Field camp: Using traditional methods to train the next generation of petroleum geologists
Published:December 01, 2009
James O. Puckette, Neil H. Suneson, 2009. "Field camp: Using traditional methods to train the next generation of petroleum geologists", Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches, Steven J. Whitmeyer, David W. Mogk, Eric J. Pyle
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The summer field camp experience provides many students with their best opportunity to learn the scientific process by making observations and collecting, recording, evaluating, and interpreting geologic data. Field school projects enhance student professional development by requiring cooperation and interpersonal interaction, report writing to communicate interpretations, and the development of project management skills to achieve a common goal. The field school setting provides students with the opportunity to observe geologic features and their spatial distribution, size, and shape that will impact the student’s future careers as geoscientists. The Les Huston Geology Field Camp (a.k.a. Oklahoma Geology Camp) near Cañon City, Colorado, focuses on time-tested traditional methods of geological mapping and fieldwork to accomplish these goals. The curriculum consists of an introduction to field techniques (pacing, orienteering, measuring strike and dip, and using a Jacob’s staff), sketching outcrops, section measuring (one illustrating facies changes), three mapping exercises (of increasing complexity), and a field geophysics project. Accurate rock and contact descriptions are emphasized, and attitudes and contacts are mapped in the field. Mapping is done on topographic maps at 1:12,000 and 1:6000 scales; air photos are provided. Global positioning system (GPS)–assisted mapping is allowed, but we insist that locations be recorded in the field and confirmed using visual observations. The course includes field trips to the Cripple Creek and Leadville mining districts, Floris-sant/Guffey volcano area, Pikes Peak batholith, and the Denver Basin. Each field trip is designed to emphasize aspects of geology that are not stressed in the field exercises.
Students are strongly encouraged to accurately describe geologic features and gather evidence to support their interpretations of the geologic history. Concise reports are a part of each major exercise. Students are grouped into teams to (1) introduce the team concept and develop interpersonal skills that are fundamental components of many professions, (2) ensure safety, and (3) mix students with varying academic backgrounds and physical strengths. This approach has advantages and disadvantages. Students with academic strengths in specific areas assist those with less experience, thereby becoming engaged in the teaching process. However, some students contribute less to final map projects than others, and assigning grades to individual team members can be difficult.
The greatest challenges we face involve group dynamics and student personalities. We continue to believe that traditional field methods, aided by (but not relying upon) new technologies, are the key to constructing and/or interpreting geologic maps. The requirement that students document field evidence using careful observations teaches skills that will be beneficial throughout their professional careers.