Skip to Content


Last modified: 25 May 2018 11:16

Course Overview

Field-based observation is an essential skill for understanding the origin of rocks, and is a vital reality-check for understanding how Geological Science is practised and developed. This course gives students experience with techniques for investigating rocks in their natural habitat, studying the crucial relationships between different units, and developing good habits for observing and recording data in the field. Students learn how to perceive geology in 3D, and to develop working hypotheses from incomplete evidence. This is achieved through a five-day residential field trip (takes place in the Easter break) which is preceded by wide-ranging practical classes and explanatory lectures.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 2
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Colin North

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Programme Level 2

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • GL2014 Stratigraphical Principles (Studied)
  • GL2015 Petrology & Mineralogy (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?

  • ()

What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

As well as demonstrating generally why fieldwork is important, and showing what can be learnt in the field that cannot be determined in the laboratory, the course will put special emphasis on these skills:

  • Keeping an accurate and scientifically useful field notebook;

  • Recording sedimentary successions (“logging”);

  • Recording structural and spatial data;

  • Presenting geological data on maps;

  • Recognise the character of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks at scales larger than hand specimen;

  • Conducting fieldwork safely, effectively, and responsibly.

These skills will initially be explained and demonstrated before the field trip through lectures and practical classes, including giving you familiarity with sedimentary structures, trace fossils, and rock description. The five-day residential field trip to a geologically diverse area completes the training by providing the chance to put these skills to use in the real world. The preparatory classes are assessed along with the notebook completed in the field and the evening assignments carried out during the trip.

Associated Costs

All students are required to make their own way, at their own expense, to and from the town of Brodick on the Isle of Arran at the start/end of the trip, via the ferry from Ardrossan. We do not provide transport from Aberdeen because many students are not starting/ending the field trip there.

If you are a Scottish-funded or EU (outside UK) student, then we have to charge you for the direct expenses of running the field trip. The estimated charge for the field trip is £420, though this cannot be guaranteed until closer to the time that the trip takes place. This amount covers: your bed, breakfast, dinner, packed lunch, hand-outs such as maps, bus from Brodick to the field centre, transport round the island, and printing the poster which will be one of your pre-trip assignments.

All students require the following equipment for this course, and if you do not already have it then this must be obtained (e.g. purchased through a shop or online source) before the trip starts:

  • A field notebook suitable for use in wet conditions – we offer a suggested type through the university online store (at an approximate cost of £12) – this will be needed from the start of teaching for this course.

  • A hard-hat and a high visibility (yellow) vest are essential field safety equipment (cost typically about £10 together).

  • Hand lens (also called a field loupe), magnifying power x10 (these start at about £10) – this is also useful for course GL2015 in semester one.

  • Walking boots that have ankle support must be worn each day in the field.

  • Waterproof outer clothes (jacket with hood and trousers) are essential for fieldwork – note that “water-resistant” clothing, although useful for much of the time, is not sufficient protection against heavier and persistent rain of the type usually experienced at some point on this field trip.

  • Warm layers of clothing, including gloves and hat, and a day-pack (rucsac) in the size range 25-35 litres for carrying food, drink, spare clothes, and so on.

  • We will loan to you a geological compass-clinometer for the duration of the trip. Should you wish to obtain your own (and eventually you will need one for your level 4 mapping project), advice on appropriate types will be given at the start of the course in semester two (these cost from about £50).

Further Information & Notes

Fieldwork is a compulsory part of this course. Fieldwork may involve crossing rough terrain, including steep gradients, rocky areas and along cliffs, and may take place during inclement weather. Any student with concerns about this, who feels adjustments or additional support may be required, should contact the University's Disability Adviser or the Department Disability Co-ordinator as early as possible. The Department is committed to making reasonable adjustments to enable students to achieve the learning outcomes of the degree programme.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: In-course assessment (100%).

Resit: Apply to course coordinator.

Formative Assessment

The majority of teaching is a small groups at outcrop. Feedback is therefore continuous and on-going throughout the course.

A series of problem-based exercises will be set over the field course and these are marked and returned to students generally within 48 hours.


Written summative feedback will be provided on daily field-based exercises.

Course Learning Outcomes


Compatibility Mode

We have detected that you are have compatibility mode enabled or are using an old version of Internet Explorer. You either need to switch off compatibility mode for this site or upgrade your browser.