Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 3:50 PM
BALANCING TECHNOLOGY WITH CLASSICAL FIELD SKILLS IN UNDERGRADUATE GEOLOGY CLASSES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA
Geology undergraduates at the University of South Alabama are required to participate in several excursions designed to introduce and reinforce basic field skills. Two of those excursions comprise part of the senior level sedimentary petrology course, and involve travel to sites in southern and central Alabama. On these excursions, students are taught basic field methodologies such as strategic selection of sedimentary sections (i.e., where to start sections), proper note-taking (i.e., data required for each identifiable unit), appropriate sampling strategies, the use of Brunton compasses for measuring strike and dip, and techniques to measure vertical successions (e.g., tape, Jacob's staff, line of sight trigonometry etc.). These sites are of limited aerial extent (less than 1 km wide) reducing the need for GPS, computer-based mapping programs and other technological devices. This is intentional. At this phase of undergraduate instruction, emphasis is placed on classical field techniques. Other field opportunities in geomorphology and structural geology gradually introduce students to time-saving technological devices. This is to prepare geology majors for the Department's 6 week long summer field school at which time students are taught how to integrate classical methodologies learned earlier with GPS, GIS and computer-assisted surveying devices (i.e., total station). The larger areas covered by students during the summer field school permits more intensive field mapping and facilitates the use of personal computers to record and interpret geological and spatial information. To date, this approach has work reasonably well for the summer field school, but increases in the number of geology majors may prove to be a complicating variable. The quantity of surveying devices and GPS units are limited, as are, at some sites, the number of electrical outlets and working desk/table space. The simple inability to recharge computers may force students to return to more classical methodologies.