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Geology Field Camp

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Western Colorado University offers two geology field camp options. Both the four credit, four-week, and six credit, six-week, experiences are open to Western students and qualified students from other universities pursuing a degree in geology or geology-related studies. Located in the south-central Colorado Rockies, Gunnison is the ideal location for students to study a variety of geological terranes.

Throughout the Field Geology (GEOL 450) course, students will be introduced to field methods, gain experience with the geologic mapping of sedimentary, metamorphic, volcanic and plutonic terranes, conduct analyses of field data, and write reports that summarize their findings. The six-credit option is offered in two parts: GEOL 450 and GEOL 452. Advanced Field Geology (GEOL 452) will travel to various locations throughout the western U.S. to study geology at a regional scale.

2022 Field Camp Dates and Costs

Western’s Geology field courses run from mid-May to mid-June. See below for specific details on course dates and related costs.

Dates: May 16 – June 10, 2022, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Students will assemble in Gunnison on Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m. in Hurst Hall for an informational meeting.

Cost including tuition and fees:

  • In-state: $2,004
  • Out-of-state: $3,968

Details: An emphasis on field observation, proper geologic mapping techniques on both maps and aerial photos, and interpretation and synthesis of field data into a report. Different geologic terrains in Colorado or other states are examined. Ideally, this course should be taken during the summer semester, immediately prior to the senior year.

Prerequisites: GEOL 310 and GEOL 345 or instructor permission.

Dates: June 13 – June 24, 2021, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. This traveling field camp will depart from Western on Monday, June 13, 2021 at 8 a.m. and return Friday, June 18. Students should not schedule departure travel prior to Saturday, June 19.

Cost including tuition and fees:

  • In-state: $1,102
  • Out-of-state: $2,084

Details: A study of advanced geological field techniques and special field problems that concentrate on the interpretation of rock types and structures, their distributions, and the collection of field data. Students will interpret field data and make connections between their field observations and the tectonic evolution of the western United States.

Prerequisite: GEOL 450 or equivalent with a grade of at least C- or instructor permission.

Financial Aid

Financial aid may be available through several sources outside the university. The general time frame for application deadlines vary, please look at the webpage for each scholarship to find the specific due date for any given year. Note that membership in some of the relevant societies is required to apply for the scholarships.

Logistics and Equipment

Western’s field camp includes a mix of projects that are based out of Gunnison and group camping projects. Accepted students will receive a detailed schedule. Housing for non-Western field camp attendees can be arranged in residence halls and in off-campus housing (see below).

Geologic compasses will be provided. Students are required to supply their own personal, field and camping gear. Western students may rent camping gear through Wilderness Pursuits. Fees cover travel and camping costs associated with the field camp. Personal vehicles cannot be used in the field for insurance reasons.

Field Geology Equipment

  • Day pack
  • Hand lens 10x Hastings or Coddington
  • Rock hammer
  • Map case/clipboard
  • Field notebook
  • Field belt or vest to carry gear
  • C-thru ruler/protractor
  • Grain size scale
  • .3mm and .5mm mechanical pencils
  • .3mm and .5mm pencil hard lead
  • Pen and black Sharpie
  • Water bottle(s) or bladder
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Insect repellant 20% Picardin or >25% DEET
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Swiss Army knife /multi-tool
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • Small rope/paracord
  • Raincoat/anorak
  • Fleece or sweater
  • Lunch bag

Camping Gear

  • 1-3 person tent (check poles, fly, pegs, condition)
  • Ground cloth or plastic trimmed to size of tent base
  • Thermarest or similar sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag – warm!
  • Small travel pillow (or roll up your fleece)

Suggested Field Clothing

  • Sturdy field boots/midweight hiking boots
  • Quality hiking socks (2+)
  • Long-sleeved field shirts (2+)
  • Field pants (2+) – cool and durable
  • Belt
  • Gloves
  • Warm wind- and waterproof coat or mountain parka
  • Jacket, fleece, hat/toque
  • Thermal base layers
  • T-shirt/sweats for in camp
  • Something warm to sleep in
  • Tennis shoes

Do Not Bring

  • Personal coolers
  • Furniture including chairs and cots
  • Hard-sided luggage
  • Lanterns that require fuel
  • Bed pillows
  • Anything illegal or dangerous
  • Flares, bear bangers, explosives or flammables
  • Personal stoves, cookware, etc.

