Abstract View

Volume 31 Issue 3-4 (March-April 2021)

GSA Today

Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF

Field-Based Geoscience Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Planning, Execution, Outcomes, and Forecasts

Jonathan R. Rotzien

Basin Dynamics LLC and University of Houston, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 1875 Post Oak Park Drive, Houston, Texas 77027, USA, jon@basindynamics.com

Ryan Sincavage

Radford University, Geology Dept., Box 6939, Radford, Virginia 24142-6939, USA, rsincavage@radford.edu

Christopher Pellowski

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, 501 E. St. Joseph Street, Rapid City, South Dakota 57701, USA, christopher.pellowski@sdsmt.edu

Yann Gavillot

Montana Tech University, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Butte, Montana 59701, USA, ygavillot@mtech.edu

Harry Filkorn

Pierce College, Physics and Planetary Sciences, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, California 91371, USA, filkornh@piercecollege.edu

Scott Cooper

FractureStudies LLC, 99 Rainbow Road, Suite 4-5, Edgewood, New Mexico 87015, USA, scott@fracturestudies.com

Jeremy Shannon

Michigan Tech University, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, Michigan 49931, USA, jmshanno@mtu.edu

Umit Yildiz, Foster Sawyer, Nuri Uzunlar

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Dept. of Geology and Geological Engineering, 501 E. St. Joseph Street, Rapid City, South Dakota 57701, USA, umit.yildiz@sdsmt.edu; foster.sawyer@sdsmt.edu; nuri.uzunlar@sdsmt.edu


The undergraduate geoscience experience typically culminates in a field-based capstone course that utilizes outcrop mapping, geologic observation, and interpretation across multiple disciplines to provide the graduating geologist with fundamental field-mapping skills. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the field-based geoscience programs have been temporarily suspended or shifted to an online format. To address the demand for graduating seniors in the broad field of geoscience, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology developed an innovative hybrid course consisting of two parts: (i) a 14-day online course on geological field methods, followed by (ii) a 15-day in-person geologic mapping course based out of Rapid City, South Dakota, USA. Analysis of this new hybrid course provides a benchmark on how to develop and execute field-based geoscience education with greater accessibility to field geology through a combination of online and face-to-face teaching. Our hybrid course model was taught during the first summer of the pandemic (28 June to 28 July 2020), and this experience provided the following insights: (i) there are four key stages to leading a field camp over a five-month timeline: development, logistics planning, implementation, and review; (ii) key decision makers and stakeholders in the process include the students, instructors, field-camp logisticians, campus dining and housing facilitators, field-station director, department chair, provost, and the Board of Regents; (iii) logistics, transportation, accommodation, and dining services require advanced levels of consideration to adequately address COVID-19–related risk and uncertainty; (iv) online teaching and exercises can address geological field methods, but they cannot adequately assess a student’s ability to map geology in the field; (v) field-mapping exercises need to be adjusted to reduce the number of people in one field area and lower their interaction to support social-distancing guidelines from relevant government and health authorities; and (vi) plans need to be put into place for overall health and safety as well as contingency plans in the event of an outbreak before and during the field camp. We hope that this experience of delivering a geology field camp during the COVID-19 pandemic is useful in providing a benchmark on reasonable field-camp practices, identifying critical successes and unknowns, and guiding field-camp development during pandemics. We also hope this contribution will serve as a useful guide for universities and businesses that intend to engage in face-to-face activities during this time of uncertainty.

Manuscript received 4 Sept. 2020. Revised manuscript received 13 Nov. 2020. Manuscript accepted 2 Dec. 2020. Posted 5 Jan. 2021.

© The Geological Society of America, 2021. CC-BY-NC.