Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Combining Research Projects With A Field Trip: A Reversed Model


Geology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Earth Sciences


Combining Research Projects With A Field Trip: A Reversed Model To Cope With Inclement Weather And To Increase Field Trip Preparation Riemersma, Peter E., Department of Geology, Grand Valley State University, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401, riemersp@gvsu.edu and VIDETICH, Patricia E., Geology Department, Grand Valley State University, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401 Typically geologists approach research by first studying the big picture via field work at the regional and outcrop scale and then conducting more detailed analyses in the laboratory. However, at climatically challenged schools like Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in western Michigan, for courses taught winter semester, field trips are restricted to the end of the semester. For Sedimentation-Stratigraphy (GEO 312), we solved this problem by using a reversed model in which students do research on previously collected samples and later participate in a field trip to examine Paleozoic rocks in northern Kentucky where their samples were collected. The research project begins as students, working in small groups, select an outcrop stop from a descriptive list, conduct a literature search, identify a research question, and prepare an abstract for a poster that they present at GVSUs annual Student Scholars Day. In addition to reading pertinent journal articles and field guides, students study and analyze hand samples and thin sections that were prepared from outcrop samples collected by students in prior years. Projects are not just descriptive; students must have a question that their poster will focus on answering (e.g., What caused alternations of limestone and shale? What is the order of formation of chert and dolomite?). The research project expands the depth of field trip preparation as the students become experts on their outcrop and also review each others posters before the field trip. Our model design places the responsibility of field trip preparation and outcrop lecture on the students as they summarize in the field their research results, show photomicrographs of thin sections, and tell their peers what to look for while at their outcrop. Students also are required to collect more samples for next years group and, using their hindsight, suggest a question that future students might work on. In this way each year the collection of hand samples and thin sections grow. In addition to developing and communicating their research project, and preparing for the field trip itself, students gain an appreciation in such matters as the lithologic variability in outcrop and the value of thin sections in carbonate rock description and interpretation.


Conference Name

Annual Geological Society of America Conference

Conference Location

Vancouver. BC Canada

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