Cody Keith’s field camp experience in Alaska was a valuable opportunity for his geoscience career. He shares how it served as the capstone for his geology studies—solidifying the geoscience he was learning in the classroom and increasing his confidence in understanding geologic principles.
Where did you attend field camp?
I attended field camp in Alaska. We spent one week mapping near Healy, two weeks mapping in Denali National Park, and three weeks mapping in the Talkeetna Mountains.
What did receiving the field camp scholarship mean to you?
Receiving the field camp scholarship was very valuable in helping me “stay afloat” with college expenses. Our 8-week field course was quite expensive in and of itself, and since the course was a full-time commitment for the summer, it was difficult to obtain employment over the summer to help pay for other college semesters. The field camp scholarship helped to bridge this gap, allowing me to enjoy the field camp experience with less economic stress. It was also very meaningful to be recognized by GSA for this award.
What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?
Field camp served as a capstone experience for my geology studies. It is one thing to learn about a geologic phenomenon in the classroom, but actually having to identify it in the field is an exercise that solidifies concepts. I feel much more confident in my understanding of geologic principles, such as identifying which structures may be related to similar stress regimes or how the characteristics of sedimentary packages can be used to interpret depositional environments. Not only do I leave field camp more confident in my technical abilities, but I also leave with a feeling of greater independence. There is something about spending a total of six weeks in a tent in the Alaskan wilderness that puts into perspective “essentials” versus “comfort items.”
What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Field camp gave me the opportunity to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness for longer amounts of time. In Healy, we visited the Usibelli Coal Mine as part of our mapping effort, gaining a pretty in-depth tour of the mining operation. We got to spend two whole weeks in Denali National Park, one of the most pristine and dramatic landscapes in the world, and we were even able to see some of the dinosaur tracks in the Cantwell Formation. We were flown into the Talkeetna Mountain study area on small aircraft and lived for three weeks out in the Alaskan bush with occasional deliveries from the aircraft.
In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?
Field camp is absolutely essential to a well-rounded geoscience education. It serves as a capstone experience, giving students the opportunity to apply years of classroom study to real-world geologic scenarios. Field camp especially helps develop skills in creating and interpreting geologic maps, fundamental exercises for many branches of the geosciences.
Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?
Field camp is an important component in achieving an education in geology. The experience reinforces classroom learning, develops interpretation skills, and cultivates a greater sense of independence. The economic commitment for the student is daunting but worthwhile, and support from outside individuals and organizations can help make this valuable opportunity possible for students.