Successful field course allows ten Earth and Environmental Science students to graduate this fall

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

For 10 Earth and Environmental Sciences students graduating this week, who should have graduated this past June, it has taken months of planning and preparation in order to deliver the required field course they needed to take in order to graduate.

Group of students clustered around a rock outcrop at the side of the road. Instructor perched on the rock, talking with 2 students, and the rest are looking at the rockWhen courses moved online last March, each class needed to find a way to adapt, and make this sudden transition. Unfortunately, for field courses, this transition was harder than other classes. How does an in-person field course – where the entire goal is to bring students to a remote field site 5 hours away from Waterloo to study the geological features and unique rocks –  run during a time of travel restrictions and distancing?

This was the situation that the Faculty of Science and the Earth and Environmental Sciences department faced with the EARTH 390 field course, initially scheduled to take between 70 and 80 students to near the Sudbury area for 10 days this past late April to early May. As an added complication, this was the last course that 10 students needed in order to graduate. It is also a course required for their Professional Geoscientist designation.

Since April, when it was realized that the field course was not going to happen as planned, the Earth and Environmental Sciences department and the Faculty of Science’s Safety Management Team have been working to find a safe way to get these students the last credit that they needed before fall convocation.

This past September, the course was finally approved to run at a limited capacity, bringing these 10 students up to Sudbury for a slightly shorter 7 day field course, under the instruction of Professor Shoufa Lin.

Instructor and three students on top of a large rock, trees in the background. Students are all making notes about the rock they are standing on“For many students, this course is the first time they get field experience, and it sets them up for success in the future,” says Lin. “Field experience is very important, and future employers look for it. It’s also the student’s chance to test if they want to be a field geologist, or maybe the students had never thought about it, and really enjoy it so choose to further their studies in field work.”

Earth and Environmental Sciences students look forward to their field courses throughout their degrees, as a chance to get away from the lecture halls and labs, and apply their skills in real-world settings.

“Sudbury is an ideal place for this course,” explains Lin. “Geology-wise, you have so many great features converge in Sudbury. You have rocks spanning 3 different geological ‘provinces’, ranging in age from anywhere from about 2.7 billion years old to about 1 billion years old. Also, 1.8 billion years ago, a meteorite hit the Sudbury area and created an impact structure, and that impact produced the mines in the region. So there’s a lot to see and map.”

This field course has students identify the different rocks and features they can see, and create a geological map of the area. Students have already seen and used maps like these in classes prior to this course, but getting first hand experience developing them allows students to better appreciate their intricacies – what can actually be observed, and what needs to be interpreted during the map creation process.

Group of students, looking at a rock outcrop at the side of a road. The Teaching Assistant is pointing to a light stripe in the rock

In order to run the field course safely, the course was limited to just the students who were graduating this year, and many additional precautions were put in place to ensure the safety of students, instructors, and teaching assistants.

“While safety is always of utmost importance during field school, this year's circumstances added an extra level of necessary precaution,” says the Science Safety Management Team. “The students and staff were provided with clear guidelines to minimize their risk of Covid-19 exposure and we are pleased with the level of care taken by everyone to follow these and stay safe."

With convocation this week, the Faculty of Science look forward to welcoming these ten students to our growing alumni family. We are very proud of the resilience shown by each of these students to get to this point.

  1. 2022 (10)
    1. August (1)
    2. July (2)
    3. April (2)
    4. March (2)
    5. February (1)
    6. January (2)
  2. 2021 (24)
    1. November (1)
    2. October (1)
    3. September (1)
    4. August (2)
    5. July (2)
    6. June (8)
    7. May (1)
    8. March (4)
    9. February (1)
    10. January (3)
  3. 2020 (23)
    1. December (1)
    2. November (1)
    3. October (2)
    4. September (2)
    5. August (3)
    6. July (5)
    7. June (3)
    8. April (3)
    9. March (1)
    10. February (2)
  4. 2019 (6)
  5. 2018 (8)
  6. 2017 (25)
  7. 2016 (30)
  8. 2015 (31)
  9. 2014 (30)
  10. 2013 (10)
  11. 2012 (9)