My previous posts (here and here) discussed geology field studies course costs and alternatives, respectively. But all this discussion of field courses started me thinking: are field study courses still required, and should they be?
When I was poking around the internet, I looked at my undergrad and graduate field study requirements. My old undergraduate program doesn't appear to have a field study course requirement (which was definitely in place when I was there), although the website is not totally clear. The undergrad program at my grad school has multiple geology tracks, each of which requires at least one field method course.
As I mentioned a few months ago, I'm a strong believer in having students move beyond the textbooks and developing their own interpretations, whether it's by examining rock samples in a laboratory or trying to determine why the local landscape looks the way it does. Most geology courses have this to some degree. So is a specific field method course still needed?
I think it is. A good geology field study course will not only involve using standard equipment to do basic geologic fieldwork, but will also show how to present the data in a standard format. How do you fill out a logbook? What information do you need to show, and how much detail do you need to go into for each entry? How do you collect, import, and use coordinates from your GPS, and what are some of the common pitfalls in using and evaluating spatial data?
There are very few branches of geology which are not based on field data. And if you're going to evaluate that data, you need to understand some of the circumstances under which it was collected or at least be able to critically evaluate how reliable it actually is.