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Brad Kuntz Talks About Field Camp 2008

This article is reprinted from the 2008 Penn State Geosciences Newsletter

Brad Kuntz - 2008 Field CampTaking strike and dip measurements on Route 322 roadside outcrops while tractor trailers buzz by doesn’t really compare to taking strike and dip measurements in secluded alpine wonderlands like Little Cottonwood Canyon or the geologically picturesque Book Cliffs of Utah. Another successful Field Camp has been completed, transforming us inept book-learned students into rather useful junior geologists. Such transformation was augmented by exercises in sequence stratigraphy at the Book Cliffs, neotectonics and glacial geology at Bell’s Canyon, and geologic mapping of various structures and rock types in Elk Basin, Wildhorse, Idaho and Alta, Utah.

     With each exercise came new challenges and growth. It was rather remarkable as we grew in our ability to assess each field site by interpreting the three-dimensional orientation of the subsurface and recreate a viable geologic history. There were many times when I was just completely stumped for a day or more before a light bulb went off and I was able to put it together. Therein lies the need for the scientific process: query, construct a hypothesis, test, reconfigure the hypothesis, throw out the hypothesis, and, finally, repeat this process until you are convinced you might actually be on to something.  For me the greatest growth came from the evening discussions (sometimes arguments) with my companions about the current geologic problem we were trying to deconvolve. Such discussions progressed in their breadth and depth over the course of the field camp, from queries of the differences between a sublithic arenite and a lithic arenite to discussions concerning the three-dimensional relationships of pre-growth, growth, and post-growth  strata at Wildhorse, Idaho.

     This experience has done more than just teach a handful of students about traditional field geology. It has given students confidence that we are capable of understanding complex geologic systems by applying the simple geologic laws that are learned in the classroom. A pattern that, if followed in the future, will reap great dividends.