Study Earth Sciences in the field

Field courses and international trips teach students outside the classroom

Trips to Italy, Iceland, and Hawaii are a dream vacation for some.

But for students in the earth sciences program at the University of New Brunswick, these trips are just another day at the office.

UNB has one of the most intensive in-field earth sciences programs in the country. A typical undergraduate student experiences 10 to 12 weeks of fieldwork before they graduate – time well spent learning in New Brunswick and beyond.

“You can’t do earth sciences in an office. You have to get out there and make the observations,” said Dr. Cliff Shaw, chair of the program.

“A lot of what we do is based on fieldwork that we then utilize once we come back to the lab.”

New Brunswick offers a wealth of learning opportunities

Students attend field school in their first year, and can go throughout the province – from Fredericton to Saint Andrews to Minto.

New Brunswick features a range of rock exposures and with easy access to the ocean, and students are able to study various topics within a relatively short distance.

Students learn everything from geological mapping to acquiring samples.

And if they want to venture a little further, there are two optional fieldwork courses that give students the chance to study internationally for two weeks.

Over the years, UNB’s earth sciences program has travelled to Italy, Germany, Hawaii, Greece, and beyond. This year the class has its sights set on Iceland.

The trip offers two intense weeks of fieldwork in areas such as volcanology and geology. The excursions are sponsored, with Dr. Shaw saying the entire trip costs students approximately $500 each.

“There aren’t too many programs where the students can say they’ve been on two major international field trips by the time they graduate, so we’re very proud of those.”

Fieldwork experience providing hands-on learning

Adam Clark, a third-year student in the earth sciences program, said the field courses have been the best – and most useful – part of his education.

“It’s been a great learning experience for me because I’m so hands-on,” Clark said.

“We have good lectures all year, but some things don’t necessarily click, so field school helps marry theories and practices.”

With professionals in the earth sciences usually working in the field, Dr. Shaw said students have to learn what lies ahead.

“Being in the field was the most important part of my degree,” said Clark.

“You need to see things, like rocks, on a bigger scale to get it.”

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