Paper No. 66
Presentation Time: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM
“PRESENTING THE KEY TO THE PAST”: ADVANCING INSTRUCTION IN SEDIMENTARY GEOLOGY THROUGH FIELD EXPERIENCES IN MODERN CARBONATE ENVIRONMENTS
The sedimentary geology curriculum at Western Kentucky University has long had a field-based laboratory component designed to teach undergraduates fundamental field techniques and methodologies. Students typically become good descriptive geologists; however, their ability to interpret our local Mississippian limestones is hampered by a lack of experience in modern environments and difficulties related to comprehension of rates of geological processes. A new field program based on San Salvador Island, Bahamas, was recently established to address these issues. Students can now participate in a 7 to 10 day field course on San Salvador any time after the completion of an introductory physical geology course. While on the island, students learn about modern depositional environments and geological processes through field trips and small-scale research projects. Topics covered include carbonate sediment production, sedimentary structures, carbonate diagenesis, Quaternary sea level history, paleocurrent analysis, tidal processes, paleosols, island hydrogeology, cave and karst development, and coral reef formation.
Thus far we have found that students who have completed the Bahamas course have a much more intuitive understanding of ancient geological processes and their spatial/temporal relations than their predecessors who lacked a similar field experience. In fact, we revised our undergraduate geology curriculum to formally introduce field experiences early in our students training. Judging from our experience in San Salvador, field experiences in modern environments have not only advanced student learning, they have helped us to recruit students to our major and retain them in our program.