocky Mountains. They conduct scientific field studies with our team of professional glaciologists, ecologists, mountain guides, and artists.

As part of Inspiring Girls Expeditions, our purpose is to give girls a feeling for the processes that create the natural world and provide an environment that fosters the critical thinking necessary to all scientific inquiry. We encourage the girls to observe and think like scientists by making observations and inferences. They develop their own experiments to test ideas and answer questions.

The girls on the team also challenge themselves and gain self-confidence in their physical, intellectual, and social abilities. An Inspiring Girls Expedition is the science version of a “language immersion” experience – where we connect science with all aspects of daily life with the goal of creating lifelong advocates for Earth science, specifically, and the scientific process as a whole, regardless of whether or not they decide to specialize in science in college.

The wilderness setting and single gender field team inspires young women’s interest in science and provides a challenging environment that increases their physical and intellectual self-confidence.

We focus on creating a diverse team, and emphasize providing this experience to those girls who might not otherwise be able to have an opportunity like this. 

Attention - Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic the 2020 GOR Summer Program has been canceled

More About Girls on Rock


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Girls on Rock is excited to announce that we will be running a 2020 expedition! Like in 2018, nine young womxn (age 16/17) will design, conduct and present their own field research science projects, while also learning outdoor leadership skills, climbing and camping, and engaging with their natural surroundings through art.

Apply at

If you can, please support the program with a tax deductible donation.


Mel Zhang

I'm a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I study the seismology of subduction margins where slow slip events ("slow earthquakes") have been observed. I'm interested in the interactions and impacts between geohazards and people, and pursue research which has the potential to benefit communities vulnerable to such hazards.

Through an outdoor program I participated in as an undergraduate in environmental studies, I had my first learning experience in what it is like to be a geoscientist, and I also learned of the vast imbalance in the ratio of female to male geoscientists. I see programs like Girls on Rock as an important step to leveling a playing field which is inherently biased and want to use my visibility as a member of the geoscience community to further awareness of these issues. When I'm not doing science, I enjoy hanging upside down from various circus apparatuses, juggling, traveling, eating, and rock climbing.



Kelly Anne Carscadden

As a PhD student in ecology and evolution, I've spent my summers in the spectacular mountains of Colorado and California researching how plants tolerate different environments. These experiences have kindled my appreciation for the small- and large-scale changes in nature - from the growth of an individual plant over a summer, to the valleys etched out on the landscape that divulge a very different, glacial past. I am thrilled to work with Girls on Rock to create opportunities for young women to connect with nature, pursue their scientific questions, and feel empowered to explore the outdoors.


Vanessa Gabel

My work focuses on landscape evolution, specifically on the role that modes of sediment production and transport play in setting long-term response rates to tectonic perturbations. Outside of academics, I am passionate about hiking, camping, and storytelling through creative writing and scrapbooking. I became interested in how to make outdoor education engaging and accessible after serving in AmeriCorps as en environmental educator.



Aislyn Keyes

I am a PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU Boulder interested in marine conservation and the interactions between human and natural systems. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2017 with a BS in Sustainability, Spanish, and Marine biology. I hope to work alongside coastal communities to create solutions that benefit people and the environment. Prior to moving to Boulder, Colorado in August 2019, I was (and still is) infatuated with large bodies of (salty) water and the surplus of life inhabiting them. I have spent enormous amounts of time diving below sea level. Now, with the mountains at my doorstep, I've learned the joy and mystery of living 5,000+ feet above sea level where new and exciting challenges and discoveries are always around the corner.



Pacifica Sommers

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at University of Colorado Boulder. I am interested in the forces that maintain - or undermine - biological diversity, especially at the microscopic level. My current research is forces controlling microbial diversity on and around glaciers in the Arctic, Antarctic, and alpine.


