Field Camp

Field camp is an important component of the education of a traditional geologist, and many alumni indicate the skills they gained at our field camp were crucial in starting their careers as geotechnical engineers, staff geologists, or environmental geologists. Our capstone course for the Geology BS degree is a four-week field mapping class, GEOL 475. 

Over the past several years, students have mapped and described the geology, stratigraphy, petrology, structural geology, and glacial geology of field camp locations in eastern California, central Nevada, and southwestern Montana. Our Field Camp is fully mobile and solar-powered – with kitchen and work tents and computers. Unlike many universities that use permanent facilities, we have the flexibility to move to different locations from year to year, thus providing a broader range of geologic problems for our students. 

2021 - Eastern California and White Inyo Mountains

In 2021 we returned to the field, teaching an in person, closed field camp with extra precautionary measures for the safety of all students and staff. The camp mapped several locations of faulted and folded rocks in the White-Inyo mountains, glacial moraines, and Quaternary faults and volcanics along the Eastern Sierra Mountains.

2020 Remote mapping of Western Montana, Planet Mars, and northern California

In summer 2020, just a few months after the Covid-19 global pandemic was announced, we were not able to hold an in person field camp. Instead, we held a four week remote camp. Students were mailed maps, cross section paper, and various other tools (Brunton compasses, protractor-rulers, drafting compasses, etc.) to learn as best we could in the absence of field work. We were able to do a couple of unique things, such as mapping the geomorphology of Mars using Google Mars, and map some bedrock geology using photographs and Google Earth. Students also learned how to use lidar to map detailed surface features. 

2019- White-Inyos and Sierra Nevada in Eastern California

The 2019 field camp was held in two locations in Eastern California. 

2018–Eastern California & the Sierra Nevada

This camp was based at two locations within eastern California, at Westgard Pass in the White Mountains and at Long Valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Students investigated and mapped a wide range of geology including structural analysis of folded and faulted Cambrian rocks in Deep Springs Valley, analysis of Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary and metamorphic rocks in the White mountains, mapping of Mesozoic igneous rocks in the eastern Sierra Nevada, mapping of Quaternary volcanic and sedimentary rocks near Mono Lake, mapping and analysis of faulted late Pleistocene glacial moraines in the eastern Sierra Nevada.

2017–Western Montana

This Field Camp was located near Dillon, Montana with mapping in the Boulder Batholith, the Ruby Range, and the McCarthy Mountains. Projects included folded and faulted Paleozoic rocks, intrusive contacts between Cretaceous plutons and Paleozoic sediments, Quaternary glacial and surficial deposits underlain by Paleozoic and pre Cambrian rocks, folded and faulted Archean gneisses, and faulted Tertiary sediments and volcanic rocks overlying pre Cambrian metamorphic rocks. 

  • Geology field camp students mapping in western Montana under the big sky.
    Students mapping in western Montana
  • Guest instructor Sylvia Nicovich joins Professor Melanie Michalak for a pre-mapping introduction to the geology of western Montana.
    Group introduction of western Montana
  • Students documenting
    Students documenting

GEOL 475

(Geology Field Camp)

In the course, students learn to collect geologic data and display it in map and report form, interpret geologic structures, and communicate results both orally and in writing. In short, students will leave camp ready to begin a career as a geologist.

This course is run as a spring semester offering and requires up to 2 class preparatory sessions during the semester followed by the four-week field course from mid-May through mid-June.