A TROPICAL CARBONATES FIELD COURSE IN THE BAHAMAS: MORE THAN "FUN-IN-THE-SUN"
San Salvador presents a great diversity of modern shallow marine and terrestrial carbonate settings, ranging from offshore shelf and reefs to beach to dune to inland blue hole, lake, and pond environments, and easily accessible, well exposed late Pleistocene and Holocene bedrock outcrops including fossil coral reefs. The first 6 field days provide an introduction to the islands modern environments and rock record and include daily field-based student mini-projects that are graded. Each day's plan entails investigation of modern environments, normally involving snorkeling, and rock exposures. The mini-projects involve: 1) sampling, lab preparation, and grain identifications of carbonate sands; 2) measurement, analysis, and interpretation of stratigraphic columns and transects on coral patch reefs; and 3) fossil reef mapping. Evening sessions include lecture-discussions and work on the daily mini-projects. This section of the course ends with an evening specimen-based laboratory exam. Over the final 4 days, student pairs design a larger project and work in the field with close faculty supervision on data collection and interpretation. One example would be measuring beach profiles to relate sedimentary dynamics to seasonal changes. Final project reports are due at the end of the first full week of spring semester classes.
The benefits of a field course of this type are numerous and varied. In addition to being a life-changing growth experience for many, the course builds student confidence in fieldwork skills and generates positive energy within our department.