Wild Wild West Class, August 2007
"The typical undergraduate student experience in geology is rooted in the class room, supplemented by readings and laboratory work, and rarely involves substantial time in the field. This is unfortunate because geology may be the most field-oriented and dependent scientific discipline.
Lectures, texts, and lab work in all actuality exist to supplement and understand real field experience and conditions. Wild West Geology, as taught by Dr. Bettina Martinez-Hackert, provides students with such essential field exposure that is both irreplaceable and unforgettable.
I had the opportunity to participate in the fall 2007 GES 497/594 "Wild Wild West Geology" field class and consider it an extremely enriching, life-changing experience. The trip's focus was on the geology of the Basin and Range, and Colorado Plateau physiographical provinces. Locale visited were Southern California, including Dumont Dunes and Death Valley National Park, and Central Arizona, including the Grand Canyon, San Francisco Volcanic Field, Transition Belt and Meteor Crater. The geology of the region is unique and like nothing we have exposure to anywhere in Western New York.
Dr. Martinez-Hackert's approach constantly pushed and encouraged us to sketch, describe, and characterize outcrops in great detail prior to making interpretations or rock and mineral identification. This sophisticated our fundamental scientific observational skills and strengthened the convictions of our subsequent conclusion.
The geologic features we studied were awe inspiring both in their history of formation and aesthetics. We stood on massive sand dunes and were sandblasted by sandgrains suspended in the pounding wind. A cinder cone volcano we climbed was split by faults (note: an active, right-lateral strike slip fault of Southern California!), we walked over divergent plate boundaries, witnessed and bathed in volcanic hot springs, and gasped at the grandness of the Grand Canyon. We walked on the parts of the rim of Meteor Crater, the most well-preserved impact crater on planet Earth. We went to Badwater, the lowest elevation in North America. These experiences obviously cannot be replicated in the class room, they have to be studied in-situ.
Prior to the trip, we were required to research areas we were going to visit, and then give a talk at the location during the trip. This made each student the resident "expert" of the area. I particularly appreciated this aspect of the course; no Powerpoint presentation can compete with the Grand Canyon as a talk backdrop. We could tangibly observe the features researched and discussed. I learned and retained more knowledge on this 10 day trip than I have in semesters of traditional classroom based instruction.
I consider the personal friendships and teamwork skills we acquired as equally important and complementary to the geologic experience.Having been part of the workforce as an environmental consultant myself for nearly a decade, the importance of interpersonal skills and relationship building cannot be overstated. They are imperative for success, productive trouble-shooting, and advancement in any field. Classmates that were friendly acquaintances prior to the trip became close friends. Everyone contributed to the group's success and welfare, and this was a direct result of Dr. Martinez-Hackert's leadership and interpersonal skills."
Ernest Thalhamer, Junior
During the fall of 2008 semester I went on a two-day-long geologic trip to the Adirondack mountains and western Connecticut for Mineralogy and Petrology (GES 303). The trip was extremely beneficial to my career at Buffalo State thus far. Up until this point I had been under the false impression that there were no unanswered questions in the field of geology.
Learning solely from a textbook had made it seem like all the questions in the field had specific answers and that they were to be memorized and recited. After attending this trip I had a complete change of mindset and now realize that there are many unanswered questions and that even the "answers" we are told are not always correct. I now have the understanding that science involves asking questions in order to gain an understanding of the physical world, not just the memorization of facts.