Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Department Field Trips

The Department runs Field Courses that are integral parts of our Programs and Modules; in addition, we run field trips that are a part of specific courses, as well as trips that are not for specific credit but nevertheless provide important breadth of experience.

Western students examining sedimentary structures on the Canadian East Coast, ES4450Y 2010

Earth Sciences 2250Y: Whitefish Falls, Ontario. This course is held from May 1-11 each year. The field camp takes place near the village of Whitefish Falls, which is on the north shore of Lake Huron, approximately 25 km south of Espanola. The region is underlain by Precambrian (meta)-sedimentary rocks of the Huronian Supergroup, which is an up to 12 km thick Paleoproterozoic (2.4 – 2.2 Ga) succession, deposited on the southern margin of the Archean (>2.5 Ga) Superior Province of the Canadian Shield. The Huronian Supergroup forms part of the Southern Province of the Canadian Shield. To the east, the Huronian rocks are truncated by the northwestern edge of the Grenville Orogen or Province, which represents a continental collision that terminated at about 1.0 Ga. On its southern margin, the Southern Province is overlain unconformably by a thin succession of fossiliferous Ordovician (~480 Ma) rocks that regionally dip gently (a few degrees) to the SW and form the NE margin of a large circular structure called the Michigan Basin. The main task of participants in the field course is the production of a geological map and stratigraphic sections of local areas. Additional tasks include sketching a road outcrop, examining fossiliferous limestones, and measuring crossbeds for paleocurrent analysis. Students will participate in one-day field trips to Manitoulin Island and the Sudbury area, which is famous for being the site of a large meteorite impact that took place approximately 1.85 billion years ago. It is also world-famous for its economic deposits of Ni and Cu.

Earth Sciences 3350Y: Sudbury area, Ontario. This course is held from May 1-11 each year. A field school in a deformed metamorphic region. Emphasis will be on mapping techniques at large scales (from individual outcrops to macroscopic scales). The students will learn how to identify, measure, and document geological features at the outcrop scale and to make connections between outcrops. They are required to understand the structure of their map area in three-dimensions and to establish a kinematic synthesis for the history of their map area.

Earth Sciences 4001Y: Planetary Sciences Field School. Field study of the geology and biology of various Moon/Mars analogue sites in North America. The main focus of the course will be an 11-day residential field experience examining various localities in northern Arizona and southern Utah, to take place in late April/early May. This region of the southwestern United States is a world-renowned environment for comparative planetology; the Apollo astronauts were trained there in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Field stops will focus on meteorite impact cratering (e.g., Meteor Crater, AZ; Upheaval Dome crater, UT), volcanism (e.g., Sunset Crater volcanic field, AZ), and canyon and valley formation (e.g., Canyonlands National Park, UT). Many of the locations to be visited are considered world-class terrestrial analogues for the Moon and Mars, such as Meteor Crater: the best-preserved meteorite impact crater on Earth. The goal of this course is to provide students with an interdisciplinary field studies experience with an emphasis on comparative planetology through the study of terrestrial analogues. Terrestrial analogues are places on Earth that approximate the geological and environmental conditions on the Moon, Mars and other planetary bodies, either at the present-day or in the past. This course will introduce students from a wide range of backgrounds to various aspects of planetary science, with an emphasis on planetary surface processes. The topics of astrobiology and planetary materials will also be integrated into this field program. Cross-listed with the Planetary Science 9605 graduate course.

western university at meteor crater
Western students doing planetary science fieldwork at Meteor Crater, Arizona, ES4001Y 2014

Earth Sciences 4450Y: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This course is held in early September each year. In Maritime Canada, the trip encompasses the Opening of Iapetus Ocean, represented by the passive margin succession of the Meguma Group, and including various volcanic island arc volcano-sedimentary successions. The Acadian Orogeny is represented by major granite plutons (South Mountain Batholith) and attendant thermal metamorphic aureole. A post-orogenic Mississippian strike-slip basin is represented by evaporites and limestones of the Windsor Group, and by lacustrine deposits of the Horton Group. A Pennsylvanian strike-slip basin is represented by the Boss Point and Joggins formations. Late Triassic Rift basins related to early Atlantic opening are represented by playa-lacustrine-braided river deposits of the Wolfville and Blomidon formations. Triassic axial and marginal alluvial fan systems are also seen in New Brunswick in the context of complex compressive-extensional fault reactivation and unconformity development near St. Martins. Earliest Jurassic rift-related basaltic vulcanism is represented by several hundred metres of stacked lava flows of the North Mountain Basalt, see north of Wolfville N.S. and at Five Islands, N.S. The Minas Geofracture (plate-scale strike-slip fault zone) that separates the N American (Avalon Terrane) from Gondwana (Meguma Terrane) is seen near Parrsboro N.S., including exotic mega-blocks of deep crustal rocks. The effects of strike-slip transpression are also seen in paleo-earthquake features in Pennsylvanian strata and in an inverted stratigraphic succession seen in a flower structure near Saint John N.B., and in recumbent folds and thrusts near Tynemouth Creek, N.B. Precambrian gneissic basement underlying Cambrian sediments are seen in Saint John. Every stop (about 25 in total) involves observation and description of the rocks on hand, followed by local and ‘big-picture’ interpretations. Local mapping exercises are conducted in at least three localities, involving structural/sedimentary relationships, graphic logging and intrusive-host rock mapping.

