GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 66-15
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


POPE, Gregory A.1, GORRING, Matthew1, BLACIC, Tanya M.1, GALSTER, Joshua C.1 and THOMAS, WIlliam H.2, (1)Earth & Environmental Studies, Montclair State University, 1 Normal Ave, Center for Environmental and Life Sciences, Montclair, NJ 07043, (2)New Jersey School of Conservation, Montclair State University, 1 Wapalanne Road, Branchville, NJ 07826,

After an absence of more than two decades, the Earth and Environmental Science program at Montclair State University reinstated the Field Camp course in the summer of 2014. We saw several reasons to revive field camp for our growing enrollment. First, studies show a decline in field programs offered nationwide despite an increase in student enrollment, resulting in fewer and more competitive slots. Second, we saw value in providing field experience for our students, building beyond successful weekend field trips with more extensive field-based data collection and interpretation, valuable for entry-level jobs and/or as preparation for graduate school research. Third, we wanted our students to gain perspective beyond New Jersey’s varied though often inaccessible geologic history. Showcasing classic geology sites of the western states would add to the students’ experience. In three years, 45 Montclair State students have completed the field camp.

Our course is in two sections, two weeks in-residence at our field station (NJ School of Conservation), followed by four weeks in Montana and Wyoming. The team-taught first section focuses on glacial/Holocene surficial geology. The convenient proximity allows us to introduce field technology (GPS and TOTAL station topographic surveys; geophysical methods with ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity, seismic refraction), accompanied by soil, hydrology, and sedimentology surveys. This section evolved into a project-oriented investigation with student teams, with mixed success. For the second section, taught by a single instructor and TA, students conduct traditional field surveys of petrology, stratigraphy and structure at different sites in Wyoming and Montana to produce geologic maps and stratigraphic sections. These investigations are individually presented, shorter, and benefit from more background information provided to the students. One major benefit to field camp is the use of authentic data, with professors and students investigating problems concurrently. We presented discoveries from the New Jersey geomorphic studies at recent conferences. Given our success, we contemplate inviting students from outside the university, as well as including non-geology students (e.g. sustainability, geography, ecology) in a joint program.  

  • PopeGA_GSA2016.pdf (4.0 MB)