NOVA Annandale | Geology | Bentley
GOL 295: Regional Field Geology of West Texas
Photo modified from an original by Samat Jain, Creative Commons license on Flickr

West Texas and southern New Mexico showcase tectonic, sedimentary, geomorphic, and volcanic features that provide world-class examples of geologic processes. Students in this course will travel to El Paso, TX, from March 8 to 15, 2014, and complete field studies of locations in Carlsbad Caverns, the Rio Grande Rift, the Franklin and Guadalupe Mountains, and Kilbourne Hole volcano, as well as complete a geophysics training exercise at the University of Texas, El Paso. The course will be co-taught with Joshua Villalobos of El Paso Community College (EPCC) and will involve collaboration with geology students at EPCC.

From May 18 to 24, 2014, EPCC students will visit Northern Virginia in the second half of the course, and NOVA students will play a role in hosting them and introducing them to Mid-Atlantic geology. Students who are admitted to the course will therefore commit to both portions of the experience: (1) being a guest in Texas over spring break and (2) being a host in Northern Virginia in May. The course will involve STRENUOUS outdoor physical activity: Students are expected to hike several miles at high elevations in mountainous desert terrain in order to accomplish course objectives.

Enrollment is competitive, and by permission of the instructors only. You must apply to enroll. Only 12 students will be accepted from each school. Special consideration will be given to (a) students with a demonstrated record of acheivement in geoscience courses, and (b) applicants from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the geosciences: specifically, ethnic and racial minorities, and women. The latter is the reason that NSF has funded the field exchange: it is hoped that it will be a way of addressing the historic low levels of diversity in geoscience.

Airfare, lodging, and transportation are 100% covered for approved students by a genorous grant from the National Science Foundation, so the travel costs will NOT be borne by the students.

(This is a big deal: all the travel is will be "free" from the student perspective.)

Students are still responsible for paying their own tuition and covering their own food costs while on the trips. That's it.

If you are interested in joining this class, but need more details, then let's talk. Shoot us an e-mail at:
If you want to join us, download the application here [PDF] or here [Word doc], fill it out, and then e-mail it to: .

Applications are due by December 30th, 2013.(Applications are now closed.)

Tuition rates for this class (in-state vs. out-of-state)    

Packing list: (No more & no less!)

Personal gear

Sleeping bag - Comfortable for temperatures that can/will get down to the 40s (F). Down mummy bags are best.
Foam pad or Therma-rest - Foam pads are more bulky, but they don't pop, which Therma-rests can do.
Tent - should be shared with 1-2 other people
- For packing your gear in. No need for a backpacking backpack: we won't be backpacking..
Daypack - For daily field excursions. May be integrated with a "Camelbak" style hydration system.
Rain jacket - Waterproof, preferably Gore-tex, preferably with "pit-zips" for aeration.
Sun hat - Wide brim.
Sun glasses - The western sky yields intense sun. No joke here: have a good pair of sunglasses.
Sunblock - A good tube of sunblock. (Can be shared; can easily be replaced if used up.)
Lip balm - something with an SPF >15
Bandana - to tie around your neck to protect it from sun
Good field boots, with ankle support (NOT sneakers); Break these in before the trip.
Six pairs of clean/dry socks (I strongly recommend Smartwool)
Six pairs of underwear
Lightweight field pants (2)
Shorts (1 pair)
Breathable long-sleeve shirts (2)
T-shirts (2)
Fleece pullover for layering
Bathing suit

Flip-flops or sandals (for public showers and general camp use)
Personal eating gear: bowl + spoon; thermal mug
Personal toiletries kit: Soap, toothbrush, etc.
Money for food ($50?)

Field gear

Capacity for four liters of water (I use two 1-liter Nalgenes and one 2-liter Camelbak "bladder")
Rock hammer
(we have a few to loan out if you don't want to buy your own)
10x Hand lens (like a Bausch & Lomb Hastings Triplet)
A field notebook - Rite in the Rain makes a notebook specifically for geologists, though I prefer their 'grid' notebook.
Two mechanical pencils (0.5 mm), one with hard lead that won’t smear in your field notebook and one for mapping contacts on your topographic sheet - bring extra lead
Erasers (tube erasers are best, the kind that look like mechanical pencils)
Colored pencils (can be shared with 1 other student)
Pocket knife
Camera (preferably small, digital, with a large memory chip)
Shockproof camera case (Mine is made by AccuCase.)
One waterproof marker (Sharpie twin-tip in black or red)
Small first aid kit - required for each student; see below.
Small flashlight or head lamp (not left in your tent) and extra batteries
Neck lanyard for hand lens, safety pins, pencils, tube eraser, etc.
Clipboard with extra binder clips on three edges and a large Zip-loc freezer bag for rainy days
Optional but recommnended: Field belt or Field pouch for your field book, extra pens/pencils, etc. (Plateau Design makes a good one), although some geologists prefer a field vest (Filson’s field vest is a favorite)
A whistle is also a good idea for emergency signaling.
Duct tape makes a great emergency adhesive
Toilet paper - a small roll for outdoor bathroom stops
Binoculars (optional; makes wildlife viewing better. If you're going to carry 'bins' in the field, they may as well be good ones. I'm a huge fan of the Eagle Optics "Rangers" - 10x35)

First aid supplies for trauma care:

Several assorted sizes of adhesive strips (Band-aids), including some large ones
One rolled Ace bandage (elastic wrap)
Waterproof medical tape (1- and 2-inch rolls)
Several assorted sizes of non-stick sterile dressings (gauze pads)
Alcohol (or other antiseptic) wipes
Several small safety pins (attached to your hand-lens lanyard)
Triple antibiotic ointment (over-the-counter, like Bacitracin or Neosporin)
Pain / anti-inflammatory medication (your choice; Some people have allergies, so follow whatever your doctor recommends.)
Moleskin or molefoam or other pads and bandages for blisters on your feet
Other prescription or non-prescription medications (decongestant for hay fever, antacid, throat lozenges, etc.)

Resources - Texas

An interpretation of the structural geology of the Franklin Mountains, Texas. Lovejoy, 1975.

Cretaceous stratigraphy and biostratigraphy, western Franklin Mountains, El Paso, Texas. Lucas, et al., 1998.

Resources - Virginia

When Was the Last Time Volcanoes Erupted on the East Coast? (Mole Hill) Biello, 2014.

Ancient Volcano Holds Clues to Earth's Deeper Mysteries (Mole Hill) Marder, 2010.




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