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Justin Coley in the fieldWhere did you attend field camp?

I attended the Indiana University (IU) field camp in the Tobacco Root Mountains in southwest Montana. We also made field trips to Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.

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

I could not have afforded this opportunity without the support of the J. David Lowell scholarship. My school does not offer a field camp course, and as a non-IU student the course cost was substantial. As an added personal bonus, getting the J. David Lowell scholarship was a nice recognition of the hard work I’ve put into my studies prior to going to field camp.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

I can’t say enough about this, but the main takeaway for me was that a career in the geosciences was the right choice for me. I enjoyed every day, even the tough ones spent mapping in the rain or summer heat. Everything I got to do was interesting and set against the beautiful backdrop of the Montana mountains. I love how geology is a pragmatic combination of chemistry, physics, and history.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Field camp allowed me to see and study rock units and structures that do not exist where I live or will likely work (central North Carolina). The variations in terrain, unit facies, and fossil assemblages were awesome to work with and try to map accurately. Mapping is also something I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to do at my school (especially not at this scale), and I’m glad I got the opportunity. It’s a skill that I am glad I can say that I have going forward.

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

I think field camp was the best course I’ve taken in my geologic studies. I learned as much, if not more, during those six weeks than I have the rest of the time. Labs that accompanied my other courses were helpful and informative, but very limited. I can’t say enough about how just the repetition of field camp helped, whether it was taking strikes and dips or identifying minerals and rock units in the field. At every outcrop I walked up to there was a chance that I was the first person to ever crack it open and look at it with a hand lens. Six weeks of learning and practicing those field skills was far more helpful than three hours once a week in a lab. Field camp also drove home for me the sheer scale of geology. It’s one thing to look at a fold on a map, but something entirely different to stand on top of a mountain and be able to see it with your eyes.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

I could not have afforded field camp without the J. David Lowell scholarship. The experience was transformative for me, and I hope to be able to support others that come behind me in the same way. Field camp was by far one of the most important things I’ve done in my quest to become a competent geologist.


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