Daniel Riddle was a bit disappointed about not getting to go into the field this year, but his virtual field camp enabled him to gain confidence in his abilities as a geologist. After he completed the camp he felt like a real geologist.
Where did you attend field camp?
My field camp was online and conducted by Utah Valley University. We mapped and investigated areas in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.
How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?
The camp was supposed to be 5 weeks of camping and 1 week of finishing up reports, with each week having a different professor. Instead, the professors each took a week to assign online geology assignments. I used Adobe Illustrator every week of the course, so it was good to become familiar with that software.
Although I began field camp a bit disappointed that we would not be going into the field, I had a positive experience over the six weeks and certainly learned a lot. Each of the professors that taught the course took one week and would give us daily assignments Monday–Friday, with the final project usually being finished up over the weekend. Some of the topics that we studied included fault identification and mapping, engineering geology, mapping metamorphic core complexes, mapping sedimentary layers across Utah, and creating structural and stratigraphic cross sections. Most of the figures and maps that I made were completed using Adobe Illustrator and Google Earth, so I became much more comfortable with these types of software. Since everyone was online, we were able to get more frequent feedback on our maps than we would have in the field. My favorite part of the course was connecting all the things I had learned throughout my geology degree—I felt that I integrated that information and made new connections.
What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?
I was incredibly grateful to receive the scholarship! It allowed me to focus on the field camp without having to work evenings or weekends with a summer job. I felt honored that the GSA would give me this generous award.
What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?
I learned a lot about engineering geology, which I had never had the chance to take a course on during my undergraduate degree. Getting a taste of engineering geology, as well as hazard studies during another week helped me to get a glimpse of what that kind of work would be like for a career. My petrology, sedimentology, and structural geology professors each took a week to focus on their fields, and so I felt like I solidly grasped a lot of the information that I had learned in their courses. I also learned how much I do not know about geology, and how hard I needed to work in order to get my assignments done. I was spending 10–12 hours per day on the computer, and frequently needed advice from the professors when I got stuck.
What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Even though COVID-19 made my field camp very non-traditional, it was still extremely valuable. I felt like a real geologist by the end of the course, and that a lot of the courses during my undergraduate degree were finally relating to each other in my head.
In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?
I think that it is an important part of the experience. It enabled me to gain confidence in my abilities as a geologist. I think that in the future, a combination of the online course material and the traditional outside mapping would be the most useful capstone experience.
Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?
Knowing that generous supporters to the GSA helped fund my field experience makes me want to give back to the community someday when I am able. I think most students would want to pay it forward.