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Emma Palko in the field

Emma Palko’s field camp experience helped her gain confidence in her essential geology skills and honed her ideas about her future career.

Where did you attend field camp? 

The field camp I attended was centered on the Dubois, Wyoming area, within the Wind River Basin. Portions of the camp were also spent exploring the Yellowstone magmatic region, as well as the Sawtooth Mountains in Montana.

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

My experience of field camp this summer was mostly unaffected by COVID-19. Because the vaccines were available, every student and instructor were vaccinated prior to the trip. We then minimized contact with other people outside of our group, which prevented us from contracting the virus.

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

Receiving this field camp scholarship meant that I was able to have much more financial confidence moving into graduate school this fall. The field camp I attended was very expensive and not covered by my merit scholarships during the semesters. I am so grateful to have received support for field camp, as it has allowed me to make a seamless transition into graduate school without taking out any student loans.

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

This course was certainly the best way to solidify the knowledge that I have accumulated during my coursework as a geology major thus far. The course not only drew upon specific geological concepts, but taught creative and critical thinking skills that will be required to overcome difficult problems in graduate school and in my future career. Being able to formulate and execute an efficient field mapping plan during the independent portions of the course allowed me to sharpen my critical thinking skills. I was also able to hone my rock identification and descriptive skills that I learned in previous courses.

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

During my first semester of graduate school, I have been able to be a teaching assistant for the field course for undergraduate students. I feel confident enough in my field geology skills that I am able to give instruction and tips to other students. I feel that I would not have that confidence if I had not attended field camp.

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

I feel that field camp is an essential part of any geology degree, as it combines the knowledge from core courses and focuses on the application of that knowledge. I feel that field camp is the best way to fully immerse oneself in the difficulties that come with being a field geologist. Not only does field camp test your intellectual skills, but it tests your social and emotional skills as well. Being able to tolerate and get along with the same people for several weeks straight is a test in social maturity. Furthermore, the living conditions are not always the most favorable, contributing to additional stress. Enduring difficult fieldwork every day, coupled with social and emotional stress builds important skills for geology students. These skills build compassion and empathy, both extremely important for successful lives and careers beyond college.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

While field camp may be an expensive program to run and participate in, it provides invaluable geological and life-skill experiences to everyone who is able to attend. I can say without a doubt that I am a better geologist for having attended. I also learned additional skills for how to manage stress and discomfort while completing necessary tasks. This experience is something that I believe every geology student should have, as it has changed my outlook on my career moving forward.


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