2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM

Field Trips in Urban Settings: Essential Experiences for Modern Geologists

LUTZ, Tim, Department of Geology and Astronomy, West Chester University, 720 S Church St, West Chester, PA 19383, tlutz@wcupa.edu

Geology originated and grew up in times when geologists worked in, and sent students to, the wildest parts of the world. There are still geologists who scour the unexplored reaches; but the rapid, global expansion of humans and their technologies means that more geologists work in terrains with a substantial human imprint. Geologic problems are increasingly defined by environmental needs, which means that landscapes, hydrologic systems, soils, and geochemical characteristics have been anthropogenically altered. The land surface is derived from earth materials (concrete, asphalt, brick) but distinctly different from them. We must do better than to “make the most” of urbanized landscapes: they provide essential experiences for modern geologists.

I describe field trips, run in the context of introductory geology laboratories at West Chester University, which embrace the transformed landscape as a vital ingredient to teaching students geological principles. Our students typically come from suburban or urban settings, and this is increasingly true at U.S. institutions. Field trips are integrated into labs during the first two-thirds of the fall semester. Each trip occurs during a two-hour lab period; typically, one hour is indoors either preparing for, or analyzing observations from, the field trip. The labs and field trips explore human alteration in terms of time and space gradients. For example, in one lab students study a sequence of maps (colonial era, 1885, 1955, 2000) covering the modern campus. In the field they can appreciate what has changed through time (e.g., a stream now flows underground) and what has not (the larger-scale pattern of divides and hillslopes persists). In another lab they consider how the urbanized watersheds on campus impact streams farther away. These labs are also important because they help prepare our majors, who typically teach or are consulting geologists in southeastern PA.