College of Arts and Sciences
course description– G433

G433 Geology, Hydrology and Geochemistry in the Rocky Mountains

DATES: June 19 – July 30, 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 to 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, hydrogeology and structure/tectonics. Additional topical coursework is beneficial including chemistry, biology/ecology, calculus, or physics. Students with alternative backgrounds are encouraged to apply and will be considered on a case–by–case basis.


The practical training provided will have a strong interdisciplinary science base and will include contributions from geoscientists with a broad range of backgrounds in geology, hydrology and geochemistry. The techniques and methods employed will require students to apply basic principles from chemistry, geology, mathematics, and physics to solve the problems they encounter.

G433 addresses topic related to surface and near surface environmental processes, set within a geologic framework; students will work with a variety of geologic settings including crystalline rocks, sedimentary rocks, poorly consolidated Tertiary basin fill, and modern sediments. The curriculum makes use of a network of permanent weather stations, ground water monitoring wells, stream gauging stations, a SNOTEL site, and soil sample sites in the Willow Creek Demonstration Watershed, a facility installed for use by classes at the IU field station. This area will serve as an outdoor laboratory for multiple teaching modules. Students will benefit from the use of the same general field area for different themes (e.g. bedrock geology, sediment and soil characteristics and groundwater hydrology) so they can mentally and physically interrelate the components of the watershed system. The course includes trips to pertinent localities including Superfund sites and Yellowstone National Park.

The G433 curriculum is organized into two components. The first part involves extensive teaching designed to review basic field skills and to provide background concepts and introductions to instrumentation and computer applications that will be used during the course. Field instruction takes place in small groups, in one-on-one situations and in short lectures at the field station and field. Individual exercises have specific, focused themes that reflect the various disciplines within geology and geology-based environmental science (e.g., hydrogeology, soils and geomorphology).

Topics covered in the first part of this course include:

  • Study of sedimentary rocks through detailed description and measurement of stratigraphic sections
  • Techniques of mapping structures on aerial photographs and topographic maps
  • Detailed mapping of areas of moderate complexity
  • Field studies of igneous and Archean metamorphic rocks
  • Techniques in soil description and mapping
  • Identification and mapping of glacial features and sediments
  • Paleogeomorphology
  • Stream geomorphology and techniques in stream surveying
  • Groundwater flow and aquifer characterization
  • Surface and groundwater geochemistry and the geochemical evolution of groundwater, including the study of hydrothermal systems and the generation of acid rock drainage

Students will develop skills in field notebook descriptions, measurements with Brunton compass and other field instrumentation, and field examination of stratigraphic sections, use of topographic maps and air photos for location and as base maps, use of field instrumentation and construction of geologic maps and cross sections for an area of study. In addition to the teaching exercises, there are four one–day field evaluation exercises. Students, working independently of other students and faculty, collect basic observational, geochemical and stratigraphic data, construct a geologic map and cross sections for the area, and decipher the geologic history and hydrogeology of a diverse area that they have not previously visited.

During the latter portion of the course, students work on a final project where they apply the skills and techniques learned in the course to two very different final study areas characterized by geologic and hydrologic diversity and complexity. Students apply the skills, techniques and instrumentation learned throughout the course to collect, analyze and interpret structural, hydrologic, geomorphic and geochemical data to advance their understanding of the integration of these sub-disciplines. This project emphasizes independent work and critical thinking.

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


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 and 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

  • Bedrock and surficial geology
  • Hydrogeology and soils
  • Field instrumentation and large data-set manipulation
  • Rocky Mountain biomes and ecotones
  • Vegetation community structure and dynamics
  • Field water chemistry
  • Aquatic biology
  • Applications (acid mine drainage, irrigation schedules, environmental impact assessment)
  • Electrical tape, pressure transducers and data loggers for recovering time series data for seasonal water level determinations and for performing pump tests on monitoring wells.
  • Portable micrometeorologic masts for determining spatial variations in energy budget comparisons.
  • Marsh-McBirney flow-meter for measuring stream flow and calibrating stream gauging stations.
  • Portable, research-grade meters for measuring field chemistry (pH, T, Eh, DO, SpC).
  • Laptop computers for downloading data from data loggers, for data reduction, and for data display and manipulation in a GIS format.
  • Guelph permeameter
  • Neutron probe
  • Seepage meter
  • Marsh-McBirney flow-meter
  • Portable micrometeorology mast
  • GIS software for data manipulation and display


G433 officially begins on Monday, June 20, 2016 in Bloomington, IN with a mandatory organizational meeting at 6:00 p.m., held in Geology room 143. Staff and students will caravan to the field station in Indiana University vehicles departing on Tuesday, June 21st at 7:00 a.m. The return caravan to Bloomington will leave the Field Station on Monday morning, August 1st. Arrival in Bloomington is planned for late afternoon, approximately 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 3rd.


As a break during the course a three-day field trip to Yellowstone National Park allows us to observe another water system in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

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.