Why use field labs?
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:
- Description, including measuring, writing and sketching
- Starting and maintaining a field notebook
- Working in groups