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Priscilla Martinez, 2020 Field Camp AwardeePriscilla Martinez learned a lot about both herself and geoscience while attending her virtual field camp course. She gained a newfound appreciation for remote learning and recognized the importance of making field camp accessible to all different types of geology students and instructors. She not only hopes that more field camps will offer both in-person and virtual field camps in the future–which will attract students from diverse backgrounds to seek careers in geology and foster a more inclusive and welcoming geoscience community–she also now feels equipped and excited to begin her master’s program at California State University, Northridge.

Where did you attend field camp?

This summer, I participated in the first-ever California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), Department of Geological Sciences virtual, four-week field camp course. Using various software tools, I mapped the Frying Pan Gulch and Block Mountain areas near Dillon, Montana, and the Quaternary geology of Owens Valley, California. During the last week of field camp, I worked independently to construct a detailed history of the depositional events that occurred while the Basin and Range province was forming in California.

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

As an undergraduate at CSUF, I looked forward to spending a month mapping in the field with my senior cohort. I couldn’t wait to spend time bonding with my friends over nightly bonfires, along with the feeling of accomplishment that followed a long day’s work. Despite the unprecedented circumstances brought forth by COVID-19, I had the opportunity to collect digital data and interpret geologic events in different field locations without having to physically visit the sites.

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

It is an honor to have received the 2020 J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Award, established through the generosity of Dr. David Lowell. After discovering the news of his passing in May 2020, I am even more honored to continue on his legacy, along with the other recipients of this award. GSA’s financial support allowed me to better understand dynamic geologic systems and gain invaluable mapping skills that could be applied both in and out of the field.

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

These four weeks of rigorous training have prepared me to perceptively approach geologic problems and work effectively to solve them, both collaboratively and independently. I learned how to design a field strategy and collect data using satellite imagery, aerial photography, three-point problems, and unit descriptions. Using the data collected from each site, I produced geologic maps, cross sections, and stratigraphic columns to better understand the depositional and regional tectonic history of the field sites. Above all, participating in field camp enabled me to grow more confident in my ability to map geologic features and present my findings in an articulate manner. After finishing field camp, I felt equipped and excited to begin my master’s program at California State University, Northridge.

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

Attending field camp allowed me to integrate many of the techniques, principles, and fundamental geologic knowledge from all my past courses to interpret data and form conclusions about the regional and local geology of our field sites. I had the opportunity to virtually explore and learn about the history of tectonism, magmatism, climate, and deposition in California beginning from the Neoproterozoic era to present day. I identified geologic relationships from satellite data and outcrop photos, conducted orthographic projection analysis, and determined slip rates from geochronological data—all from the safety and comfort of my home. I gained invaluable knowledge and skills that will allow me to excel in a new technologically driven era of the geoscience world.

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

After field camp, I gained a newfound appreciation for remote learning and recognized the importance of making field camp accessible to all different types of geology students and instructors. Although field-based science is an incredibly valuable branch of geology, it often excludes people with physical and developmental disabilities that find it difficult to navigate rough terrain and/or adapt to long, intense weeks of hiking and camping. Geoscience is a highly interdisciplinary field and thanks to recent advancements in technology and pedagogy, many conventional field camp activities, such as mapping and group work, can be done remotely. Offering a virtual field camp option could attract students from diverse backgrounds to seek careers in geology and foster a more inclusive and welcoming geoscience community. I hope that more programs offer both in-person and remote field camp options in the future.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp is an important capstone course in the education of geologists all over the United States. As a first-generation college student and Latinx woman, I am a firm believer that students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds bring new perspectives that are necessary for solving scientific problems and advancing our understanding of geology. Funding their education and training through scholarships empowers students to explore their scientific interests and prepare for their future career, without having to worry about the financial burden of paying for field camp.


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