Geology students gain opportunity to work in their field

Haley Baker

A geology field camp offered by Kent State has experienced a growth in enrollment in the past few years and is now one of the nations largest. The study-away course brings a group of 40 to 50 students to The Black Hills of South Dakota for five weeks to do field work.

Program director, David Hacker, said the six-credit- hour course is challenging but rewarding and worthwhile for Ohio students in particular.

“The course is really hands-on and gives the students a chance to see terrain and landscapes that you can’t find in Ohio,” Hacker said. “It’s worth six credit hours, and you earn every bit of that credit. You are up really early, you’re out in the field all day long, you eat lunch in the field, and you come back dirty and tired, eat dinner and want to go to bed. Then you wake up and do it all over again. But that is what being in the field is like.”

Geology department chair, Daniel Holm, said the growth in the program could be directly related to the growth in the field of geology.

“We have seen a large growth in the geology program in general because of fracking issues and all this talk about oil and alternative energy, but there has also been a large growth in the field camp enrollment, not just by Kent State students, but non-Kent State students,” Holm said.

The Kent State field camp has been continuously running for around 50 years, but in recent years, Holm said, close to 50 percent of students on the trip are not Kent State students.

“Not every school offers field camps for their geology students, so we take these students from all over to the Black Hills because, like us, their school requires them to do some type of field work before they graduate,” Hacker said.

Holm said this field course fulfills the experiential learning requirement for Kent State geology majors. Graduate geology major Catherine Harris said her experience was a positive one.

“It was one of the most challenging, exciting experiences I’ve ever had,” Harris said. “It’s really a great program that shows you what it would be like to be a scientist in this field. You meet new people from all over and you make friends and connections because you’re all there working for the same reason.”

Hacker said students spend a total of five weeks away, four of those weeks in the Black Hills and the last week in Idaho and Wyoming.

“The first four weeks are intense coursework and labs, but the last week is kind of a week of vacation,” Hacker said. “You spend the last week road tripping across the mountains and seeing the sights. The students keep journals and record what they see, and it’s quite an experience, especially for someone who is interested in geology and earth sciences.”

Applications are being accepted now for Summer Session I until Feb. 28.

For more information on the field camp, visit the summer field camp Web page.

For more information on the department of geology visit the department’s website.

Contact Haley Baker at [email protected].