To kick off the summer a group of students from Bloomsburg University’s Department of Environmental, Geographical, and Geological Sciences spent three weeks in California's Mojave Desert. The adventurous learning experience was a part of the department’s new Special Topics in Field Geology course — designed to give students an opportunity to observe a wide variety of earth processes, apply their knowledge and reinforce skills in geological observation and interpretation.
By participating in this intense, field-based course, 13 students got a first-hand encounter with the geology and environmental issues of the western United States. Led by faculty Chris Whisner, Jennifer Whisner and Cynthia Venn, the group roughed it at rustic campsites, grilled trout caught in mountain streams, worked on field notebooks until late in the evening and endured rain, snow, hail and 116-degree heat.
At the same time, the group said it marveled at the mining impacts, stunning geology, and complex water resource issues they encountered on their 1,800-mile trek.
Each student had opportunities to show off their knowledge through lecturing at two stops, while faculty displayed the accompanying posters. Other highlights:
- several sites at Mono Lake, Owen’s Lake, LA Aqueduct, Hoover Dam, Ash Meadows showcased many of the ideas students studied in Water Resources Management and Ground Hydrology
- students were assigned to sketch an unfamiliar landscape and identify as many features as they could, based on the trip. Most students were able to pick out most of the features (fault scarps and fault-block mountains, volcanoes, alluvial fans, stream-carved valleys, springs, glacial features, intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, and sedimentary rocks) from their viewpoint across the valley.
According to Jennifer Whisner, up until that point the student didn’t really realize how much they had learned in the week or so they’d been out there!
In their final synthesis paper, nearly every student noted that actually seeing mile-high mountains, volcanoes, earthquake scars, picturesque landscapes carved by alpine glaciers and rushing water, and irrigation in one of the most water-starved parts of the U.S. helped them better understand concepts they had discussed in class, and better grasp the scale of features they had seen only in textbook diagrams.