Increasing the Effectiveness of Undergraduate Field Camp through the Integration of Preparatory Courses

William W. Little
Brigham Young University - Idaho
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Initial Publication Date: June 27, 2006


Four courses; Introduction to Field Geology, Sedimentology & Stratigraphy, Structural Geology, and Advanced Field Methods have been linked to optimize use of time at field camp.

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Junior level courses in sed/strat, structural geology, and field methods.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Before beginning this sequence of courses, students should have completed courses in physical geology, historical geology, mineralogy, and petrology.

How the activity is situated in the course

Consists of a year-long sequence of related exercises culminating in independent field projects.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The primary objectives of this sequence of courses is to ensure that students are well-grounded in the basics of stratigraphy and structural geology, are capable of completing independent field projects, and can effectively convey complex geological information to others.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students learn to identify complex relationships between stratigraphy and structure in the field and to represent that information on maps, in stratigraphic columns, in cross-sections, and through written and verbal communication.

Other skills goals for this activity

Skills learned include measuring stratigraphic sections, describing stratigraphic units, interpreting depositional environments, recognizing and interpreting geological structures, placing stratigraphic contacts and geologic structures on aerial photographs and topographic maps, drafting cross-sections, combining geologic literature with field observations, report writing, and oral presentation.

Description of the activity/assignment

The traditional field camp experience for undergraduate students has been paired down to a five week interval, leaving little time to accomplish the dual tasks of training in field methods and completion of a major, independent project. To increase efficiency and provide students with more time to concentrate on field efforts, the geology program at BYU-Idaho has integrated four courses; Introduction to Field Geology, Sedimentation and Stratigraphy, Structural Geology, and Advanced Field Methods (field camp). Students, therefore, become familiar with methodology, proper report-writing format, and the general geology of their project areas prior to the beginning of the camp. This presentation demonstrates how these courses can be linked to enhance the effectiveness of field camp for undergraduate students.

Introduction to Field Methods: Introduction to Field Geology (IFG) is taken just prior to the beginning of the Fall Semester of the Junior year. This course consists of a week-long trip through parts of Idaho and Wyoming and is used to introduce students to field methods; such as note taking, rock body description, measurement of stratigraphic sections, and illustration of relationships between stratigraphic units and geological structures. The trip also provides an opportunity for students to visit classic geological features and localities.

Sedimentology/stratigraphy and Structural Geology: The sedimentology/stratigraphy and structural geology courses are taken concurrently during the Fall Semester of the Junior year and are taught by the same instructors who conducted the Introductory to Field Geology course. Samples collected during the IFG trip are used with student notes, drawings, and photographs as the foundation for many class discussions and for laboratory exercises. These are combined with a literature review to write a geologic summary and interpretation of the area visited during the IFG trip. The report is submitted jointly in both the sedimentology/stratigraphy and structural geology courses.

Advanced Field Methods (Field Camp): The primary objective of field camp is to assure that students are capable of completing an independent field project. In some cases, a project is expanded afterward into a senior thesis that focuses on a specific problem identified during the camp, with results presented at a professional meeting. By conducting most of the training and introducing students to area stratigraphy and structure during the introductory field geology, sedimentology/stratigraphy and structural geology courses, more time is available to students for work on their project during the five weeks of camp. Final projects include maps, cross-sections, measured sections, and a geologic report.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The sequence of courses culminates with an independent mapping project, in which the student submits a completed geologic map for his/her assigned area, along with cross-sections, measured stratigraphic sections, field notes, and a geologic summary and interpretation of the area.

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