Earth Sciences 4451Z: Geophysics Field School, Eastern Ontario. An off-campus Geophysical field school providing an introduction to geophysical techniques, including gravity, magnetic, seismic and electromagnetic methods. Classroom lectures, with accompanying outdoor sessions and field exercises. Offered in co-operation with other Universities, with participation from geophysical contractors. The course meets professional registration requirements for Field Techniques (Geophysics). The course takes place during a ten day period in early September in the Calabogie and Admaston areas south and east of Ottawa (roughly eight hours drive from London). Students completing the course will learn to operate proficiently basic geophysical instrumentation; to design and carry out geophysical surveys to meet industry needs in mineral exploration, environmental engineering and petroleum exploration; to reduce and interpret data arising from such surveys; and to communicate the results of the surveys through professionally written reports and presentations. Cross-listed with the Geophysics 9509A graduate course.

Seismic surveying near Calabogie, Ontario, Geophysics Field School, ES4451Z 2012

Earth Sciences 4452Z: International Field School. A thematic field course to a different international destination each year; the theme usually focuses on economic geology.

2015-16: Republic of Finland. Geology and ore deposits of the Fennoscandian Shield: gold mineralization, massive sulphide deposits (Cu, Zn, Au), chromium, and Ni-Cu-PGE mineralization.
2014-15: Dominican Republic. Volcanism, tectonics, mining.
2013-14: Sultanate of Oman. Semail ophiolite, copper and chromite mining, petroleum geology, coastal and continental sabkhas on the Barr Al Hikman peninsula, meteorites.
2012-13: South Africa. Bushveld Intrusion, Witswatersrand basin, Barberton greenstone belt, and Vredefort impact structure.
2011-12: Brazil. Paleoproterozoic orogenic domain of the northern São Francisco craton in Bahia State, Quadrilátero Ferrífero mining district in Minas Gerais State.
2010-11: Philippines. Metamorphic terranes, magmatic arcs, ophiolitic complexes, sedimentary basins in Northwestern Luzon.
2009-10: Turkey. Kirka mine, Koru deposit, Halilaga deposit, Ovacik deposit, Kisladag deposit, Ayazmant mine, Samli deposit, Kucukdere mine, Western Anatolia.
2008-09: Spain and Portugal. The Iberian Pyrite Belt.
2007-08: England: classic tin-tungsten mineralization in Cornwall and Devon.
2006-07: Cyprus. Troodos ophiolite.

Cross-listed with the Geology 9600Y graduate course.

Western students with their fingers on the Moho, Wadi Al-Abyad, Oman, ES4452Z 2014

Field Trips integrated with lab-based Earth Science Courses

Georgian Bay Geo-Traverse. A four day circumnavigation of Georgian Bay for second-year students to supplement laboratory instruction in ES 2200A, 2201B, 2260A and 2265A.

Bancroft area, Ontario. Weekend field trip to supplement ES 3313A (Igneous Petrology).

Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Weekend field trip to supplement ES 4460A (Sedimentary environments).

Kingston area, Ontario. Weekend field trip to supplement ES 4460A (Sedimentary environments).

Medway Creek and Western campus, London. Day trips to supplement ES 3340A (Hydrogeology).

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Day trip to supplement laboratory material in ES 2266G (Evolution of Vertebrates).

Various sites in SW Ontario. Four single-day trips to supplement ES2130Y. Lithosphere structure of SW Ontario, rock and drill core examination, Quaternary sediments, modern hydrology, postglacial and modern shorelines.

SEG Field Excursions

Each year, the Society of Economic Geologists (SEG) student chapter at Western typically organizes one or more, non-credit field trips to areas of economic mineralization. Trips in the last few years have included Nevada & Arizona, the southern Appalachians, the Adirondacks, Southeastern California, Marquette Iron Ranges, and a traverse of the Kapuskasing High.

SEG 2015
Western students at the Grand Canyon, SEG Southwest USA Field Trip, 2015