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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Geology students gain hands on experience in southern Oregon and northern California

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Senior Travis Hatfield stands in front of Crater Lake during a recent trip with the Geology 390 class.
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When University of Southern Indiana senior Amber King signed up for the Geology 390 class, she had never been out West, or on an airplane, but following the five-week summer course, she can admit to having done both and much more.

"I wish the planes would've been bigger, but the trip was amazing," King, a geology major, said. "We learned so much on site that's difficult to learn in the classroom. Professors can lecture all day long about metamorphic rocks and tectonic scenarios, but it was great to be able to experience what I learned in the classroom."

King and 11 other students, along with faculty members Dr. William Elliott, Dr. Joseph DiPietro, and Carrie Wright, took an 11-day trip to southern Oregon and northern California following the summer class. Students explored the geology of the West Coast, the Klamath Mountains, and the High Cascades. The trip included stops in Redwood National Park, Crater Lake National Park, and Newberry Crater in central Oregon. Faculty from the geology department takes students on a trip every summer. Last summer, students traveled to New Mexico Yellowstone the prior summer.

"The geology department trips are popular with students," King said.

"We enjoy giving the students an opportunity to actually see geology - things we've talked about in lectures," DiPietro said.

DiPietro taught at Southern Oregon University while earning his Ph.D. His familiarity with the area allowed him to help plan this year's trip.

The group traveled the coast of Oregon, through the National Sand Dunes Monument, explored Cape Aargo and tidal pools, visited Redwood National Park and Smith River, Table Rocks and Rogue River Valley, Callahan and Lover's Leap, Crater Lake, Garfield Peak, the Lava Cast Forest, and Lava River Cave.

To most students, Crater Lake was the highlight of their trip.

"Crater Lake National Park is my favorite memory of the trip," senior Travis Hatfield said. "There was still snow on the ground. I've never had a snowball fight in July!"

"Crater Lake had the bluest water I've ever seen," senior Jessica Heighton said. "The view was breathtaking. You can see everything when you're 8,000 feet high! Actually being there was surreal I was seeing it in person, not in National Geographic."

"We camped in seven feet of snow and there were still mosquitoes in Crater Lake National Park," Elliott said.

Other highlights included the Lava Cast Forest and Columbia River Gorge. "The lava flowed over and left imprints of trees," sophomore Damian Schmelz said.

Senior Caleb Gravemier said he'd recommend other students take Geology 390. "I learned how to extrapolate what I was seeing with the climate I was in," Gravemier said. "Geology changes so much with the climate. Out West 30 minutes of travel is the difference between snow and desert."

"Going west is a wonderful way to show the students a great variety of rocks and tectonic scenarios," DiPietro said. "When the students return from these trips, they tend to look at geology differently. They realize there are more applications of geology in everyday life."

To view pictures of the students' trip, click here.



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