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Structural Mapping

Session: June 25 - July 6 ( in Idaho)

Register for:
GLY 4947 Structural Mapping Field School (2 credit)

Instructors: Dr. Paul Wetmore and Dr. Sylvain Charbonnier

What: Structural mapping includes multiple mapping projects that will focus on bedrock geology and some geomorphology. Projects change from year to year but have, in the past, included the mapping of a recent fault scarp, Eocene Challis Volcanics, and folds within the Mississippian strata of the foreland basin of the Antler Orogeny.

The goals for Structural Mapping:

  1. learn basic field mapping skills (e.g. use of satellite imagery and topographic maps for location, Brunton compasses for collection of attitudinal data from planar and linear features, and representing field data on your maps).
  2. learn to become a trained observer and detailed note-taker.
  3. learn how to use collected observations to construct accurate geological maps and cross-sections, and
  4. learn how to do all of this while working independently in a breathtakingly beautiful setting.

Why: Because field geology forms the foundation for nearly all subdisciplines of geology.

Who: Geology majors with 12 credit hours of upper-level Geology courses, preferably from the core courses. Note that GLY 3402 C The Solid Earth: Plate Tectonics and Earth Structure or equivalent is a required prerequisite!

What to expect:

The truth is you will feel like you are working very hard for two hours of credit. Geologic mapping is intellectually and physically demanding. We will be mapping in difficult terrain. It will be hot, it might be cold, and the difficulty might get you down sometimes. In a short period of time, you will begin to understand how much you've learned about geology and how your core courses are applied to the study of the earth. You will also have an unforgettable experience in spectacular country.

Typical Itinerary

Sunday: Arrive in Salt Lake City (Hotel Suggestion: Airport Inn Hotel).

Monday: Meet at the Airport Inn Hotel on North Temple in Salt Lake City at 8:00 am. Drive to Field Station near Mackay, Idaho. Map and compass review.

Tuesday: Begin first mapping project.

Wednesday: Continue first mapping project.

Thursday: Complete first mapping in the morning and ink maps and draw cross sections in the afternoon.

Friday: Begin second mapping project.

Saturday: Finish 2nd map.

Sunday: Finish ink map and draw cross section for mapping project in the morning. Depart Field Station before noon. Afternoon, move camp to Arco, and introduce Snake River Plain geologic evolution.

Monday: Begin third mapping project.

Tuesday: Complete third mapping project.

Wednesday: Begin final mapping project.

Thursday: Finish final mapping project.

Friday: Drive back to Salt Lake City.

What to Bring:

Geologic mapping supplies:

  • Field book
  • Fine-tipped drafting pen
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencils
  • Eraser (it is possible you will want one!)
  • Brunton compass (provided by department)
  • Hand lens (provided by department)
  • Rock hammer (provided by department)
  • Water bottles (you will need to carry 3 quarts or litres)
  • Day-pack size backpack
  • Map board (either a fancy & expensive model from a mining outfitters, or a cheap 11 x 17-inch particle board and matching Plexiglas, duct-taped together).

Personal Gear:

  • Tent (share with someone)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Utensils (cup, spoon, knife)
  • Flashlight


  • GOOD boots - broken in, comfortable, high-quality. Nobody wants to deal with blisters all day.
  • Many pairs of thick hiking socks
  • Rain jacket (gortex is preferred)
  • Rain pants (gortex preferred)
  • Some warm layers - such as a sweater, or a fleece jacket or vest
  • Clothing for very hot weather (sun hat, sunglasses, shorts, light shirts)
  • sun screen
  • bug spray


Grades in the course will be based on your performance completing several small mapping projects, your field notebooks, and your participation in the field. There will be no exams.