FRAGILE EARTH: Geological Processes from Global to Local Scales and Associated Hazards (4-7 September 2011)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 08:30-18:00


HOFMANN, Florian, CARENA, Sara and FRIEDRICH, Anke M., Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Geology, University of Munich, Luisenstr. 37, Munich, 80333, Germany,

Over the last years we experienced a dramatic increase in the number of geoscience undergraduate students, from a few dozen to nearly two hundred. All students have five days of mandatory field trips in their first year to get a glimpse of the local geology. Hands-on field experience and introductory mapping were also added as requirements for these trips, which were previously show-and-tell type only. As the large number of students has by now exceeded our department’s resources, we have to rely on innovative methods to organize these field trips with the available number of instructors. Because of this structure, the field exercise needs to be rigidly organized and regulated, and instructors must be trained accordingly.

As part of the introductory field trips, we designed a 3-day field exercise near the Berliner Hütte (Zillertal, Austria) at elevations ranging from 2000 m to 2500 m. The students are given a mountain safety lecture by a DAV (German Alpine Club) instructor in preparation for this field trip. The area is also incorporated into the maps and profiles course in the same semester. The students have to organize the transportation themselves. On the first day, the students hike up to the hut, the afternoon is used for a short introduction to the geology of the field area and to the rules of the exercise. The next day is spent mapping two small areas in groups of four students, sharing equipment. The students receive satellite images of their mapping areas as well as a topographic map. They have to find the mapping areas on their own. Later, they are joined by instructors to help them with problems. The students are given time in the evening to make clean versions of their maps and field notes. The next day the students have to describe outcrops along the trail. They hand in their work at the trailhead and the instructors grade it according to a point scheme. The winning group receives a travel grant to attend a geoscience conference and is coached in the preparation and during attendance.

Based on our experience, this type of exercise helps students to understand basic geological field techniques and motivates them to put their knowledge acquired over the first year into practice. While all of this can be achieved with a minimum number of well-trained instructors, the students learn to organize their own field work and to work independently.