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Field Notes and Fun Times: My Introduction to Geology

George P. walks through his great geology experience at Carleton!

George P. walks through his great geology experience at Carleton!


While registering for classes over the summer, one class totally caught my eye: Geology 125: Introduction to Field Geology & Lab. Through this class, I was able to explore Southern Minnesota and learn a completely new subject, rocks! In this blog, I will go over the format of the class, some of the highlights, and my takeaways.

Field Trips

The basis of this course was our field trips to check out rock outcrops. At these outcrops, we would attempt to put together the geologic history of our region. It was so awe-inspiring to be in the presence of such ancient formations, with the oldest rock we checked out being over three billion years old! On Thursdays, we would set out to a couple spots in the region to look at a different part of the state’s geologic history. We would spend most of the day out in the field, with breaks for geo-lunch. These trips were always a highlight of the week and they made our class super tight-knit!

George out in the field
Measuring Sedimentary bedding and spreading positivity!

Some of our spots included a formation formerly known as the oldest in the world, one in Wisconsin, and even one right in Northfield. After the trips we would write field reports in groups. These weren’t your typical boring lab reports! We would try to use features of the rock to piece together what was going on in Minnesota at the time of their deposition (hint: Minnesota used to be an ocean!) Our prof, Cam, was super knowledgable and helpful but he made sure to let us come up with our own interpretations first, and we all got pretty good at interpreting formations that we formerly wouldn’t have given a second thought!

Lab Partner looking at a Rock
We’re so excited about basalt!

Final Project

Our class culminated in two super fun final projects. We were instructed to make a stratigraphic column and a story board of southern Minnesota to piece together all of our trips. The stratigraphic column is an assembly of the different formations detailing the rock comprising them while the story board highlighted our complete interpretation of the last three billion years of history (not easy stuff!)

Classmates holding up final projects
My friends holding up their final stratigraphic columns!

I probably spent over 30 hours in the geo room during the final week but I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. Collaborating with friends and piecing together all of our work from the term was super satisfying. The best part about geology is everyone came up with a different interpretation and they were all great! No one can know for sure what happened over the past 4.6 billion years ago, all we can do is try to make our best educated guess and hope to back it up with strong evidence.

Photo at Nerstrand State Park
Beautiful falls at one of our field stops!

Geology at Carleton

Unfortunately, this class was not only field trips! As an introduction to geology course, we learned all about a variety geologic principles. From Volcanoes to Climate Change, there is much more to geology than just rocks! In fact, most geo majors don’t just focus on traditional rocks. Instead, the geo majors traditionally fall under one of three focuses, soil, water, and hard rocks. Our professor is a well-respected petrologist, meaning he studies igneous and metamorphic rocks, but other professors specialize in a wide-variety of fields.

Geology Professor explaining rock
We loved our prof so much!

Geology students at Carleton are all wonderful people and it’s a great tight-knit supportive group, the vibes in the geo department are always amazing! When I was studying with my friends in the geology room (best spot on campus) the upperclassmen would always check in and try to lend a helping hand. The geology department also hosts a Coffee Hour every week where you can meet all the majors and professors, it’s always a blast! I met a lot of my closest friends in the class and met many upperclassmen whom I know I can always rely on for advice and future opportunities.

Geology Coffee Hour
Great pastries and conversation at Coffee Hour

George P. (he/him) is a first-year student interested in studying Geology, Religion, and Physics. George is a native of Western Massachusetts and can’t wait to explore everything Minnesota has to offer! George’s passions include Karls frisbee, indie music, flannels and root vegetables. George also loves to be around soil, volunteering on the Student Organic Farm and hopefully working on a farm in Maine next Summer! Meet the Other Bloggers!