Megan Blanchard

Megan Blanchard, E-Bio, chemical ecologist

I am a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I spend my time collecting wildflower seeds in the beautiful Colorado mountains and performing chemical extractions in the lab.  As a chemical ecologist, I am trying to find out how seeds use toxic chemicals as defense against being eaten.  I also find myself in the mountains to hike, camp, climb, and ski.

I developed my love of mountains in an unlikely place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A group of dedicated volunteers in the Explorer’s Club of Pittsburgh taught me about the joy, freedom, empowerment, and community you can find in remote and challenging landscapes.  Most importantly, they taught me that when you love something so much, you just have to share it with others!  That’s why I have been so excited to help develop Girls on Rock, to share the experience of doing science in the mountains with more awesome girls.  I am most looking forward to seeing what a team of motivated girls can accomplish when given the opportunity.


Evelyn Cheng

Evelyn Cheng, CU E-bio graduate, ecologist 

I was once a flatlander from Austin, Texas. Alone after school, I found myself drawing countless pictures of the same desert scenes. Though I had not ever seen in them in person, I always used the same formula: distant mountains, barren ground, bright sun. I hadn’t yet learned to ask the kinds of questions by which I am now fascinated: “Why do we often find mountains near the desert? How do the two ecosystems interact?” I simply drew them because I loved their shapes. As I watched my hometown grow into a bustling boomtown of technology, I grew as well. I learned how to climb rocks at the modest local cliffs and started wondering more about the rest of the world. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Texas, I packed my bags and answered the call to move west. Since then I have lived, climbed, and worked all over the western states, finally getting to know intimately the desert landscapes of which I had so frequently dreamed. As an ecologist at the United States Geological Survey, I researched the impacts of grazing and climate change on plant and animal communities in arid environments. I completed a master’s degree at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I studied the ecology of ephemeral rock pools in the desert. Some of the pools were located at the summits of isolated 300-foot towers, so it was often necessary to use ropes and climbing gear in order to reach them… This is how Girls on Rock was born! Once I learned about the Inspiring Girls Expeditions and met the amazing women behind them, I knew that I wanted to start a program that connected technical rock climbing skills to science. It is always amazing to work with such motivated women on a common goal, and I’m extremely excited to share that experience with future Girls on Rock participants in the Rocky Mountains.


Mylene J

Mylène Jacquemart, CIRES / CU Geosciences, geomorphologist

Growing up hiking and climbing in the Swiss Alps I developed a deep love for the mountains early on. I quickly became aware of the stunning changes reshaping the glaciated landscapes I had come to adore. Today I study these changes, in particular how the danger from rock fall and landslides is increasing in mountain areas around the world. To this day, the mountains are where I recharge my batteries and I've developed a soft spot for climbing frozen waterfalls. My most powerful mountain experiences are most often in all-female teams, which is why I immediately jumped at the opportunity to support Inspiring Girls Expeditions. Currently, I am a PhD student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where I have joined the team to get Girls on Rock started in Colorado.

Explore the Gore Range!

Are you curious to know what forces shape our mountains? Do you want to understand how tiny plants can thrive under the harsh conditions found at high elevations? Have you always wanted to climb a real summit in the Rocky Mountains? Girls on Rock will take you into Colorado’s breath-taking Gore Range to explore towering rock walls, deep-blue lakes, and lush alpine meadows in the heart of the Rockies. With the support and guidance of ecologists, geologists, and a professional mountain guide, the Gore Range offers a unique place to develop scientific and outdoor leadership skills and answer some of these questions.


(subject to change)

Day 1-2: Meet the team in Boulder, CO and learn about traveling and camping in the mountains.
Day 3: Drive to trailhead and hike in to the Gore Range to establish the base camp.
Day 4-9: Explore the Gore Range surrounding the base camp while gaining essential mountaineering and climbing skills and working on science projects.
Day 10: Hike out and travel back.
Day 11: Wrap up science experiments and present results in short presentations.
Day 12: Final reflection activities and travel home.

Program Team

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