Students study geology, water shortage in southwestern US
The students in professor Carolyn Eyles' fourth-year field course recently spent 10 days exploring the geological features of Arizona, California and Nevada. The field course is a culmination of the instruction students receive in their first three years of geography and earth sciences courses.
In addition to Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth, the students also visited the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona and craters formed by meteors and volcanic eruptions.
The field trip was a highlight for the students.
"Everyone who goes says they learn more on the field trip than they do in the classroom," said Marianne Stoesser, a first-year master's student in geography. "You get to apply what you learned."
Not only do field trips like these give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge outside the classroom, the skills they develop also help them find employment after graduation.
"By far the best way to learn anything in the earth sciences is to see, explore and investigate rocks, landforms and environments in the field," said Eyles. "Fieldwork skills are also highly sought after by potential employers of our students in the hydrocarbon, mineral exploration and environmental industries."
She added that many students who participate in the field course go on to pursue graduate studies and careers in the earth sciences.
The field course also gave Eyles the opportunity to teach her students about water shortage issues and how the solutions being considered in Arizona may be applied to southern Ontario's own water woes.
"Lake Mead, which supplies water to millions of people in the southwestern US, has at least a 50 per cent chance of running dry by 2021," Eyles explained. "This has prompted much interest in water recycling programs in which waste water is pumped back into underground aquifers to recharge them. This water is naturally filtered as it slowly moves through the rocks and can be ultimately extracted for reuse."
She added that similar water recycling programs are being considered by municipalities in southern Ontario.