Geological Field Methods

  • Dr. Joyashish Thakurta leads a class discussion

    Before embarking into the field, students in Dr. Thakurta's GEOS-5390: Geological mapping course receive some in-class instruction to prepare them for the sights they will see and the exercisesthey will perform.

  • Student performing measurement in the field

    A student takes a Strike-and-Dip measurement to determine the orientation of the rock body.

  • Dr. Gillespie leads a discussion in the field

    Students in Dr. Gillespie's GEOS-4380: Field studies in geology class learn about the unique landforms of Michigan's Upper Peninsula while standing on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior.

  • Dr. Thakurta's class observes a landform

    Dr. Thakurta and his students observe an outcrop at Marquette Mountain.

The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences offers a 3 credit hour field course during summer I each academic year. The length of this field course is either 2 or 3 weeks depending on your major. 


GEOS 5650 — Geological Field Methods (1 week)

This Field Methods course will focus on both traditional field mapping techniques as well as new, emerging technologies such as satellite GPS, GIS, Digital Tablets, Smart Phone Apps and Drone observations. Students taking this course will gather geological field data, correctly enter it into a notebook (both traditional and digital), and then be able to use these data to produce a geological map and make appropriate geological interpretations of the area. This module will be required for all students wishing to take GEOS 5660 and GEOS 5670. It will be conducted both on the WMU main campus and within the immediate surrounding area. Introduction to “Field Methods” is applicable to a variety of STEM disciplines, and is designed to fill the requirements for continuing education credits. Local field trips are required.

  • Prerequisites: GEOS 1000 or GEOS 1300, with a grade of “C” or better; or instructor approval.
  • Credits: 1 hour

GEOS 5660 — Geological Field Studies (1 week)

This course introduces students to the tectonic setting, rock types, geologic history, geologic hazards and resources, landforms, and surficial processes found throughout the Michigan region. Field observations will be used in conjunction with previous classroom lessons to develop a more complete understanding of landscape evolution, rock-forming processes, and structural rock-deformation. Emphasis will be placed on how various observations are combined to make geological interpretations, and how the geological history and evolution of a region can be interpreted from field data. There is a multi-day, overnight field trip required.

  • Prerequisites: GEOS 5650 and (GEOS 3350 or GEOS 3010), or instructor approval. GEOS 5650 may be taken concurrently. A grade of “C” or better is required to satisfy any course prerequisite.
  • Credits: 1 hour

GEOS 5670 — Geological Field Mapping (1 week)

This course will train students how to inspect rock outcrops in the field, collect geological data using approved field methods and how to record those data both manually and digitally. They will learn how to make geological maps and geological cross-sections employing those collected data. They will then, in turn, become adept at interpreting rock mineralogy, associated textural characteristics, rock structures, and deformation changes to reconstruct the geological history of the study area.

  • Prerequisites: GEOS 5650, GEOS 5660, and (GEOS 5430 or GEOS 4300); or instructor approval. GEOS 5650 and GEOS 5660 may be taken concurrently. A grade of “C” or better is required to satisfy any course prerequisite.
  • Credits: 1 hour

tuition and fees

Summer field course costs

Information about tuition and fees for the summer I semester can be found by visiting the Registrar's Office website.

Additional expenses

Lodging and transportation

Lodging includes camping for State Parks and several nights in a dorm at Northern Michigan University. Transportation will be via WMU-provided vehicles only.

Meals and incidentals

These expenses will vary depending on each individual's needs. Meals can be purchased at the NMU Student Union, in restaurants or be prepared at campsites. Incidental expenses will be for supplies, laundry, etc.


Formal admission for non-WMU students is not required for this course; non-WMU students may participate by filing for Permission to Take Classes (PTC) status. Additional information will be supplied upon request.


For questions about course structure, content or scheduling, contact:

For questions about registering for a course, contact:

  • Dr. Michelle Kominz
    Undergraduate advisor (all programs, except earth science education and secondary integrated science education)
  • Dr. Duane Hampton
    Undergraduate advisor (earth science education and secondary integrated science education major)