With some justification, Scotland can claim to be the birthplace of geology and many fundamental ideas and concepts have been inspired by the wonderful field locations around the country.
We make full use of this natural resource, running our field training in world-famous locations.
You can see where we go and when in the listing at the foot of this page.
We insist that students are appropriately equipped for fieldwork – after all, it’s not always perfect sunshine!
Geological fieldwork necessitates operating in rough terrain, be it on rocky shorelines or open mountainsides and moorland. Moderate levels of fitness are needed – as many locations may involve walking for several miles, ascending hillsides and covering countryside off the beaten track.
We understand that fieldwork is an additional expense for our students so we strive to stay in good-value accommodation on our residential classes. Nevertheless, you’ll need to budget around 1500 pounds for our taught programme of field classes over the four year BSc programme, together with several hundred pounds to cover the costs of your Geological Field Project. This important activity, in which students spend 35 days completing a piece of research independent of direct staff involvement, takes place in the summer between Level 3 and Level 4.
Why do we teach fieldwork?
Consider these quotes from key employers:
"Spatial 3D visualisation skills are best gained by trying to think and visualise (in your head) in the field, especially through mapping projects or section construction. This is how I and colleagues of my era gained competence. I have noticed with new hires and summer students that they are not given enough time or opportunity to build up this skill, but that they seem very keen to gain it. This skill lies at the core of an exploration geologist."
Ian Sharp, Statoil (2008)
"Quite simply, we find that the experience of seeing real-world exposures in outcrop, at a scale comparable to that of our seismic data, gives interpreters a feeling for geological architecture that enables them to make better seismic interpretations, which in turn enables us to make better business decisions. When the cost of a single 9-square mile block in the Gulf of Mexico can approach $100 million, the investment of money and time in field workshops can pay off thousand-fold if the right decision is made. In the era of remote sensing, high-tech geophysics, and ever-more-complex down-hole logging, it is more vital than ever to be aware of the basics and the look and feel of real geology that can only be obtained by hands-on experience in the field."
Frank Peel, Chief Geologist, BHP Billiton (2007)
"Graduating geologists who have trained without the benefit of extensive geological fieldwork is like training doctors without ever allowing them to dissect a cadaver."
Mark Cooper (Vice President, Encana, 2007)
Where We Go
We run a number of day-long field classes on our local rocks, the resources within an hour or two of the department. But the cornerstones of our field training are the residential classes.
- Level 2: Arran
A one-week trip in the Easter period of level 2 introduces many of the nuts and bolts of fieldwork, reinforcing basic note-taking, measurement and interpretation. Arran is classic ground with an unrivalled variety of geology on one island!
- Level 3: Skye
The start of the honours programme kicks off in late September with a 9-day, dual-site field class to a world-class basin-bounding fault zone and the famous igneous and sedimentary geology of the inner Hebrides. You’ll learn how to collect data from sedimentary and igneous rocks in the field, how to interpret their 3D structure and how they came to be there. On Skye students investigate the interactions between magma and sediment using classic outcrops from the British Tertiary Igneous Complex. We develop a range of mapping techniques from detailed exercises on the foreshore through tracing geology inland and then up into the hills, on the edge of the famous Cuillin mountains.
- Level 3: NW Highlands
In April-May we run a 2 week field class into the best 3D geological landscape in the British Isles – to reinforce your 3D visualisation skills, develop mapping prowess and get you into some key structural geology. The ground lies in the Moine Thrust Belt – home to many fundamental ideas of how mountain belts are formed. And you can see why – stunning outcrops amid spectacular landscape. We use outcrops to teach elements of structural geology but it’s not just about the tectonics. We’ll trace out major unconformities and establish a long geological history using your own observations. This class, coming in the Spring of Level 3, forms the technical foundation for your Geological Field Project, a major component for the final year of BSc study. Not only will you enhance your field mapping and 3D visualization skills, we’ll also hone your hazard assessments and develop your independent working.
- Level 4: Geological Field Project
The highlight of our BSc training for many comes with the 5-week field project. We offer a range of locations in the UK where you can play to your strengths and interests, working on a specialised geological project and then writing it up. Employers value this experience very highly – there’s nothing like for demonstrating your resourcefulness, perseverance and geological nous! The fieldwork takes place in the summer between Level 3 and Level 4 and, although you’ll receive support, guidance and a visit by academic staff, the actually delivery of the project happens without direct staff involvement.
- Level 4: Advanced field courses
A taught residential field course is a compulsory part of the final year of the BSc programmes but we offer choices that evolve over the years. In general these options track the research interests of the staff so you’ll get taken towards the edge of existing geological knowledge!
- Level 5: MGeol fieldwork
The new programme has a full module of fieldwork with a integrative overseas geotraverse as its centrepiece. For the first year of delivery this is set for the Southern Apennines of Italy, a unique site for exploring.