Katherine (Katt) Pappas
Last summer, I attended UNCW’s five-week Geology Field Course administered by Professor Dave Blake. The focus of the course was to observe, map, and interpret the geology of three spectacular and unique field areas. The goal was to piece together an earth-sized puzzle but only after the pieces were identified and analyzed. We traveled to West Virginia as well as New Mexico, experiencing both geographic and cultural diversity. In lieu of traditional field notebooks, I was granted to opportunity to utilize an iPad to store, organize, and depict lithologic and structural data. The combination of technology, hands-on field work, and new exposures promoted a greater understanding and appreciation of the study of geology and earth as a whole.
As a student on the B.S. Geology Major track, Field Course is one of the limited capstone class options available. However, this is not the only reason I participated in this applied learning experience. One of the main reasons I initially chose geology as an educational pursuit is my love of the natural world. When I first became aware of this course, I was attracted to and excited for the opportunity to learn about the natural world while being immersed within it. Though I had little idea as to what this experience would be like, I hoped that I would gain the knowledge of and ability to perform fundamental mapping techniques and an increase in visualization and analysis skills.
The amount of knowledge, skill, and confidence I gained from this course is incalculable. The experience as a whole was extremely difficult but immensely more rewarding. Though it challenged the mind, body, and spirit, in the end, it promoted growth in those aspects and more. As students at the brink of graduation, we were expected to apply all past course work to observe, describe, classify, and interpret the geology of our field areas. This, combined with the difficulty of traversing the landscape as well as living in less than luxurious conditions with twenty other young adults, was no simple task. That being said, not only did I learn how to be an observant and objective field geologist, I produced three useful and geo-logical deliverables. My success though this “rite of passage” experience definitely gave me a sense of confidence that was previously unfelt. Because of this applied learning experience, I am more motivated than ever before to contribute to and become a part of the magnificent field of geology.
No matter how much factual knowledge one gains in the classroom, it doesn’t compare to hands-on application of methods and the production of a useful deliverable. Because I have this experience under my belt I am a valuable candidate for my future career and education pursuits. I still have much more to learn; however, not only do I know the basic material, but I know how to apply it in the field. I am also in the midst of the era where more technologically advanced techniques are being incorporated. Because efficiency and innovation are valued, my experience with technology will help me achieve my career goals as well as aid the evolution of geology field techniques.