A geology field school (also called “field camp”) is a 6 credit summer course offered by many geology departments at large Universities across the country. The goals of these summer courses vary from school to school. Some teach you how to construct and interpret geologic maps from field observations of natural rock outcrops. Other field schools focus more on applied field skills related to environmental science.
A field school will greatly enhance your undergraduate education in earth science. Most of the concepts you have learned in traditional classes will become much more clear when you observe them in the field. In addition, some graduate programs in geology require a field school (either before or after admission to graduate school) and successful completion of a field school is a great addition to your resume. If you do successfully complete a field school, the 6 credits are transferable to BSU and can be used to meet certain requirements in your earth science major. Talk about this with your advisor.
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting a summer field school. Here is a list with a brief description of points to consider:
Location: This will determine the type of geologic features (rocks, structures, fossils, surface topography) that you will study. There are field schools that operate all over the country and abroad. However, we recommend that you select a field school in the western U.S. That part of the country offers spectacular scenery, classic sequences of sedimentary rock, and excellent rock exposure. Keep in mind that the location of a field school may have nothing to do with the location of the University offering the course. For example, Indiana University (located in Bloomington Indiana) has its permanent field school in southwestern Montana.
Instructors: The field school you select should have multiple instructors with diverse geologic expertise (petrologist, sedimentologist, geomorphologist, etc). You will learn more from an academically diverse faculty. Try to find out the number of students per faculty member at the field school. You want as much interaction with faculty as possible.
Course Structure and Intensity: Look for a challenging field school. You will learn more for your money from a field school that is well organized and includes a nice mix of group work and independent work in the field. Some field camps are more intense than others. A more intense field camp will involve more work days in the field doing geology (less days off per week), and more hours in the field per day. The number and nature of assignments and exams will also vary. Overall, we recommend that you select a more intense field camp. You will learn more.
Timing: Most field schools are 6 weeks long. Pay attention to when the field school begins and when it ends. Make sure the dates fit into your summer schedule. Some universities offer the same field school twice during the summer (late May to early July and then again from early July to mid August). Pay attention to the normal weather conditions during those times.
Academic Preparation: Most field schools have prerequisites. In general it is best to take a field school during the summer after your junior or senior year. Make sure you contact the field school director if you want to attend a particular field school but are missing one or two of the required courses.
Cost: This is obviously an important factor. Remember, you are paying for a 6 credit course that is transferable to BSU. And you will probably pay non-resident tuition rates. In general, the total cost varies from $1500.00 to $3000.00 depending on the school. Many field schools do offer small scholarships (in the $500.00 range) to help defray these costs. It is hard to say if a more expensive school is a better school. The cost differences may reflect different living accommodations (see below), tuition rates at different schools, and the number of faculty and students involved in the course.
Living Arrangements: This does vary a lot from school to school. Many field schools have permanent field stations, with sleeping quarters, full bathroom facilities, large dining facilities, common rooms, recreational space, laundry rooms, study space, etc. These are the most comfortable and productive because you can focus more on learning. Other field schools do not have a permanent field station. Instead, you camp every day and will be responsible for helping out with meal preparation and other routine tasks. Camping is fun, but it will take time away from learning, although these kinds of schools are generally much cheaper. If you can afford it, we recommend a field school that operates out of a permanent field station.
Click here to view a partial, but extensive, list of Universities that offer summer geology field schools.
|Dr. Robert Cicerone||Northeastern University: New England|
|Dr. Richard Enright||Rutgers University: Eastern Pennsylvania|
|Dr. Michael Krol||Bowling Green State University: New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah|
|Dr. Peter Saccocia||Indiana University Field Station: Southwestern Montana|
|Dr. Jacek Sulanowski||Miami University of Ohio: Wind River Mountains, Wyoming|
Last Modified: July 15, 2011