Dai Wilson's Field Camp Adventure

Written by Dai Wilson, BS Geology '14

TOBACCO ROOT MOUNTAINS -- It was a hot cloudless day in Montana and I was traversing a rocky study area when suddenly, I realized, I had lost my hammer! A geologist’s nightmare! It was the summer 2013, I was enrolled in Indiana University’s Geology Field Camp. A journey that began in Bloomington, Indiana and travelled across many states including Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Geologic stops along the route included the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota as well as Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. There were opportunities to visit other sites of geologic interest such as the Lewis and Clark Caverns and the Museum of the Rockies which houses the largest collection of dinosaur specimens in the United States. The final destination was the Field station, in the scenic Tobacco Root Mountains of south west Montana. 

The 6-week course is a field-based study of the regional geologic history of the Rocky Mountains conducted by geologic mapping on local and regional scales. This region the Rocky Mountains in Montana is a fascinating area to study because most of the near complete stratigraphic record from the Pre-Cambrian to Cenozoic consisting of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks is exposed in outcrop. Two major mountain building events including the thick-skinned Laramide Orogeny and thin-skinned Sevier Orogeny followed by basin and range extension are primarily responsible for the large scale structural deformation of the west of the North American continent. The diverse structural and stratigraphic complexities resulting from past geologic events are studied during the field camp. 

Field Camp participants included many students from a variety of universities across the country including Whitman College, Tufts, Syracuse, Oberlin, Virginia Tech, UC Riverside, Indiana University, and University of the Pacific. The main focus of the course is to prepare students for independent work/research in geology with field projects that comprehensively review classroom-taught geologic principals and relationships. This is done by building important skills for working in the field such as geologic problem solving and building self-confidence in the field. Students are expected to have completed two to three years of an undergraduate program in geosciences before attending the field camp.

Field camp was a fun and rewarding learning experience that involves complete immersion in geology for six weeks. I felt challenged to complete the projects and I had a lot of fun learning about the regional geology and making friends. I learned a lot from the experience in terms of interpreting map data and constructing a geologic history. I also relied a lot on past experience and classes that I had taken at Pacific including mapping techniques from Geologic Field methods, historical geology from Paleontology, glacial features from Geomorphology, sedimentary facies from Stratigraphy and metamorphic grades from Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. This integration of knowledge and skill have helped me prepare for a future in geology. Oh and in case you were wondering, yes, I did eventually find my hammer again!

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