In Class News

September 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Geology Students Gain Perspective, Skills Mapping the Rocky Mountains

2017 Field Geology participants in Montana, group photo with mountains and big sky in the background.

2017 Field Geology participants in Montana

How did you spend your summer? Twenty-three Geological Sciences students and staff from Ohio University spent their summer mapping the geology of Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming as a part of Ohio University’s capstone course in geology, GEOL 4910: Field Geology.

Students braved 104 degree desert highs and summer mountain lows in the 40s (with snow on the ground in places!) to learn advanced observational, data collection, mapping, and drafting techniques—all in an effort to better visualize the three-dimensional, and even four-dimensional, geology of the American northwest.

Geology students analyzing sedimentary rocks, students in the foreground at outcropping.

Geology students analyzing sedimentary rocks.

For geology majors, the Field Geology experience is about more than creating geologic maps, it provides an immersive, hands-on experience where students collect their own data, build synthetic interpretations, and learn to develop and manage projects and produce professional quality reports.

Personal and professional development are key attributes of field geology as noted by teaching assistant and alumna, Emma Swaninger ’17, “Managing partner relationships, increasing confidence in their mapping skills, and disciplining themselves in final map compositions were a few of the challenges that were met with determination by many students,” she says.

According to this year’s field course director, Dr. Keith Milam, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences, “Field Camp is a great way for students not only to learn new techniques, but it is the perfect course for synthesizing information from all of the foundational courses in geology like mineralogy, petrology, sed-strat, paleontology, etc. It further prepares students to enter industry or future careers in academia.”

Christian Thomas agreed, “I learned to collect my own data and develop my own interpretations, which required me to draw on all of my education and prior experiences.”

Geology students receive instructions from Dr. Milam before starting the day's data collection, shown here in front of a monolithe.

Geology students receive instructions from Dr. Milam before starting the day’s data collection.

Geological Sciences alumni often point to their Field Geology course as a seminal part of their OHIO University degree, and this year’s class agrees.

“Field Camp was a tuff experience that I shale not forget! All puns aside, Field Camp was a demanding but amazing journey that developed me into a real geologist,” according to Lindsey Schafer ’16.

Kelli Baxstrom agreed, “Field Camp is where you can experience geology as it is meant to be: hiking all over a mountain looking at rock formations and trying to determine what they are and how they got there. Personally, Field Camp impacted my existence as a geologist by reaffirming that my love for the outdoors and for learning about the Earth are perfectly synthesized into my career choice.”

“As a developing geologist, I found that the Ohio University field camp experience allowed me to incorporate all the aspects I have learned as an undergraduate and implement them in the field. This proved to be challenging at times yet rewarding in the end. I can confidently say that field camp was an unforgettable learning experience that assured me that geology was the right path for me.” said senior James Fox.

As phrased by field camp alumna Swaninger, “During my time as field camp teaching assistant, I learned more about individual fortitude, in the field, and personal academic responsibility, in the classroom, than when I went to field camp last year. This wonderful opportunity has impacted me greatly by teaching to be professionally responsible, teaching me how to explain topics in various ways, and teaching me to appreciate the hard work of my former professors and instructors in teaching me. Thank you!”

Geology students adding details to a geologic map in progress, while situated with mountains in the background.

Geology students adding details to a geologic map in progress.

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