Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

A Capstone Course in Ecuador: The Andes/Galápagos Volcanology Field Camp Program

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

A Capstone Course in Ecuador: The Andes/Galápagos Volcanology Field Camp Program

Article excerpt


Geology has always been rooted in the field. For this reason, teaching in the field has been shown to be a particularly effective means of training geologists (Douglas et al., 2009). This is true in an academic sense, but it is also recognized by industry professionals as an important training experience (Anderson and Miskimins, 2006; Puckette and Suneson, 2009). While the practice of taking students into the field might have been camping and exploring in the early days, pedagogical practices have become creative and robust (De Paor and Whitmeyer, 2009) with an emphasis on learning and assessment (e.g., Pyle, 2009). As technology has developed for both data collection in the field and building maps in the office, educators have brought these innovations along into field courses (Vance et al., 2009; Whitmeyer et al., 2009a). Field-based exploration and activities have proven to be strong tools for training both geoscience researchers (de Wet et al., 2009; May et al., 2009) and future geoscience educators (Thomson et al., 2006; Bishop et al., 2009).

In the spirit of sharing one's expertise with students, educators have developed remarkable learning experiences in international settings, often in places they have studied (Aitchison and Ali, 2007). Others have shared their expertise through discipline-specific exercises (McKay and Kammer, 1999; Bauer et al., 2009; May et al., 2009) and entire programs (Anderson and Miskimins, 2006). Through the 1980s and 1990s, a trend developed in the decline of the number of geology programs in the U.S. offering a field camp (Whitmeyer et al., 2009b). However, many of these programs, as well as smaller programs that never had their own field camp, still require their students to complete a field geology course in order to earn a degree. Therefore, many of the larger field camp programs regularly have numerous students from universities other than their own. Additionally, some field camps host visiting students as the majority, or up to the entire roster (Uzunlar, 2012).


In order to provide an option for the many students across the country that are looking for a field camp, to provide a volcanology-based field geology course, and to provide students with experience working in a classic locality, we developed the Andes/Galapagos Volcanology Field Camp (GVFC). This course teaches the fundamentals of working in volcanic terrains in the classic settings of continental arc deposits in the Andes and hotspot basalts in the Galapagos Islands. Herein, we discuss the development and implementation of the GVFC. This course was developed to provide a unique combination of an international educational experience, a course that offers the traditional skills of field geology, and an opportunity for students to get experience studying volcanic rocks in the field. While there are many field camp choices for students, there are few that provide the experience in the context of volcanic rocks. We decided to take advantage of the classic volcanic settings in the Ecuadorian Andes and the Galapagos Islands to provide this experience for students. In addition to the wealth of outcrops that illustrate volcanic processes, another advantage to holding the program in active volcanic settings is the ability to include a component of volcano monitoring, which we have done through collaboration with the Instituto Geofísico de la Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IGEPN).

This field camp program is offered by the Black Hills Natural Science Field Station (BHNSFS), a unit of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT). This camp offers a three-credit course that teaches the fundamental skills of field geology by utilizing in situ volcanic rocks and associated deposits, and discussing volcanic processes. The prerequisite courses for this program are mineralogy and petrology, with structural geology recommended. …

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