College of Arts and Sciences
course description– G429


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DATES: June 18 – July 31 2017 (6 credits)

NOTE: This course is physically demanding. Students should be in good health, capable of strenuous hiking on rugged terrain while carrying daypack and field gear.


Students are expected to have completed at least the first two–three years of a standard undergraduate program in the geosciences. This would normally include an introductory course and two or more courses in the disciplines of mineralogy, petrology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, and structure/tectonics. Additional topical coursework is beneficial for some of the areas of concentration which are available.

Students with alternative backgrounds are encouraged to apply and will be considered on a case–by–case basis.


The G429 curriculum is divided into two parts. The first part consists of closely supervised instruction with a 7:1 student:faculty ratio. A typical schedule for a week would run as follows: one to two days of close instruction (e.g. descriptions, measurement, and field examination of the stratigraphic section, use of topographic maps and air photos for location and as base maps) followed by two to three days of work applying this information to a problem (e.g. regional deformation patterns involving the lower Paleozoic stratigraphic section). Additional topics included in this first part of the course are techniques of mapping simple structures on aerial photographs and topographic maps, reconnaissance mapping of a relatively large area of moderate structural complexity, the study of sedimentary rocks through detailed description and measurement of stratigraphic sections, detailed mapping and reconstruction of the geologic history of a highly complex structure characterized by numerous folds and faults, and field studies of igneous and Archean metamorphic rocks.

As a culmination of the intense instructional portion of the course students are given the option to select a particular focus for the final week of intense instruction. Options for this week include an emphasis on crystalline rocks (G429c) or the integration of different geophysical techniques (G429g) or stratigraphy and subsurface exploration techniques (G429s). This work is set within the overall framework that has been developed up to this point in the course allowing students to explore how more in-depth techniques can be adapted within a field setting.

The second part of G429 involves a Final Study Area project composed of mapping in an area characterized by both geologic diversity and complexity. The student works independently in one of several FSAs and produces extensive sets of different types of supporting data; geologic maps on aerial photographs (stereographic pairs) and a topographic base maps; geologic cross sections; other appropriate projects of data as determined by the student; and a summary of the geologic history of the region as a final project. The maps and written report for the project are due on the last day of the course.

In addition to the teaching projects, there are four one–day field evaluation exercises. Students, working independently of other students and faculty, collect basic observational and stratigraphic data, construct a geologic map and cross sections for the area, and decipher the geologic history of a structurally and stratigraphically diverse area that they have not previously visited.


To take advantage of the range of geology available in the northern Rocky Mountains, two field excursions are included within the course. The first takes place at the start of the courses, using localities encountered on the drive to the IUGFS to develop a sense of the regional stratigraphy and structural and tectonic setting of the region. This involves stops in the: Black Hills, Powder River Basin, Big Horn Mtns, Big Horn Basin, Owl Creek Mtns, Wind River Basin, Wind River Mtns, Absaraka Mtns, Jackson Hole, and Teton Mtns, and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. As a break between the two part of the course a second excursion to NW Montana is taken to study the: Montana Overthrust Belt in Sun River Canyon, Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley Continental Glacial History.


G429 officially begins in Rapid City, South Dakota on June 21, 2016. Students can choose to transport themselves to Rapid City or may opt to drive from Bloomington, Indiana in a caravan of vehicles. Students who opt to depart from Bloomington should plan to arrive in Bloomington by Sunday, June 19th and attend the mandatory organizational meeting at 6:00 p.m. that evening. The caravan departs from Bloomington at 7:00 a.m. Monday, June 20th. Students planning on joining the group in Rapid City will need to arrive there by 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21st.

Returning, the caravan leaves the Field Station on August 2nd, arrives back in Bloomington on August 4th, stopping in Bozeman and Rapid City to drop off students who choose to customize their return travel plans.

field station routine

Upon arrival at the Field Station you will receive instructions regarding dormitory assignments. Each student will find a bunk, a pillow, a locker, and two drawers in a small chest for his/her use during the field course. You need to provide your own twin size sheets, blanket and/or sleeping bag.


All students housed on the lower campus will use the wash house facilities located in the steel building to the north. Students housed on upper campus will use the wash house facilities on upper campus.

