G429 FIELD GEOLOGY IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
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.