Notes on Equipment

Boots – Boots should be rugged and broken in.

Cooking – We will be camping for several weeks. Morning and evening meals are prepared in camp. Plan on bringing your own eating utensils (cup, bowl, plate, fork, knife, spoon).

First-aid kit – Should include Band-Aids, needle, tweezers, disinfectant, aspirin, moleskin, antacid, diarrhea treatment, sunburn ointment, insect bite ointment, prescription medicines and (if you are sensitive to poison oak) Techno products.

Money – You should bring funds to cover incidental expenses related to your travel. Depending on your style of living, you should have additional funds to cover such things as laundry, film and miscellaneous expenses.

Paper – Graph paper, 10 squares per inch.

Pens – Final projects are to be in ink. Ball-point pens are unacceptable. Use technical drafting pens that are graduated in size. Examples are the (pigma) MICRON brand, and recommend a 005 (0.2 mm line width) or 01 (~0.25 mm) in black for contacts, attitudes and lettering, plus a 02 (0.30 mm) in red, green or orange for faults. If you only buy black, the two sizes need to be separated by at least one intervening size so the line widths are clearly distinguishable. Probably two of the black pens is best as they do not stand up to heavy-handed writers (the nibs deform).

Map board – Two one-foot Plexiglas pieces with a fiber- or duct-tape hinge. Sturdy rubber bands hold down the map without tape. You need a way to keep your map from flapping/tearing in the wind.

COVID-19 Protocols

WCU plans to deliver both GEOL 450 and GEOL 452 face-to-face in summer 2022. These field courses will comply with COVID-19 protocols in place at the time the course is held. Each project will require camping with breaks in Gunnison between projects. COVID testing, daily health screening, masks and social distancing protocols may be required.

Information for Non-Western Students

Qualified students from other universities are welcome to enroll in Western’s geology field camp. Applicants must have academic preparation in physical and historical geology and should have completed courses in structural geology and stratigraphy.

To begin the admission process, you must complete and submit the field camp application form. Click the button below to get started. Accepted students will receive instructions for finalizing enrollment in the course in mid-April. Submission of this application and acceptance does not guarantee you a spot in the course.

Apply For Field Camp

To receive credit for field camp, you must apply and be admitted to Western Colorado University as a non-degree-seeking student. Please check with your home institution to be sure they will accept the transfer credits. Your transcript for the course will be available upon completion through getmytranscript.com and can be sent directly to your home institution’s registrar.

Enrollment is limited. Spots in the course will be filled in order of receipt of the non-refundable registration fee of $835. Students must be approved for admission and submit their registration fee on or before March 15, 2022. The balance of field camp expenses must be paid before 4 p.m. on May 16, 2022.

Access to residence halls on the Western campus are available by prior arrangement. Contact Craig Beebe in Residence Life at cbeebe@western.edu for more information.

If you have questions about applying or eligibility, please contact Dr. Brad Burton bburton@western.edu.


Date 2022 Event
February 28 Course Registration
March 15 Application Deadline
May 3 Last day to add GEOL 450 and GEOL 452
May 6 Last day to drop GEOL 450 and GEOL 452
May 16 Payment deadline; GEOL 450 begins
May 16-24 Utah – Camping
May 17 Withdrawal Deadline
May 25-June 2 Gunnison area projects
June 3-10 Salida – Camping
June 13 GEOL 452 begins
June 13-24 Sevier Fold and Thrust Belt, Utah and Wyoming


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