MU Geology Field Camp Wins GSA/ExxonMobil Field Camp Excellence Award

Kristi Galloway
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Geological Sciences

For 103 years geology students have been enjoying world-class geology field training at the University of Missouri's Camp Branson Field Laboratory located in the Wind River Range near Lander, Wyo. This year, the Geological Society of America (GSA) recognized the program with the GSA/ExxonMobil Field Camp Excellence Award. This $10,000 award is given each year to a geology field camp to assist with the summer field season. It is based on safety awareness, diversity, and technical excellence.  

According to Camp Director Miriam Barquero-Molina, “This is the only award for field camps. It is especially meaningful because the recipient is chosen by a panel of geologists, so they know what to look for in a top program.” Founded in 1911, MU’s program is the longest continuously run field camp in the nation, and it is known for its diverse and applicable curriculum.

This year, 45 geology students from around the nation will live in log cabins built by former campers and practice geology in the field for six weeks. A typical day starts with an early morning breakfast, followed by lecture. Then, students head out to the field to collect data and work on projects ranging from sedimentology and stratigraphy to geologic mapping, hydrogeology, and geophysics. After a full day, students return to camp to clean up and eat dinner before attending another lecture or heading to the lab to work on their projects.

According to Barquero-Molina, the entire purpose of camp is to “teach students to do geology in the field so they can learn to think about geology three dimensionally.”  There is only so much that students can understand from textbooks and classroom instruction; field camp brings this hands-on science to life. Many employers and graduate programs require some type of field experience. Because of this, the number of applications for field programs is increasing each year. However, the number of programs is shrinking, so students who attend universities without field programs have to look elsewhere. Approximately 22 percent of interested students didn’t get into a program this year.

It takes significant resources and effort to run a field camp. Barquero-Molina jokes that she and the other camp staffers don’t really sleep for six weeks. MU’s program is fortunate to have a wide base of alumni who endorse the program, but other programs are not as well supported. It is becoming increasingly competitive to get into field camp, and the students who are accepted say that it is a life-changing experience. Barquero-Molina will always remember hearing a student say, “I’m so glad I attended Camp Branson because it allowed me to get a job.” Another student said that camp “showed me what I really want to do with my life and brought together so many ideas I didn’t know were connected before.”

The GSA/ExxonMobil Field Camp Excellence Award affirms what alumni of the program already know, and this year’s students will soon find out—Camp Branson is excellent.

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