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Spotlight: USF Geosciences Field Station

"Field camp was the most incredible geology experience, exceeding my expectations in every way – learning from very knowledgeable and passionate scientists. I was completely star struck. I can only hope to emulate them someday soon."

– USF geology alumna Mayra Santiago, academic program assistant in the School of Geosciences

Stationed for Success

Imagine learning to play baseball by simply reading a book about the sport – never having the chance to don a fielder's mitt, swing a bat, or face all the twists and turns that unexpectedly occur. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. That's why USF School of Geosciences Chair Mark Rains, Ph.D., envisions a world-class field station in the rugged, geologically rich terrain of Idaho.

It would be a field of dreams for our students, a place to pursue their passion for the subject and truly master the fundamentals of their profession in real life conditions.

"You might understand the rules of baseball by reading, but you won't really know how to play the game," he says. "It's the same with geology. We can teach the roles and strategies, but the synthesis of all that has to happen in the field."

That analogy underlies the USF College of Arts and Sciences new campaign to raise money for the School of Geosciences to construct a fully functioning field station in the western United States. Successful completion will give students the chance to deal with the challenges and enjoy the rewards of being a working geologist.

Without question, field school represents the ultimate experience for USF geology students. Furthermore, surveys have consistently shown that prospective employers rank field experiences among the top criteria for workplace success and prefer recent graduates who have mastered field skills.

These are just some of the reasons why USF set a goal to raise $400,000 during a two-year campaign from the fall of 2016 until the fall of 2018. This amount – which includes a pledge from the College of Arts and Sciences to match up to $150,000 – will make the USF School of Geosciences Field Station a reality. The timeline is to purchase land by fall 2018 and to be ready to begin an all-new game in the field by summer 2019.

Why It Is Best to Go West

Field studies and summer field camps are essential in teaching geology. To give USF students a meaningful field experience, we provide our students the opportunity to go beyond the classrooms in Florida. We have to go west to find the proper rocks, fault lines, and geological formations - which is precisely what we have been doing since 2004.

Each summer, USF Geology has taken students into the field, teaching in two-week increments at rented field stations, often staying at local camp grounds. These have been rewarding and highly valuable experiences for USF students and staff despite the hurdles of uncontrolled costs and limited research time. Building a permanent USF Geosciences Field Station in Idaho will allow us to overcome these hurdles and provide continuity that will enhance the learning experience.

Benefits of a USF Geosciences Field Station

There are many reasons why establishing a USF physical footprint in Idaho make sense. This is a wonderful way to grow the undergraduate program, keep costs in check for USF students, and offer a vastly improved facility to ensure program stability – with location and lesson plans the same from year to year. In addition, because so few universities have their own field station, this will allow us to attract top students from out of state, both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

There is another value to this investment as well. "The field work experience is the bridge that allows students to bring together all the concepts they've learned and see them at work in an actual setting – and within a mentored, small-group atmosphere," says USF College of Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg. "This is a pivotal moment when they see the connection between what they are interested in and the way it works in real life."

For students and staff, the project affords a wide range of logistical advantages – including shelter from bad weather, which can be a frequent challenge in the field. A USF building would offer protection for laptops and loads of expensive equipment carried by the students and teachers, eliminating the worry of leaving those items vulnerable to theft or rain damage. And it would reduce travel time and productivity - hindering distractions for students, who must currently traverse from site to site.

"Many of our students have never seen a mountain, let alone folding fault systems or active geological concepts," says junior Jonathan Valentine, president of the USF Geology Club. "Being able to work and study in the field, especially in the structured setting of our field station, would be amazing."

A new facility will put USF well ahead of universities that utilize aging field stations. "Many of the older stations are stuck in the past," says USF volcanology professor Chuck Connor, whose wife Laura Connor also does volcano research in the School of Geosciences. Both are leadership-level donors for the field station as well.

"We're able to develop the right classroom experience, the right field experience and with the right instruments," he continues. "That's what modern geologists do. You absolutely have to go west to do meaningful field work, and this station will guarantee the best learning experience possible."

 

 

USF: A Top Research Institution

The University of South Florida is a global research university dedicated to student success. With your help, USF will continue to move to the forefront in university field research by building this facility.

Your support will help make the USF field station a reality. We respectfully ask you to be a part of our team to help pave the way by making a pledge today. Your donation will directly impact the education of our students and our geology program in a profound way. Thank you for making a difference, and for putting our geology students in the field – as key players in their future profession.

For more information about the USF Geosciences Field Station Campaign or to make a gift, please contact Director of Development, Kelly Addington at kaddington@usf.edu or 813.974.5764.