Heptune presents...

How to Organize and Run a Geology Field Trip, Just the Way Professional Geologists Do It!


1. Plan to visit far more sites than you can reasonably expect to visit during the allotted time available for the trip. The success of a geology field trip is measured by how much ground you cover, the number of outcrops you visit, and how fast you do it.

2. Make sure that your field trip covers the maximum topographic relief possible in your area, preferably within one stop. If your area includes a hill or mountain of any kind, make sure that climbing it is on the itinerary. If the outcrop on top of the mountain is essentially the same as what is at the foot of the mountain, climb it anyway. Then you can show people how thick the unit is. If there is no outcrop on top of the mountain, climb it anyway. Mountain tops are unsurpassed as settings for arm-waving. Remember, real geologists don't need reasons to climb mountains.

3. Be sure to include stops that you've never visited before, or haven't visited for 30 years. Searching for a new or barely remembered outcrop is part of the fun of a field trip, especially if you're leading a large group. Everybody can help look! The fun can be maximized if the outcrop is at the end of a long hike through tick-infested woods or a large cow pasture full of thistles, burdock and cow paddies.

4. Be sure to include stops that have plenty of sentimental value for you, even if there's nothing to see. "This is the black shale outcrop where I collected the first rock for my thesis." Also include sites of historical interest. "This concrete abutment covers the spot where George Spudge defined the type locality of the Mullet Formation. The Mullet Formation was later abandoned when it was discovered to be part of the Clinton Formation. There used to be some great fossils here, but they're all covered up now by the concrete abutment." Don't let the fact that there is nothing to see at an outcrop stop you from visiting it. "This outcrop is full of acritarchs. You can't see them, but they're there. Put away that rock hammer! We don't have permission to collect here." The farther you have to hike to visit these, the better.

5. Whatever you do, don't postpone the field trip for any meteorological reason. Remember that blizzards, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and freezing rain are just part of Earth's dynamic system, and will make the field trip more interesting. Students who don't enjoy looking at outcrops in freezing rain shouldn't be going into geology anyway. The only reason to postpone a field trip is if you discover that it conflicts with an important sporting event.

6. During the field trip, make sure that you move your group from one outcrop to the next as fast as you can make them run. The faster you go, the better a geologist you prove yourself to be. Spend as little time at a given outcrop as possible. People who want to lollygag at outcrops to take pictures, write notes, collect samples and study the outcrop are just wasting your time and everyone else's. If they are so interested, they should come back to the site later, on their own time. A good judge of how much time to spend at an outcrop is to wait until the last stragglers come into view, and then move on. That way, the fast people will have a chance to rest, but the stragglers won't, and maybe that will convince the stragglers to get out of geology and leave the field to those who can take it like a man!

7. During the mountain-climbing part of the trip, make sure that the group ascends the mountain as fast as possible. You can then relax and spend a fair bit of time on the top while waiting for people to stop vomiting and having asthma attacks. At the top of the mountain, you can go into a grand, sweeping lecture on the stratigraphy of the region, pointing out distant features of regional significance. You should do this even if the features are obscured by rain, snow, sleet or haze.

8. Don't waste time scheduling stops for meals or use of the restroom. Meals can be eaten from a bag lunch while running from one outcrop to another. And anyone who can't figure out how to pee and poop outdoors shouldn't be in geology. That goes for women, too, and if there's no place for her to hide to drop her drawers and do her business, she should just do it out in the open. After all, what does she think she has that everyone on the trip hasn't seen already?

9. And speaking of women, don't let any of them convince you to make an unscheduled stop at a store to buy feminine hygiene products. They're supposed to know when they're going to need them, and plan accordingly. Likewise, make it clear from the beginning that you're not going to have any unscheduled stops for any reason: injuries incurred on the trip (people need to learn to be careful), forgotten lunch, drinks or medicine (tell them to do without, and they'll remember next time), diarrhea attacks (they can hold it until the next stop), and other hokey excuses that students will come up with to get you to stop.

10. When talking about an outcrop, use the most esoteric language possible to prove that you're the best geologist there, and if you don't know any really technical-sounding stuff, you can always make up some words or abbreviations that will awe the students and humble your colleagues (like referring to river mouth bars as RMBs, for example).

11. There is no need to cut a field trip short if it gets dark before you're finished. You can look at roadcuts by the headlights of your van, and other outcrops with flashlights.

Remember, the success of a geology field trip is measured by how much ground you cover, the number of outcrops you visit, and how fast you do it!



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Published 5/20/00.
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