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From CMU to the San Juans: incoming students hike to new heights

The geosciences program takes first-year students on an adventure

Colorado Mesa University is surrounded by beautiful, diverse landscapes that can be used for recreation, for learning, and in some cases, both. 

On Sunday, August 18, geology instructors Cassandra Fenton, PhD, and Larry Jones, PhD, took 16 first-year students and four geology majors to explore the San Juan Mountains. On the trip, students learned how the mountains were formed, how they have changed and how they continue to evolve through natural and man-made causes. 

The group hiked the Perimeter Trail in Ouray and discussed how the terrain came to be as it is today. They also toured the historic Red Mountain Mining District, where ore deposits were mined for silver and gold in the late 1800s, early 1900s. The group saw deposits that were left 18,000 years ago by glaciers that cut from Red Mountain through Ouray Valley to the town of Ridgway. 

"Visiting this unique place also gave us the chance to discuss how towns and cities came to be, and how settlers chose certain areas based on the resources that were available at the time,” said Fenton. 

Experiential learning is a fundamental teaching method used at Colorado Mesa University, and the geosciences program takes full advantage of the surrounding area to teach and engage students. Students left the San Juans with a deeper understanding of the natural world and the science behind it.

The day trip brought together earth, science and history, and was a great way to acquaint incoming students with their new environment. On the trip, the four geology majors naturally turned into geoambassadors. They gave the new students the scoop on where to get the best pizza, what student clubs to get involved with and taught them about life at CMU. The GeoDay Hike brought students together to connect, and it also taught them about the fascinating science behind some of the natural wonders in western Colorado.

Students interested in learning about earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, rivers, floods and glaciers can enroll in a geoscience course and get exposed to our ever-changing world.

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Written by Kelsey Coleman