GEOL 330: Summer Field Geology

4 credits

Instructor:  Art Chadwick

Textbook: None required. Geology in the Field (R.R. Compton) or Procedures in Field Geology (T. Freeman) are invaluable aids for field techniques and procedures and are highly recommended, if you can find a copy.


Summer Field Geology is a six week intensive field class taught in the challenging stratigraphic environment of the Lance Formation in the Powder River Basin of eastern Wyoming. It is a required course for geology majors, intended to train geologists in field methods. The projects undertaken during the course of the five weeks involve developing basic field mapping skills as well as learning advanced field techniques including high-resolution GPS mapping and GIS mapping skills. The student will be assigned a mapping problem within the Powder River Basin, and will develop a stratigraphic map and sedimentologic and tectonic history for the assigned area. Class will include field trips to adjacent areas of high geologic interest.

This course will give students the opportunity to apply the principles and information learned in the classroom to real field situations.  You should emerge from the class with a deeper appreciation for the problems involved in collecting field data, analyzing and interpreting the data and synthesizing the information into a meaningful explanation for the stratigraphic, sedimentologic and tectonic history of the area.

 After returning from the field, the student will be given time to complete drafting and the written report. The final report will document the results of the exercises carried out in the field. In some cases time will be permitted for sample analysis prior to completion of the project.


 Week 1 - Training in basic field techniques, including proper scientific note-taking, the use of the Brunton compass and hand-held GPS to do mapping, bearings, contact and bedding attitudes and much, much more, will take place prior to departure. The nature of a geologic report and the structure and writing of the geologic report will be covered. A mapping problem will be assigned that is due at time of departure.

Week 2 – Reconnaissance geology in the southeastern Powder River Basin and environs, including the Black Hills Uplift. First mapping project in Lance Formation.

Week 3 – Assignment of projects – familiarization of student with problem and local reconnaissance. Rock types and sedimentary environment. Field trip to Mammoth site in Hot Springs.  Analysis of basis of thermal deposit.

Week 4, 5 - Student mapping and completion of project. Field trip to adjacent areas for comparison with mapped region. Use of high-resolution GPS mapping coupled with GIS software to resolve tectonic and stratigraphic conundrums.

Week 6 – Completion of project upon return to University. Paper due in most cases by end of July.  Exceptions will be made for cases where sample analysis is required.

Required supplies and equipment:

  1. 2H and 3H pencils and sharpener (suggest sandpaper on wood block)
  2. engineer’s field notebook
  3. 10"x12" (minimum) clipboard with cover (aluminum preferable)
  4. hand lens (10x)
  5. calculator, with trig function
  6. acid bottle and Brunton Compass

 The instructor will supply a list of personal gear you will need to bring for the field school at the time of enrollment.



Your major field project will be the basis for your grade.  Demonstration of observational skills, critical thinking and problem solving abilities, care for critical details, and overall demonstration of mastery of field techniques will contribute to your grade.  Your field book will be graded for completeness and legibility.



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