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Quentin Burgess in the fieldQuentin Burgess, a student at University of Nevada, Reno, attended their virtual field camp, which challenged him to learn how to study geology while being unable to physically stand atop an outcrop or even leave home.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

Like much of the world, the current COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way I go about my day-to-day life. Relationships for many individuals at all levels of interaction have been severed, and we have all had to adjust to this new style of living. As a student, some of these alterations have hit harder than most, with the cancellation of my college graduation, the inability to have proper goodbyes with friends and colleagues, and the reworking of my 2020 Summer Field Camp. In the face of adversity, my department devised a memorable field experience that challenged the traditional approach; instead of going into the field, the field was brought to us. Spanning four and a half weeks, my summer field was completely online via Zoom, texts, and emails. Every day I logged onto my computer and was greeted by my fellow field-mates and field director; together we explored our field areas, taking orientation measurements, making observations, and drafting contacts with the click of a mouse through Google Earth. Even though we were behind a screen, each day ran like a normal field camp; in the morning we discussed regional geology and goals of the day, and by the afternoon we were drafting our geologic maps and cross sections through ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator. At the day’s end, we huddled around the glow of our monitors like the glow of a campfire, comparing notes on assumptions, postulating subsurface structures, and creating plans for meetups once the world returns to normal. Overall, this virtual experience taught me the ability to better communicate with individuals that are not in the same room as you, it pushed my critical thinking skills in geology since I could not physically stand atop an outcrop, and most importantly showed me a new way to study the Earth without ever leaving your home. I do believe that the University of Nevada, Reno’s 2020 Summer Field Camp was comparable to anything that an undergrad could experience in the traditional setting, and I am thankful for the opportunity I was given and the support I received from my fellow classmates, professors, and GSA.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

Receiving the 2020 GSA field scholarship was a great honor and humbling moment in the final few weeks of my college career. Being recognized by GSA for my academic achievements and love for geology is a great feeling that I carried throughout my summer field experience. Knowing that I had the support of those from GSA along with that of friends and family allowed me to truly focus on the goals ahead of me throughout the camp to meet them with the utmost success.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Field camp is the true “push-all” for any undergraduate aspiring to a career in geology; it opens up the world of geoscience and gives a glimpse into the hard work that it takes to make it in the field. The best way to learn geology is to see geology and summer field camps offer this opportunity to students. A hands-on approach to what my professors call “hard-rock geology” grounds what we learn in the classroom to the real world. Studying a thrust fault in a textbook is only one part of the puzzle; seeing such a structure in the field gives students the ability to understand the mechanisms of the system, take orientation measurements to determine movement, and see how it affects the terrain surrounding it. Field camp is a crucial part of a degree in geology and is something that should be taken by every undergrad when the chance arrives.


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