Posts Tagged ‘fieldtrips’

Jennifer over at Fuzzy Science is hosting Accretionary Wedge #47: Field Notes. I love somehow just the feeling of pulling out a Rite in the Rain to start sketching or commenting to myself about a textural relationship I should examine further back at home, so I decided better late than never.

One of the things I’ve noticed while teaching is that my field notes have evolved. Back when I was a student, my notes frequently only included whatever information was required by the professor:


At field camp, I was very, very good and following the directions & nothing more:


But in moving out of under someone else’s watch (and the advent of digital cameras), I find my field notes a bit messier with a higher likelihood of random commentary. Examples would include on a professional field trip where the sketches are really to orient the digital pictures that were taken:


When I teach in the field, I also find some random commentary absent elsewhere like:
-fun facts learned about students
-when we arrived & left an outcrop for planning purposes for the next year
-drawings made to explain random things the students ask about in the field


My research field notes include the most “color” since I usually assume no one else cares what I’ve included. The following has 1 page of a cm by cm survey I was doing of the variation across an outcrop (really thrilling) and the other is just the random stuff that happened that day in the field:


My fieldbook collection is broken down by what institute or what the research project was. Some are bursting at the seems while others have relatively little in them. But I wanted to keep things easy to find, so that when use pictures from a field trip in 07 while teaching at Vassar, I can pull the right book quickly off the shelf.


(my masters field notes appear to be somewhere else currently… hmm, have to look through some boxes)

Weirdly enough, today I cracked open a brand new field notebook to take with me off to the SERC workshop on Saturday, since we’re supposedly going on a field trip Sunday. (I say supposedly, since thunderstorms & lightening is predicted and there is a limit to the statement “we’ll go out no matter what the weather,”)



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Callan started a geo-meme several days ago based on 101 American Geo-Sites You’ve Gotta See by Albert Dickas.

I’ve bolded the ones on the list that I’ve visited.

