During J-Term prior to Field Geology (EPS74), students live in the Mojave desert for almost three weeks to map different pieces of the area in groups. The data will eventually be compiled into a composite class map.Before going on the trip, students prepare camping gear and read papers regarding the general geology. During the trip, they wake up each day and work on mapping the geology of the region in the mountains. This involves measuring the orientations of rock units and describing their composition in a georeferenced framework. When the sun goes down, they hike back to camp, one group cooks dinner and one cleans dishes, and the others work on inking or digitizing their maps.
Professor Francis MacDonald spends the first few days modeling how to take observations and map the area. After this, he splits the students up into groups of 2 or 3 and divides up the mountain range for the groups to map in detail. Students will have a topographic base map and make observations on that map and in their notebooks. Students' areas overlap on the borders, so students have to be sure that their mapping of the borders matches overlapping groups.' Professor MacDonald notes that he often has to resolve disputes over borders.
After the trip, the students enroll in the spring semester class EPS74. (Note, however, that students are not required to take the class, since J-Term courses do not involve credit and thus are not considered official classes in and of themselves.) In that class, they compile, process,and interpret their data. Specifically, they digitize their maps using ArcGIS to create a single class composite map. They each individually write reports and create 3-D cross sections.