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Field Methods

The Field Methods course is required of all students completing the Teachers in Geosciences (TIG) Program. After completing the first ten courses of the TIG program, each student will choose one of the pre-determined destinations around the country for the GR 8400.Field Methods in Geosciences course. The student will travel to the location with approximately ten other TIG students and MSU professors to participate in planned, hands-on activities related to the earth science aspects of the area. Students will be contacted during the fall semester of the second year with information regarding the upcoming Field Methods courses including selected locations and sign-up deadlines.

Click to see pictures and descriptions of previous Field Methods courses

Arizona

Central Arizona offers many opportunities to study and apply a wide variety of concepts in the geosciences. The highlight of this 8-day field study is our visit to the Grand Canyon where we witness geologic time first-hand. Other study sites for the week include Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Sunset Crater, Meteor Crater, Tonto Natural Bridge, a lava tube, Lowell Observatory, Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma’s Well. There are many opportunities to collect rocks, minerals, and petrified wood. Our field work includes doing water quality analysis, practice in taking strike and dip, mapping exercises, soil and sand collection and analysis, taking core samples from trees, studying lava flows and correlating stratigraphic sections. There are also daily meteorological map discussions, and discussions on climatic influences. The evenings provide many opportunities for discussions and observations of the planets, constellations, and moon phases.

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The Bahamas

The Bahamas field method course takes place in Isla De Mona. The field station there allow for cave exploration, scuba diving, and research on the local environment. This course has a balanced mixture of geology, climate, hydrogeology/karst and coastal processes. The island of San Salvador affords an excellent natural laboratory to explore the linkages between lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere as well as cryosphere.

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Great Plains Storm Chase

The Storm Chase Field Methods course provides a first-hand opportunity for students to encounter the power of the atmosphere in the natural laboratory known as the Great Plains. This course will provide information and familiarity with various weather analysis and storm interception techniques. In addition to visualizing the dynamics of the atmosphere, students will be given an opportunity to experience the sites and culture of the Great Plains region.

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Lake Superior

The Lake Superior field course features one of the prettiest shorelines in North America. The largest freshwater lake in the world, bounded by the northern woods, spans across the horizon and features natural arches, scenic lakeshore cliffs, enjoyable hiking trails, seagulls, and the ever-elusive moose. The Minnesota State Parks and their respective hiking trails, including Tettegouche, Gooseberry Falls, and Grand Portage, are perhaps America’s best kept secret, easily rivaling the overly-crowded and touristy western National Parks in beauty and geologic wonder. Geologically, the region is unique as some of the oldest rocks in North America are exposed right at the surface. The greenstone belts (3 billion years old!!) and banded iron formations (1.8 billion years!), for example make this one of a few places in the world where one can study Achaean- and Proterozoic-aged rocks in situ.

Climatologically, the region is ideal (in the summer) with day-time highs in the low-80’s and nighttime lows in the upper 40’s. Meteorologically, the area is dynamic as the Lake has very interesting and exciting influence on regional weather patterns. You will see evidence of the destructive power of derechos, hints of the deep Lake Effect snows that visit the area in the winter, and experience the lake breeze in all its glory. In addition to experiencing the food and culture of the area, this field methods course has several educational activities, including collecting Paleozoic fossils, mapping Precambrian rocks, hunting for agates on the lakeshore, mineral collecting in search of copper and silver, exclusive behind the scenes tours of the National Weather Service, the world-famous Seaman Mineral Museum, and stargazing in the cool northern woods. The Lake Superior trip is an excellent capstone course that will solidify the understanding of Earth and atmospheric sciences.

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Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

This course offers both spectacular scenery and numerous opportunities to learn and apply a variety of geoscience principles. Our course begins in Ontario, CA, and then heads north, passing over the Pacific Plate to the North American Plate with opportunities to observe tectonic features created by the San Andreas Fault. We will continue north across the Mojave Desert to the Owens Valley and finally the southern Sierra Nevada. Along the way we will pass through turn of the century mining towns, visit Fossil Falls, Owens Lake, and one of the world's largest solar generating plants. We will visit the Alabama Hills, site of many western movies, collect Cambrian fossils in the White Mountains and visit Whitney Portal, trailhead to Mt. Whitney. We will also see the oldest living trees in the world, the Bristlecone Pine, the westernmost portion of the Basin and Range, ancient volcanic tuff, roof pendants, glaciers and glacial deposits, hot spring and fumaroles.

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Upstate New York

The Upstate New York field course for the TIG program will take advantage of outstanding geologic exposures, convenient logistics, and superb documentation to bring students into contact with a suite of geology that will provide an enjoyable capstone event to their TIG experience. Upstate New York has rocks ranging in age from over a billion years up to the recent. We will examine pillow basalts, stromatolites, thrust faults, marbles, dikes, glacial scour, caves & karst, fossils, glacial sediments, deltaic sequences, extensional tectonics, metamorphic suites, moon-like anorthosites, limestones, turbidites, mineral springs, rivers, unconformities, and much more. July in New York usually provides delightful weather, and the landscapes are scenic. We will headquarter out of a hotel in the Albany area that will provide pedestrian access to shops and restaurants, and like spokes of a wheel, visit our many geological sites as a series of one-day excursions.

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Western Washington State

The spectacular scenery of Western Washington State offers many opportunities to study and apply a wide variety of concepts from the Teachers in Geoscience (TIG) program. The course begins with three days in the area around Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens, with stops at Johnston Ridge, Coldwater Ridge, Windy Ridge devastation area, Ape Cave, Hummocks Trail, Paradise, and the Nisqually Glacier. The course continues on the Olympic Peninsula with stops at Kalaloch, Ruby, and Rialto Beaches (including a study of tide pools), the Hoh Rain Forest, and Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park where we will have a Star Party. The course will conclude with a study of metamorphism and glacial valleys in North Cascades National Park, volcanic arcs and accreted terrains in Snoqualmie Pass, and the Missoula Flood in the Channeled Scablands. There are also daily meteorological map discussions, and the many opportunities to discuss the climate of the Pacific Northwest and the influences of the mountain ranges on precipitation distribution and vegetation.

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Yellowstone National Park

There are few places in the country that can compete with beauty and diversity that you will find in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. This field study course begins in the Twin Falls, ID where we take a day to explore Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Thousand Springs, and the Snake River Canyon. We visit a fossil preparation lab and the site of their most recent dig, and discuss the evidence for the Bonneville Flood. We then head to Craters of the Moon National Monument where we hike the basalt lava flows from the Great Rift, and explore lava tunnels and ice caves. In Yellowstone, we stay at Old Faithful for three nights, and spend our days studying the geysers and hot springs, and we visit the Hebgen Lake earthquake site. We then head south for two days in the Grand Tetons studying Basin and Range geology, glacial features, and hiking Cascade Canyon. We then return to Twin Falls along the Snake River Valley trail of the Yellowstone Hot Spot. Each day includes a meteorological map discussion and discussions on local climate controls. There are also opportunities to observe and discuss the night sky and local environmental issues.

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Other Distance Geosciences Programs