1. Wetumpka Crater, Alabama
2. Exit Glacier, Alaska
3. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
4. Meteor Crater, Arizona
5. Monument Valley, Arizona
6. Prairie Creek Pipe, Arkansas
7. Wallace Creek, California
8. Racetrack Playa, California
9. Devils Postpile, California
10. Rancho La Brea, California
11. El Capitan, California
12. Boulder Flatirons, Colorado
13. Interstate 70 Roadcut, Colorado
14. Florissant Fossil Beds, Colorado
15. Dinosaur Trackway, Connecticut
16. Wilmington Blue Rocks, Delaware
17. Devil’s Millhopper, Florida
18. Stone Mountain, Georgia
19. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
20. Borah Peak, Idaho
21. Menan Buttes, Idaho
22. Great Rift, Idaho
23. Valmeyer Anticline, Illinois
24. Hanging Rock Klint, Indiana
25. Fort Dodge Gypsum, Iowa
26. Monument Rocks, Kansas
27. Ohio Black Shale, Kentucky
28. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
29. Four Corners Roadcut, Kentucky
30. Avery Island, Louisiana
31. Schoodic Point, Maine
32. Calvert Cliffs, Maryland
33. Purgatory Chasm, Massachusetts
34. Nonesuch Potholes, Michigan
35. Quincy Mine, Michigan
36. Grand River Ledges, Michigan
37. Sioux Quartzite, Minnesota
38. Thomson Dikes, Minnesota
39. Soudan Mine, Minnesota
40. Petrified Forest, Mississippi
41. Elephant Rocks, Missouri
42. Grassy Mountain Nonconformity, Missouri
43. Chief Mountain, Montana
44. Madison Slide, Montana
45. Butte Pluton, Montana
46. Quad Creek Quartzite, Montana
47. Ashfall Fossil Beds, Nebraska
48. Scotts Bluff, Nebraska
49. Crow Creek Marlstone, Nebraska
50. Sand Mountain, Nevada
51. Great Unconformity, Nevada — at the very questionable outcrop just outside Vegas…
52. Flume Gorge, New Hampshire
53. Palisades Sill, New Jersey
54. White Sands, New Mexico
55. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
56. Shiprock Peak, New Mexico
57. State Line Outcrop, New Mexico
58. American Falls, New York
59. Taconic Unconformity, New York 
60. Gilboa Forest, New York — 8th grade fieldtrip
61. Pilot Mountain, North Carolina
62. South Killdeer Mountain, North Dakota
63. Hueston Woods, Ohio
64. Big Rock, Ohio
65. Kelleys Island, Ohio
66. Interstate 35 Roadcut, Oklahoma
67. Mount Mazama, Oregon
68. Lava River Cave, Oregon
69. Drake’s Folly, Pennsylvania — I even have a bottle of oil from the well tapped on the 150th anniv
70. Hickory Run, Pennsylvania
71. Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania
72. Beavertail Point, Rhode Island
73. Crowburg Basin, South Carolina
74. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
75. Mammoth Site, South Dakota
76. Pinnacles Overlook, South Dakota
77. Reelfoot Scarp, Tennessee
78. Enchanted Rock, Texas
79. Capitan Reef, Texas
80. Paluxy River Tracks, Texas
81. Upheaval Dome, Utah
82. Checkerboard Mesa, Utah
83. San Juan Goosenecks, Utah
84. Salina Canyon Unconformity, Utah
85. Bingham Stock, Utah
86. Whipstock Hill, Vermont
87. Great Falls, Virginia
88. Natural Bridge, Virginia
89. Millbrig Ashfall, Virginia
90. Catoctin Greenstone, Virginia
91. Mount St. Helens, Washington
92. Dry Falls, Washington
93. Seneca Rocks, West Virginia
94. Roche-A-Cri Mound, Wisconsin
95. Van Hise Rock, Wisconsin
96. Amnicon Falls, Wisconsin
97. Green River, Wyoming
98. Devils Tower, Wyoming
99. Fossil Butte, Wyoming
100. Steamboat Geyser, Wyoming
101. Specimen Ridge, Wyoming

I’ve only got 25 from the original, plus 4 on the “extra” list.  Obviously, time for a road trip!

Callan‘s additions:

102. Purgatory Chasm, Rhode Island
103. Volcanic Tableland (Bishop Tuff), California
104. Ringing Rocks, Montana
105. The Whaleback, Pennsylvania
106. Compton Peak, Virginia
107. Jockey’s Ridge, North Carolina
108. Mauna Kea summit, Hawaii
109. Tumbling Run, Virginia
110. Adirondacks, New York

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Since its the week before the GSA meeting in Denver, I was simply going to skip talking about the field trip I took yesterday with the intro lab.   However, Anne raised the bar by posting a stratigraphic column today of southern Minnesota and two of the units in the local area are now staring me in the face.

Background: the introductory students here are divided into three labs (72 students total, so 24 per lab).   For the first portion of the semester, they do the typical “here’s a mineral, now go and ID a tray of minerals; here’s a rock, now go and ID a tray of rocks” that most beginning geology classes cover.   Once we finish with that segment of lab, we move onto a fairly creative project that involves two lab days driving around the greater St. Peter / Kasota region looking at the sediment & rocks to determine the geological history of the area.   (Disclaimer: I just inherited the lab and get to wonder at its beauty, but don’t have any claim on the format or what we visit.)   Because this is intro, the material is simplified a bit, but the local geology isn’t very complicated to start with.   There are two rock units the students have to identify (the Cambrian Jordan Sandstone and the Ordovician Oneota Dolomite) and two types of Quaternary sediment (glacial till and alluvial deposits).   The students visit all of the units several times at various outcrops around the area, draw contacts on their topographic sheets of the St. Peter quadrangle, and construct an east-west cross-section for the area.

