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Mandatory Fields
John Murray, Tiernan Henry, Martin White, Shane Tyrrell
Discover, Explore, Create: 12th Galway Symposium on Higher Education
Fieldwork in the context of Earth & Ocean Science training
Optional Fields
Fieldwork is a powerful teaching tool and is as integrally important to any earth science degree program as clinical placement would be within training in medicine. The reason behind this is that 'the field' is the natural laboratory for earth scientists - they not only collect data in the field, but they may also process and synthesize it there. Students find fieldwork a particularly valuable and intensive learning experience, as they automatically have to apply theoretical concepts learned in class to real-world scenarios (theory becomes reality very quickly). They are also inclined to ask more questions about a feature they are observing, and trying to interpret in the field, than in a classroom setting. In Earth and Ocean Sciences in NUI Galway, we have specifically designed our field program to equip students with the necessary skills they need to complete their final year projects effectively. A case sample of field training is our third year Wexford Fieldtrip. This trip is 10 days in duration and it builds daily, beginning initially with training in making basic field observations and map reading skills and then progressing to getting students to complete a detailed geological survey of some 3km of coastline at the end of the trip. The fieldtrip also builds on an additional level. Every day we explore rocks from a different geological time period, beginning with the oldest and moving towards the youngest through the course of the week. In this way, the students become familiar with the geological history of Ireland. This underlying narrative arc lends a real sense of cohesion and purpose to the entire trip and it involves the destruction of an entire ocean, the creation of a vast Himalayan-style mountain chain and subsequent inundation of an arid landscape by a shallow tropical sea, teeming with marine life.
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