Field Geology in the Rocky Mountains


June 18 – July 31, 2017
(6 credits)

getting there

The course begins in Rapid City SD. Students can choose to drive there themselves or travel from IU Bloomington in a caravan of vehicles.


Students from all universities are invited to apply. Click on the links in the table below to go to the course application and scholarship application.


Cick on the icon or on this link to see the tuition and fees for G429

Course description

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.

1Prerequisites: 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.

2Curriculum: 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.

3Final Study Area: 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.

4Field Exercises: 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.

5Focus Areas: 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), hydrology and environmental geology (G429e), 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.

Logistics & field trips

Logistics: G429 officially begins in Rapid City, South Dakota on June 20, 2017. 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 18th 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 19th. Students planning on joining the group in Rapid City will need to arrive there by 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20th.

Returning, the caravan leaves the Field Station on August 1st, arrives back in Bloomington on August 3rd, stopping in Bozeman and Rapid City to drop off students who choose to customize their return travel plans.

Field Trips: 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.

Discipline-specific options

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 three 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.

G429c Crystalline Rocks and Economic Geology

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.

G429e Stratigraphy and Subsurface exploration techniques

G429e–Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology

G429e makes use of a network of ground water monitoring wells, stream gaging 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. The class also works on two contrasting abandoned mine sites to discuss remediation. The emphasis is on data gathering in the field making use of the permanent fixed sites as well as individual measurements and observations conducted using portable instruments. Students will use the same general field area as the rest of the course to benefit from the accumulated knowledge. Groundwater flow and aquifer characterization, surface and groundwater geochemistry and the geochemical evolution of groundwater, and the generation of acid mine drainage will be the main topics covered.

G429s Stratigraphy and Subsurface exploration techniques

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.

G429g Geophysics and Neotectonics

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 learning about geophysical instruments, defining how to best deploy the instruments to solve the problem to be addressed, working on data reduction and interpretation, and 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 here 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.

Apply for G429

(* required information)

march 31st application deadline for priority consideration
start here
forms to be completed upon acceptance (pdf)
preparation for your trip (pdf)
travel to the field station (pdf)
additional information (pdf)
all information is important to the course.
please read all documents carefully.


Q. How much does a course cost?

The total cost includes tuition, transportation fees, room and board, and miscellaneous field station fees. IU has a tiered tuition rate distinguishing between in-state and out-of-state students. Generous scholarship support is designed to offset out-of-state tuition costs.

Q: Can I bring my laptop to the Field Station?

A: Yes, you can bring your laptop to the Field Station. However, internet access is limited. A number of Field Station laptops are available for use for specific projects during the course.

Q: Will I have access to email at the Field Station?

A: Yes.

Q: If I drive my personal vehicle to the Field Station, am I free to leave on the weekends?

A: Absolutely not. Any personal vehicles driven to the Field Station will be parked upon arrival and will not be allowed to be driven for the duration of the course. Anyone driving to the Field Station is responsible for getting themselves from the Field Station to Rapid City, SD for the beginning of the course. Public transportation is not available anywhere near the Field Station. Using a personal vehicle as transportation to get to and from the course is not recommended. More

contact information

department of earth and atmospheric sciences
indiana university
1001 e. 10th st. bloomington in 47405

phone: 812-855-1475