(borrowed from Anne)

Reality: yesterday was the first day of the field trip.   Julie and I drove around a few weeks ago, so that I could visit all ten of the stops (we do 4 on the first day and the remaining 6 on the second day).   When we previewed the trip, the river was still fairly high, but at least all of the roads were open.   Julie gave me a good run-down of what is usually discussed at each stop & about how much time to spend on any given rock in order to return within our 2-hour window.   Yesterday the river was lower, which made examining the alluvium deposits much easier.   However, it was very, very windy, raining / snowing, and fairly darn cold.   I had warned the students about the weather, so they were dressed appropriately (yay!), but it was still a fairly miserable day to be standing out on the side of the road.   (Its also why I don’t have pictures…)   But there were a few golden moments, when I saw lightbulbs actually go off:

  • one student linked the glacial flooding we saw up on the voluntary field trip to Interstate State Park (which I still haven’t posted pictures from…)  to the bedrock terrace found within the dolomite unit
  • another student remembered the depositional environment of carbonates / well-sorted sandstones (what the Jordan sandstone is)
  • several students quickly knew what deposited till
  • I got a few quick teases as a road grader drove by about how it was demonstrating what I was discussing (which was how glaciers move sediment)
  • they managed to ID dolomite, quartz sandstone, granite, and gneiss in the outcrop (the latter are present as erratics)
  • a quick grasp of why the Kasota prairie was never farmed (lots of outcrops of the dolomite–which never would have stopped a New England farmer–that made the Quaternary deposits more appealing for farmers)

The students didn’t complain about the weather.   They enjoyed going out and doing something “different” — a reinforcement of the idea that field trips are the way to go.

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Lockwood has called for a new Accretionary Wedge about “important geological experiences.”   This one was actually a hard one for me to wrap my head around, since I don’t think there was one definitive (or even a few similar) experiences that shaped my path to become a metamorphic petrologist.   I think it was the repeated occurrence of going into the field at all stages of my education & career.

As I said in a previous post, I had originally come into geology thinking that I wanted to going into planetary science.   The one major strike against that from the first was the lack of field time.   I went on my first geology field trips in the 8th grade, since I was lucky enough to live in a school district that required all students to take Earth Science in junior high.   I went on my next one a year later to get my Digging Through the Past Girl Scout Interest Patch.   When I was in high school, I was taken to several pegmatite mines on the Maine / New Hampshire border during the summer.   For me, when the list of possible first-year seminars from Middlebury appeared, it was an easy pick to choose the one that guaranteed weekly field trips — “Geologic Landscape of Vermont” with Kim Hannula.   Since leaving Midd, I’ve realized how lucky I was to go to college in a state where I spent the overwhelming majority of my fall geology labs out on the rocks / on the research boat instead of in a building.   Besides the encouragement from Kim to reconsider planetary, it was the lure of field time that brought me over into met pet.   Field camp convinced me that sed/strat & paleo was not the way my interests lay.   But it was fighting off the marauding mosquitos, sweltering in high 90s temperatures & high humidity, and getting beaten up by 10-yr old bramble that convinced me collecting rocks for study in the lab was the way to go.   Except for not having to live in a tent & a distinct lack of bramble, my masters research occurred under similar circumstances.   I lucked out and my PhD work involved no bugs and no bramble or other vegetation, but it never got warm enough to take off my fleece despite the fact it was August.   We lost two days due to white-out snow conditions.   And I loved it.

I enjoy teaching in the classroom and lab, but my favorite part of my job is taking students into the field.   Whether its just down the road or halfway across the country, watching students learn how to look at the ground beneath their feet and the landscape around them to backtrack the geological history of an area is worth the headaches of renting vehicles, planning food that can be cooked over a campstove, and wondering if its going to downpour or snow.   To me, going into the field is the reason why I love being a geologist.

February 2008 SERC field trip in the Berkshires (Ron's setting up a Gigapan)

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