A group of 14 Angelo State geology students traveled more than 3,000 miles through five states over five weeks this summer for the experience of a lifetime known as Field Camp.
Officially titled “GEOL 3600: Field Geology,” Field Camp is the required capstone course on geologic mapping techniques for geology majors preparing to graduate. Dr. Joe Satterfield, professor of geology, co-led this year’s camp that emphasized these student objectives:
- Explore rugged mountains and canyons
- Learn about the geology of North American mountain regions
- Apply specialized skills of structural and environmental geology
- Practice preparing and writing scientific reports
- Learn about careers in field geology
- Have fun while learning, working hard and living remotely
“Field Camp is probably the best way of reviewing and applying those 10 geology courses they have already had,” Satterfield said, “by actually applying that learning in the field. It’s unusual because it’s classified as a lab course, but they earn six credit hours and our classroom is totally outdoors, which you can see in our photos.”
Locations the group visited for their various geology exercises included:
- Chisos Mountains and Davis Mountains, Texas
- San Ysidro, New Mexico
- Gunnison National Park, Colorado
- Great Basin National Park & Slate Mountain, Nevada
- Meteor Crater, Arizona
While they traveled in a van and 4-wheel-drive vehicles, most of their time was spent in the field – measuring orientations with compasses, describing stratigraphic sections, constructing geologic maps, plotting data and writing reports.
I caught up with some of our geology rock stars – Hadlie Green, Matthew Kintzel and Megan Schmidt – to get their take on Field Camp.
Did Field Camp go like you expected?
Hadlie – “It was more than I thought it was going to be. From previous shorter field trips, I thought I knew what to expect. But during Field Camp, they did a great job of creating new projects and different ways to complete them at every location. That really broadened my experience from what I was expecting.”
Megan – “The whole experience was better than I expected. We put everyone’s name in a hat and drew for our partners, so it was all random, but it worked really well. The first week was probably the hardest because we were in the Big Bend and the temperature was in the 100s. But after that, we got acclimated and moved on to cooler areas. I enjoy hiking, so the distance wasn’t bad for me.”
What was the biggest benefit of Field Camp?
Megan – “For me, it was being able to take what I learned from all my courses, putting it together and being able to know that you can finish a project by yourself or with a partner – just using everything I learned as an undergraduate.”
Matthew – “I plan on going into structural geology for my career, so it was nice to have this complete experience of field work, looking at the structures and making maps.”
What was the coolest thing you got to see?
Matthew – “We took a tour of a mine owned by Newmont in Colorado. We got to see an actual operating open-pit mine. That was the coolest thing I saw.”
Hadlie – “We were in the Fresno Mine area (near Terlingua, Texas) and there was this huge travertine (limestone) deposit that we got to explore. Every place we went was so different and we got to see a lot of different things throughout Field Camp.”
What was your favorite aspect of Field Camp?
Hadlie – “Camping was my favorite part because it was full-on geology and getting that complete experience. There weren’t any showers and it was kind of crazy while we were there, but also really fun. Those are my favorite stories to tell since we got back.”
Matthew – “Being out in the field for a whole month just concentrating on geology – that was really cool. It was pretty intense. We were doing geology field work every day, but that was my favorite part.”
Do you have a favorite Field Camp story?
Megan – “For Dr. Joe and Dillon Hughes’ birthday, we found this water trough and we all got to swim in it after one of the field days. We all looked kind of funny, swimming around in a tank in our hiking gear. Sand Mountain in Nevada was also a lot of fun. We hiked to the top of it and some of the others were just dying.”
Matthew – “We were at the Dom Rock in Big Bend, and we all signed a piece of paper and put it in a plastic water bottle. We hid it at Dom Rock like in that movie, “Fandango.” We basically made a geocache. We also did it at Slate Mountain in Nevada, and we actually found the geocache left there by the previous Field Camp in 2016.”
Are you glad you went to Field Camp?
Hadlie – “I’m extremely glad I want and I’d go back in a heartbeat. I was ready to get home and sleep in my own bed. But the next day, I woke up and none of us were together. I instantly missed it.”
Matthew – “I’m glad I did ASU’s Field Camp rather than going somewhere else. I knew everyone on the trip, and that made it that much more fun.”
Megan – “Yes! It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work, but it was a blast at the same time. I was excited to get home, but after about a week, I really missed it. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.”