Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Field Trips

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The Department of Earth and Environment is committed to providing students with as many field experiences as possible. Field trips are an integral part of most courses taught in the Geoscience/Environmental programs. In addition, students participate in independent research involving travel to places ranging from the Canadian Arctic to New Zealand, and from Australia to Mongolia.

As part of our commitment to field work, every year the department of Earth and Environment organizes a subsidized field trip to a location of particular interest to environmental and geology students. Majors and Minors in Geoscience, Environmental Science, and Environmental Studies all have the opportunity to participate.


Over Spring Break thirteen students traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii to study geology, ecology, biology, and anything else they could get their hands on. Students spent time studying the geology of active volcanoes, the biology of rainforests, the petrology of ancient cultures, and more. Students spent a large portion of time at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where they studied a number of volcanoes, including Kiluea and Mauna Loa.

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One day was spent hiking over recently formed lava flows in order to see active flows pouring into the ocean. Another day was spent traveling northwest across the island so that students could see the unique characteristics that hot spot tectonics has on the land, and how the progression and succession of life is affected. The day ended with a snorkeling excursion to study the marine biology of a reef complex, where students dove from a catamaran. Hawaii was a unique experience for students because they were able to study certain processes only exist in a few places on Earth.

Costa Rica

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This 12 day study trip, organized by Geoscience professor Jeff Marshall, brought students in close contact with active volcanoes, earthquake faults, and living rainforests brimming with monkey, sloths, colorful birds, and crocodiles.Eight-teen F&M students from the Geoscience and Environmental Studies Programs were able to visit Seven National Parks and nature reserves as well as examine geologic evidence of the tectonic collision between the oceanic Cocos Ridge and the Central American volcanic chain. Students hiked across a recent lava flow, searched for remnants of abandoned shorelines along tropical beaches, and looked at the deposits of volcanic mudflows and ancient ocean sediments. The group also observed the complex ecology of the tropical rainforest and pondered the dramatic impacts of humans on this delicate ecosystem.

The Grand Canyon

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During Spring Break, 2000, Geosciences professors Andy de Wet, Rob Sternberg, and Roger Thomas accompanied 17 students to northern Arizona. The group hiked down (and with more difficulty, back up) the Grand Canyon. They saw meteor and volcanic (Sunset and SP) craters. They visited the Museum of Northern Arizona, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.The natural setting formed the backdrop for past human habitation at the ruins of Wupatki and Walnut Canyon National Monuments. Wupakti National Monument, a pueblo where the Sinagua people lived from about AD 600-1200, displays masonry and bedrock from the local geology. They camped out in Oak Creek Canyon (although we had to rent motel rooms to shower). And before leaving, they warmed up at spring training baseball game near Phoenix.

San Salvador, Bahamas

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Professors Roger Thomas and Zeshan Ismat, with research specialist Steve Sylvester, led a group of 17 students to the island of San Salvador, one of the most windward islands of the Bahamas. Students spent some of their time at the Gerace Research Center, located on the northeastern tip of San Salvador at Graham's Harbor. The research center had originally served as a U.S. Naval base during the Cold War in the 1960's for tracking missiles and nuclear submarines. The research center opened to academic research in 1971, two years before the Bahamas gained their independence in 1973. Students hiked along carbonate beaches, searching for fossil reefs and lithified sand dunes as well as noting intense erosion by the seas. The group also did underwater exploration via. snorkeling. Among the organisms observed were sea grasses, corals, and sea fans. They also saw several schools of fish, a manta ray, and according to some students, sharks and barracudas.

Puerto Rico

For the 2004 Spring Break trip we traveled to the island of Puerto Rico. Professors Chris Williams and Rob Sternberg led a group of thirteen student on a six day long cross-island excursion. The trip was designed to investigate the interrelationships between Puerto Rico's geologic and natural history. Puerto Rico is a great place to do this because Puerto Rico's geology, climate, flora, and fauna vary tremendously

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They saw tropical rainforests, tropical dry forests, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary outcrops, fossil coral reefs and limestone shelf carbonates, archaeological remains of indigenous cultures, pristine coastal mangrove forests, folded and faulted metamorphic rocks of the central mountains, one of the worlds largest underground cave complexes, and the Arecibo radio telescope.

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