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150 students study geological formations on a Saturday field trip

Students physically touched and studied rocks that are 1.5 billion years old during a geosciences field trip held on a Saturday earlier this fall. They also answered questions such as, "is the Redlands fault still active and do we need to worry about earthquake hazards here in Grand Junction?" (Interesting answer — we don’t know yet.)

“The mindset in the geology department is teaching through field experiences,” said Associate Professor of Geology Gregory Baker, PhD, who is in his first semester at CMU after teaching for more than 20 years.

Baker and Professor of Geology Rex Cole, PhD, took nearly 150 students from Geology 100 and 105 classes on two half-day field trips that included three different stops: Eagle Rim Park, Dinosaur Hill and Gold Star Canyon. Throughout the trip, students identified geologic structures, erosional landforms and specific types of Precambrian rocks.

Many of these students are not geosciences majors or are currently undecided but this gives them an opportunity to explore a possible path of study, minor or career path.  

“The idea is to have them (students) in the field with an expert,” Baker said. “Then the other thing we like to try and give them time to do is just to ask questions.” Questions ranged from inquiry about the Uncompahgre Uplift and the Black Canyon Complex to what the Grand Valley would look like in 10 million years.

The planning and logistics of a trip that includes nearly 150 students stopping at three different locations throughout the course of a day is difficult. Baker and Cole paid extra attention to planning for what could happen including bringing an extra vehicle that could leave in the case of an emergency and a bus that could continue on the field trip with the rest of the students. Luckily, everything went as planned and Baker said it was all worth it.

“What I enjoy the most is when the lightbulbs go on,” Baker said. “That is as good as it gets. Seeing the lightbulbs come on and hearing some good questions.”

Baker commended students for committing part of their Saturday to hiking around in the desert studying fault lines, rock formations and other geologic processes.

“The geology around here is like an art museum,” Baker said. "It’s amazing to see student realize what an interesting area they study and live in."


Written by Katlin Birdsall