Geology Rocks: Desert Field Trip Lets Students Hone Mapping Skills

Student and professor Geology trip

Seven SUNY Oneonta students made the most of winter break during an adventurous field trip out west for their upper-level course Field Geology of Plate Boundaries (GEOL 343).

The 13-day trip, led by Associate Professors Keith Brunstad and Les Hasbargen, let students map rocks and geologic structures associated with the plate boundary between the North American and Pacific plates in Southern California, near Anza Borrego. This is the location of the San Andreas Fault. 

Amid the eroding mountains and expansive desert views, students practiced recording geologic observations, taking field notes and sketches, creating maps and geologic cross sections, and presenting summaries of their findings.

Geology Students on trip
Geology Students on trip
Geology Students on trip

During their down time, students hiked, took in colorful sunsets, cooked their meals on an open fire under the stars, and camped in tents. Students said the trip provided invaluable experience, allowing them to use what they’ve learned about geologic mapping in prior coursework in a real-world context, as well as a chance to see a whole new part of the world. 

tent setup

“There is no substitute for hands-on field work and sticking your nose to an outcrop,” said Elliott Jackson, a member of the Class of 2022 from Lakewood, NY. “My favorite part of the trip was rolling up our sleeves and finishing up all our data collection at Split Mountain to round off the edges on our field-mapping projects.”

Nick Walters, a member of the Class of 2024 from Webster, NY, said the trip deepened his passion for geology. 

“My biggest takeaway was getting to apply my skills in a real-world setting while learning a ton that will further help me as I take more classes within the geology major, aiding in the growth in my love for geology.”

student on rocks
students on hike
Students on hike

Click here to see more photos from the trip

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