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Students Study Geology in Missouri

May 17, 2006

One might say they go to look at rocks. But for geology students at Carleton, these semi-annual trips are much more than that. They’re about seeing firsthand what goes on beneath our feet.

Each fall and spring, the Geology Department sponsors a trip over mid-term break to give students field experience. Trips are not limited to geology majors—anyone taking even an introductory geology class can go along. In the field students work in small groups, in which geology majors area paired with less experienced students.

This spring the group visited Missouri to study the patterns of deposits in a tributary of the Missour River and view rocks that are more than 1.5 billion years old. The students enjoyed supplementing classroom learning with actual field observations.

“You realize you can figure things out, put together all the pieces of the puzzle,” says senior geology major Rachel Brown (Northfield). Junior geology major Ellen Root (Minneapolis) agrees. “It’s where I learn the most. It’s a big reality check.”

According to junior geology major Carl Ulberg (Seattle), this year’s group numbered 40 and was evenly split among the classes.

Every day the group traveled to several locations to see different aspects of Missouri geology. They were led by geology associate professors Cameron Davidson and Clinton Cowan, assistant professor Sarah Titus, and the Charles L. Denison Professor of Geology Shelby Boardman.

Although the professors did some lecturing, the focus was on group work. “We split up to figure out what was going on—or what had gone on, a billion years before,” says Ulberg, whose shelves are lined with iron-laden rocks he collected on an earlier visit to northern Minnesota’s mine region. “Except the river,” he adds. “That’s still going on.”

Written by Nathan Kennedy ’07