June 6, 2017

Dispatches from Field Camp

Posted by Lauren Lipuma

By Brian Balta

Hello and welcome. My name is Brian Balta and I’m a visiting professor of petrology at Texas A&M University. I’m writing this post today and a few others I hope to share this week from the University of Montana Western, which has served as home to me and about 80 other students from Texas A&M for the past 2 weeks.

For those who haven’t had this experience, many universities require some sort of field camp education during one of the last summers of a geology degree. The goal of a field camp is to teach students how to work out in the field, to create geologic maps and cross sections that interpret the subsurface, and to apply the lessons they learned in their other classes. 

Many schools have developed their own versions of field camps. Some have permanent stations, others travel from state to state and camp as they go. Some only accept students from a single university, others are open to applicants from anywhere. Some US students even find opportunities to do field camps overseas in places such as Ireland or New Zealand.

This part of our camp is staying in the dorms at Montana-Western. About a dozen different groups come through here either for part of or all of their field camps. We are in Dillon, Montana, sitting in the Beaverhead Valley between several mountain ranges. My daily drive to our field area takes our group north into the Jefferson Valley, with the Tobacco Root Mountains and the Ruby Mountains on one side and the Pioneer Mountains on the other flanking our trip.

Depending on how much time I have for writing this week, I’ll try to give you a few more posts showing off the geology of the region and some of the things we’re doing. 

The “welcome” board showing all the schools using this facility.
Credit: Brian Balta.

My current establishment. I’m not sure who designed this ladder but I hate everything about it. I almost fall every single time.
Credit: Brian Balta.

The view of the Tobacco Root Mountains from the Jefferson Valley, taken from my field area.
Credit: Brian Balta.

Brian Balta is a a visiting professor of petrology at Texas A&M University. Follow his twitter feed at https://twitter.com/theearthstory for more content.