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Why use field labs?

Initial Publication Date: November 12, 2004
More Images of geoscience students and instructors in the field
Here are some of the many reasons to develop and teach field labs in geoscience:
  • Field problems are often more complex and realistic than what can be easily represented in a lab.
  • Although the solutions to many geoscience problems may involve lab analysis and computer modeling, the fundamental questions are often posed in the field.
  • Field problems break down artificial boundaries within geology. A single outcrop, for example, raises questions relating to stratigraphy, sedimentology weathering, structure, hydrology, and other specialty areas within the field.
  • Students working on a field lab together will commonly notice that each of them observes different things. This is an easy way to demonstrate that a combination of many observations is needed to represent the natural situation accurately.
  • Collecting their own data gives students a better sense of the uncertainty and error involved in scientific investigations that they read about in journal articles.
  • Simply being outside helps many students work together more easily.
  • Field labs give students the opportunity to learn about the local geography of the local campus area - or in some cases, to view the familiar features of campus in a new way through geoscience study.
  • Skills that can be developed in the field:
    • Observation
    • Description, including measuring, writing and sketching
    • Starting and maintaining a field notebook
    • Working in groups