All Geosciences Department students in the Warner College of Natural Resources gain critical skills during their capstone summer field camp. The course is a five-week physical and mental challenge that prepares students for a wide variety of geoscience careers.
Armed with a rock-solid foundation
Armed with a rock-solid foundation of theory and fundamental field techniques from prior courses, a Brunton (a specialized field compass), a rock hammer and field notebook, the aspiring geoscientists travel throughout northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado during the course. A different subject is covered each week ranging from sedimentary and metamorphic geology, to petrology, economic and structural geology, and water quality.
“The course recaps what the students see in the classroom using the southern Rocky Mountains as a classroom. It’s all right in front of them in the field and we push them to apply what they have learned to what’s on the ground,” said geosciences Associate Professor Sven Egenhoff, the field camp’s faculty coordinator. “Geosciences careers demand strong field skills. Those are much easier for students to learn outside the classroom.”
Going off the beaten path
Developing those skills means a lot of hiking and exploring without many boundaries. The students climb from ridge to ridge, often off-trail, in search of rock outcrops to study to unravel the geologic story of the area. They go from from rock quarries to forests, the tops of mountains and even into rivers. “The most fun part of field camp is traveling to all the fun locations and seeing the cool geology,” said Caleb Kroening, a geology major, after the 2015 field camp.
Each summer students push themselves in a number of ways. Some overcome fears of heights. Others camp for the first time. They all cope with planning meals together and cooking in groups, which is a team learning and networking experience that goes well beyond the science at hand. “We get to create a network of people in the college through the course,” said geology major Prescott Delaware. “Now when we get back to campus, and even after graduation, we’ll be connected to one another.”
“The intensive field camp experience, a strong core curriculum, and professional mentorship opportunities that include summer internships make Warner College geoscience students some of the best prospects for employers looking to hire new graduates,” noted Geosciences Department Head, Rick Aster.
Eighty percent of graduates from the program secure employment or continuing education plans within six months of graduation. “Employers love that we still do a significant field camp because it is so hands on,” said Egenhoff.