Introduction to Field Geophysics

Bill Montgomery

New Jersey City University
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


Introduction to the use of geophysical equipment and techniques to explore the subsurface, especially the shallow subsurface, in order to answer questions or solve problems.

Course Size:
less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-level, undergraduate course with prerequisites that include geology and physics, although students without prerequisites frequently take the course because of the need for 9 or more students. The course is evolving from primarily lecture- to field-based in its pedagogy, in order to better acquaint our majors with modern tools and techniques. 4 exercises were performed in Spring, 2007.

Course Goals:

Students should be able to:
  • Understand operation of geophysical tools in terms of signal source and/or properties measured
  • Identify geophysical anomalies through the use of records and/or maps
  • Interpret geophysical data and propose potential causes of geophysical anomalies
  • Design a geophysical survey to investigate a certain area, given site history and regional geology

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Students become familiar with an array of geophysical equipment through "hands-on" experience collecting data in the field, and they develop insight into what these tools measure through interpretation of these data. Better insight and deeper understanding can be facilitated by incorporation of other data sets into the overall interpretation of a site, such as monitoring well data that provide hydrostratigraphic constraints.

Skills Goals

Ancillary skills goals include improvements in:
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Peer-teaching
  • Interpersonal (working in groups)

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

By its very nature, geophysical field data collection involves critical thinking, problem-solving, peer-teaching, and interpersonal skills, and even the most basic interpretations of geophysical data require quantitative reasoning skill.

Attitudinal Goals

The main attitudinal goals involve student self-confidence and self-esteem in science and math. Positive attitudes and an overall sense of optimism and confidence about their ability to deal with challenge and adversity are absolutely essential to retention and graduation of our diverse student population.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Presenting students with challenging but surmountable problems enable them to develop confidence in their abilities to overcome adversity. These challenges occur at different levels for different students, but instructor-sanctioned (and encouraged) use of peer-teaching frequently helps boost self-confidence in both the tutor and tutee.


At present, assessment of learning outcomes is limited to a problem-solving-focused exam at the end of the course. However, written summaries of field data collection procedure, data analysis, and site interpretation are to be implemented as field data collection sites and procedures are defined and written by the instructor.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 38kB Jun20 07)