Students housed on upper campus will use the laundry facilities in the upper campus wash house, and students housed on lower campus will use the laundry facilities in the lower campus wash house. Washing machines cost $1.25 per load and dryers cost $1.25 for 45 minutes. Clothes lines and clothes pins are available on both upper and lower campus. You will need to purchase your own laundry supplies.


Week day meals are scheduled as follows:

  • Breakfast - 7:00 am
  • Lunch - Field lunch packed before or after breakfast in the lodge.
  • Dinner - 6:30 pm

A bell will be rung about 5-10 minutes before mealtime to alert students to come to the dining hall. Students may be seated after the second bell rings. Breakfast and dinner are served family style. Each person is responsible for taking his/her own dishes and table service to the proper locations after the meal. As in any large group, your promptness at mealtime will help eliminate confusion. On certain occasions like Saturday, dinner may be served at 5:30 pm in order to accommodate those who wish to get an early start to town. These changes will be announced at breakfast and posted on the bulletin board.

The Sunday schedule will normally be as follows:

  • Breakfast: Continental breakfast available 8:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Lunch: Items available from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Dinner: 6:30 pm

Mail addressed to the Field Station is brought from the Post Office at Cardwell and distributed in the mailboxes located at the southwest corner of the lodge. The mail will be picked up at Cardwell by authorized staff of the Field Station. Only outgoing mail should be placed in the box on top of the mailboxes. This mail will be taken to the Post Office each morning.

The student address at the Field Station is: IUGFS
Attn: Student Name
633 S. Boulder Rd.
Cardwell, MT 59721


The overall multi–disciplinary background of the G429 faculty permits all students at the end of the third week of closely supervised instructional phase of the course to opt for 6 days of focused field study in one of two geoscience sub-disciplines under the guidance of a faculty member with specialized training in the sub-discipline.

Each option maintains a link with the fundamental principles previously developed. This is followed by 8 days of closely guided, but more independent mapping and reconstruction of geologic history in a final study area. Skills, techniques, and instrumentation learned during the 6-day period are uniquely applied in the final study area.

Students are encouraged to indicate on their application which option they would prefer, because assignments will be done on a first-come, first-served basis.

start here

forms to be completed
upon acceptance

preparation for your trip

travel to the field station

after the course

All information is important to the course. please read all documents carefully.

G429c–Crystalline Rocks and Economic Geology

G429c explores topics associated with crystalline metamorphic rocks from an integrated field, geochemical, magnetic, and spectroscopic approach. Mapping of an ˜2.5 – 3.4 Ga Archean metamorphic suite is augmented by integrated sets of petrographic data, whole rock and trace element geochemistry, and isotope geochemistry in addition to near and middle infrared reflectance and emission spectroscopic laboratory data for samples collected within the study area. In addition to traditional field mapping techniques and utilization of ancillary laboratory data, work will include deployment of a field portable magnetometer and visible to near infrared spectroradiometer to aid in mapping and geologic interpretation efforts.

G429g–Geophysics and Neotectonics

G429g utilizes geophysical tools (e.g. seismic, gravity, electrical resistivity, terrestrial laser survey, and GPS) to build data sets that can be used to interpret a number of geologic problems that exist within the region. Specific topics and techniques are chosen on an annual basis all of which are designed to integrate geophysical techniques with traditional geologic investigations. The emphasis is on field deployment of geophysical instruments with time spent learning about the instruments, defining how to best deploy the instruments to solve the problem to be addressed, working on data reduction and interpretation and finally, developing models to test and refine the geologic interpretation of the data. The problems, instruments, and deployment techniques selected are formulated to address questions that arise from the experiences leading up to this week. Concepts and information developed during this week will be applied during the final study area. A critical component of the work is to integrate traditional geological data (e.g. sedimentology, stratigraphy, structural analysis) into any interpretation. Recent work has focused on monitoring neotectonic activity in the vicinity of the Field Station.

G429s–Stratigraphy and Subsurface Exploration Techniques

G429s provides students with an opportunity to explore problems in regional stratigraphy using a combination of field data, wireline logs, and/or seismic reflection data. These advanced exercises will build on the basic principles of facies analysis introduced earlier in the course. Possible topics include sequence stratigraphic analysis of Paleozoic carbonates, lithostratigraphic correlation of Mesozoic clastics and carbonates, and stratigraphic architecture of Tertiary units. Together, these techniques and exercises will provide students with a fuller understanding of the interplay between tectonics, eustasy, climate, and sedimentation recorded by the regional stratigraphy.