For would-be geologists, it’s all about how many rocks you’ve seen, the saying goes in earthy circles. Increasingly, safety issues and the associated insurance and other costs make field experience a dwindling prospect, said Jennifer Nocerino, program officer for the Geological Society of America, which just awarded Santa Barbara City College $10,000 in support of its Geology Field Camp run by Jeff Meyer.
“Our summer field camp program is the only (sophomore-level) field mapping program that I am aware of in the California Community College system,” said Meyer, an assistant professor with SBCC’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department. He gave the credit to Dr. Robert Gray, professor emeritus at SBCC, who began the field program during his 47 years of full-time teaching and who remains an adjunct professor. A couple of expeditions camp out each summer in areas like the mountains east of Bishop and the San Andreas Fault near Gorman. There, for three weeks at a time, students get field experience on mapping projects.
Among the criteria the Geological Society called out in awarding Meyer’s program was the attention to safety and the high number of students from diverse backgrounds. “The field camp course is a huge team effort,” said Meyer, who credits Geology department lab technician Eiko Kitao for “applying and re-applying” for the award, which is funded by ExxonMobil, and also lab and field tech Kevin McNichol. Kitao said the program helped her when she got to UCSB: “I had a good understanding of geologic processes, knowledge of terminology, and experience with field equipment,” she said, “and that gave me an advantage in my upper division courses at UCSB.”