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Organizing and Leading Successful International Geological Field Trips for Students: It’s Not as Hard as You Think. Dr. Jim Reynolds Division of Environmental Studies, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences Brevard College Brevard, NC 28712. This presentation is dedicated to Dottie Stout.

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Organizing and Leading Successful International Geological Field Trips for Students: It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Dr. Jim Reynolds

Division of Environmental Studies, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences

Brevard College

Brevard, NC 28712


Getting the trip to make:

    • Ways to overcome the initial sticker shock that kills the interest of many students.
    • Always a problem at small schools and many state institutions.
    • Administration reluctance

Don’t be afraid of the trip not making

    • Failure is an option
    • It happens for numerous reasons.
    • Can be mitigated with a back-up trip
      • Hawai’i is a good back-up.
        • Exotic to mainlanders
        • Easy to organize
        • Relatively safe


  • Choose a destination that students know from their Geology courses or a theme with high sex appeal.
    • Volcanoes
    • Glaciers
    • Tectonics
    • Fossils
    • Geoarchaeology


  • If possible, choose a place you have visited before but don’t be intimidated by the unknown.
    • Your innate knowledge of Geology will carry you through.
    • Your enthusiasm at seeing new things and analyzing them geologically will be infectious.
    • You will be better prepared than any undergraduate.
  • Participating graduate students who know more than you about certain topics will be honored to serve as co-leaders for those days in which their expertise is valuable.


    • Choose a destination that students will be able to afford or camp if they can’t afford it.
      • Costa Rica
      • Patagonia
      • Iceland
      • Italy
      • Bolivia
      • Greece

Berg boys Brian Hynek and Garrett Timmerman


Make the trip a component of a regularly-scheduled course offering

    • trains administrators
    • builds hopes for future participation in minds of students

At Brevard, I teach

    • Geology 270: Field Study in Geology: _________
  • The blank is filled with different topics:
    • Geology & Ecology of Costa Rican Volcanoes— Field trip to Costa Rica
    • Oceanic Volcanic Islands—Field trip to Hawai’i
    • Geology and Archaeology of the Mediterranean Basin—Field Trips to Italy and Greece
    • Geology and Archaeology of Mesoamerica (2006)—field trip planned to Bolivia and Peru.

Success of the course attributed to:

    • fulfills lab science requirement
    • 4 credit hours
      • meets once/week for 2 hours + 2 hours for trip
    • can be taken more than once
    • interdisciplinary/cross-listed

Students are evaluated based on:

    • Power Point presentation on a topic related to the course theme
    • Web pages they create about the trip
    • Journal of the trip
    • Midterm and final exams of class discussions
    • Participation points on trip

GEOL 271: Geology Field Experience

    • For students who don’t need lab science credit but who want to travel.
    • A 2-credit P/F course that only requires participation on the field trip
    • Offered to students from other institutions in the Appalachian College Association

At a small school, interdisciplinary themes work well to attract students:

    • Geology & Archaeology (and History and Art History)
    • Geology and Ecology

Herculaneum with Vesuvius looming in the background.


Sponsorship: Helps with advertising and possibly with funding.

  • Colleges
  • College associations
  • Professional organizations
  • Travel agencies
  • Private individuals
  • Companies

Awaiting word on an Appalachian College Association Berger Foundation Grant

    • Interdisciplinary team covering Geology, Rain Forest Ecology, Latin American History, and Latin American Literature
    • Trip would be a W to E traverse at 24º S across Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and part of Brazil.
    • 4 faculty/14 students
    • Partly based on last summer’s Berger Grant trip to Bolivia.

Use a local travel agent in the country you are visiting.

    • American travel agents generally serve as middlemen and drive up the cost of the trip.
    • Local agents know the territory and can find excellent deals on food and lodging.
    • If used a second time, they are willing to find steeper discounts.

Finding the right travel agent

    • Site visits are best.
    • Recommendations of previous clients
    • Internet searches

Travel Accomodations

    • Probably the most important aspect for future considerations
    • This is what students remember the most.
  • Students travel on their stomachs; keep them well fed and they will follow you anywhere.

Solfatara, Campi Flegrei The Gate to Hades


The trip may be the most significant experience in the student’s life to date (or ever).

    • helps formulate career decisions
    • high retention rate
    • builds strong friendships
  • It is also often the first international experience.