Geology Fieldwork in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Staff and students from the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham talk about the benefits of fieldwork in Geology degree courses.

Title: Fieldwork - Geological Mapping

Duration: 3.52 mins

Speaker Names (if given):

  • S1 Dr Carl Stevenson, Lecturer in Geology
  • S2 Dr Rob Raine, Geological Survey of Northern Ireland
  • S3 Rhiannon, Geology student
  • S4 Holly, Geology student
  • S5 Ijaz, Geology student
  • S6 Darim, Geology student

S1 A key part of a geology degree is getting experience in the field and a keystone of that is making a geological map. This trip based here in Inchnadamph is focused on the technical training for geological mapping. This is a classic area in not just UK but world geology. It's where some of the main theories about thrust tectonics and continental deformation were developed.

S2 I work at the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland and I remember coming here 15 years ago when I was an undergrad. So we have over two and a half billion years of Earth history here. We’re stood on the oldest crust in Europe, originally part of Canada and North America.

S1 We've got two or three areas that we use as training grounds for making geological maps. The training begins with the a led walkthrough on how to construct a map; from collecting outcrop information, joining up boundaries, measuring the key structures and then interpreting the final cross-section - and then we let the students loose on their own.

S3 The lecturers lead you to what you should be looking at because if I just went out on my own I wouldn't know what to start with. Because you see on the lecture slide like a diagram or whatever and it looks perfectly how it should...

S4 ...and then you come out here and you just look at it and it doesn't look like anything and then you just like pick out a few things and it’s “Oh yeah, that’s what it is”. 

S5 It always varies from what you get in the textbook and what you get in the field such as weathered surfaces, certain folds. It's always a lot easier for you to take in the information when you can see it. It’s teaching us the correct way to go about it and a strategic plan. If we have that when we're doing our independent mapping with our friends it's not going to be as confusing.

S1 Part of what we try to do with field work is to integrate new technologies like photogrammetry, UAVs or drones and using portable devices such as iPads to map out units, which provides us with a way of enhancing or developing the more traditional paper-based techniques. This provides students with some professional practice experience because entering stuff in your database is going to be what you do when you go out and do this for real. Making 3d models of outcrops and using iPads with bluetooth GPS receivers are the modern way of doing it.

S2 Wherever else you go in the world, if you've mapped in Northwest Scotland on a thrusted succession at a very fine scale anything else that you map will seem much easier.

S1 The key skill that a mapping project provides students is independence of thought. Being able to cope with uncertainty and developing hypotheses on your own and often on the hop when you're dealing with things as you find them in their natural environment in the field. That provides students with critical thinking abilities that is absolutely vital for the employment market. It's something that employers really value in geology graduates in particular.

S6: When you apply for a job it's really important to have experience and the place where you can get that experience is actually the field and I think it’s the most important thing of our course. It’s here we can touch, we can feel, we can see how everything happened and we can understand the nature.

S1 The training and the field experience that they do here feeds directly into the preparation for their major mapping projects next summer that all UK in Irish geology departments do. It's the equivalent of a dissertation. In fact, it forms the dissertation for most students. So one of our aims on this trip is to provide students with that independent experience.