University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Stay Connected

Find Safety Information

Field School Information

Fac. of Science IT Support


Undergraduate Program Information

Earth Sciences 118
University of Calgary
2500 University Dr NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4 Canada
T. 403.220.5184

GLGY 337 - Introduction to Geologic Field Methods

Course Desciption
The First Day of Field School
Eligibility & Prerequisites
Registration & Fees
Equipment & Supplies
Preparing for Field School

Course Description

GLGY 337 is an introductory geological field methods course (worth 1 HCE) that takes place off-campus for 16 days, normally in August/September prior to the start of the fall semester. There are usually 6 sections to choose from; each one has one professor, one graduate teaching assistant and spots for 18 – 20 undergraduate students. Additional faculty and staff may join your class on occasion. You will be working in groups of 2 – 4 students depending on the exercise of the day and for safety purposes. The Department provides transportation for all field school participants - you are not allowed to use personal transportation.

It is very important that you are on time each day, and that you are rested and prepared for a full day of fieldwork. If you sleep in, you will be left behind. You must bring food each day, as most localities are not near convenience stores or restaurants. It is recommended that you bring extra munchies in case the day’s activities run late. Bring appropriate clothing and lots to drink. Field localities and activities may be changed due to circumstances beyond the instructor’s control; dates will not change. All field activities and most assignments are completed within the published field school dates; however, some instructors may allow up to one week of additional time after the field course to complete the drafting or written component of certain exercises.

The learning objectives for GLGY 337 include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  1. Field survival and safety
  2. Orienteering and using a compass or GPS unit for location and positioning purposes
  3. Reading topographic maps and air photos
  4. Collecting geological field data (including strike/dip, trend/plunge, distance/thickness measurements, etc.)
  5. Creating and interpreting geologic maps and cross sections
  6. Reconciling the regional tectonic framework of the field area
  7. Report writing

All sections GLGY 337 have the same itinerary, as they all go to the same 3 locations and do the same exercises.

Click here to see the list of sections planned for GLGY 337 in the upcoming/current academic year.

The link above provides tentative information about dates, instructors, locations and costs for each section of GLGY 337. Final details will be provided to students via e-mail, D2L or on the first day of the field course.

IF YOU HAVE ALREADY REGISTERED IN GLGY 337 AND ARE UNSURE OF YOUR SECTION – FIND OUT! Check D2L or contact the Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Geoscience.

Back to top

The First Day of Field School

Every Geoscience field course begins with a MANDATORY Orientation and Safety Meeting in the morning of the first day. IF YOU DO NOT ATTEND THIS MEETING, YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO ATTEND THE REST OF THE FIELD SCHOOL.

Click here to see the Orientation and Safety Meeting schedule for the upcoming/current academic year.

The orientation and safety meeting is designed to deliver critical information to you to ensure that you are well prepared for field school. At this meeting, you will:

  • meet your instructor and TA
  • learn about general safety issues and the hazards in each field locality
  • review the emergency response plan
  • sign an informed consent form and provide your emergency contact information
  • learn about the general course structure and activities planned
  • purchase and sign out equipment

After the orientation and safety meeting, each section of field school then splits off into separate rooms to continue the orientation with each specific instructor and TA. At this time, you will review the itinerary for your section of field school and receive any additional instructions. If you are asked to act as a back-up driver, there will be further instructions on driving etiquette and the U of C’s driver authorization procedure.

The first day of GLGY 337 field school is often a full day – bring a lunch and sufficient water/drinks. It is quite possible that your section may begin some on-campus exercises on day one – come prepared with the necessary office supplies. It is also possible that you way spend part of the day off-campus in the field, so you may need some or all of your field equipment. Your instructor will provide you with details about what you should expect on day one prior to the start of your section of field school.

If you are unsure about some of the equipment you purchased, it’s a good idea to bring your backpack filled with your supplies on day one. Your instructor can go over it with you and give you advice on what you will need and what you might not need; or what will work and what won’t.

Back to top

Eligibility & Prerequisites

GLGY 337 is a required course for majors in the programs indicated.

  • Geology 333 or 311; and Geology 343 or 341; and Geology 381 and admission to programs in Geology or Geophysics or Applied and Environmental Geology or Environmental Science (Geology concentration) or Natural Sciences (Geoscience concentration) and consent of the Department.

GLGY 337 is now taken after second year, just prior to the start of third year.  Many students actually find that taking the first field school after they have taken the required 300-level courses is actually very beneficial.

Back to top

Registration & Fees

See Enrolment Services website. Be sure to note which section(s) you are interested in and provide your most up-to-date contact information (in case the Department needs to urgently contact you if a spot opens up at the last minute).

Because field schools take place off-campus and provide students with real-world learning experiences, they are very expensive (for both the Department and students). It’s a good idea to start saving money for your field courses right from day one of your university career, especially considering some programs have two required field courses.

The student costs associated with taking GLGY 337 include:

  • regular tuition and fees (~$600) associated with one half course (payable to the Registrar)
  • a supplemental fee of $1035 to cover your accommodation and transportation costs for 16 days (payable to the Registrar). Please see D2L for a detailed breakdown of costs.
  • Please see Course Listings for details:
  • a field school kit containing a pair of safety glasses, field notebook, a small dilute acid bottle and safety whistle is also included in your supplemental fees
  • food - highly variable depending on individual but do plan on spending ~$40 per day - direct cost to student during field school ( exception breakfast is included in accommodation fees for most hotels)
  • textbook (required; “Geological Field Techniques” by Angela L. Coe, Wiley-Blackwell 2010; available in the U of C Bookstore)
  • other equipment and supplies (see list below)
  • other field-related costs (including admission to parks and local attractions)

Back to top

Equipment & Supplies

Unless otherwise noted by your instructor, the following items are essential and must be brought every day:

  • watch
  • back pack (day-pack; one that is 25-30 L capacity is optimal)
  • sturdy hiking boots (“hi-top” to protect ankles; NOT steel-toed)
  • rain jacket and pants (a poncho is NOT good enough)
  • warm clothing (jacket, sweater or long-sleeve shirt, gloves, toque)
  • sun/rain hat
  • sunscreen
  • small first aid kit
  • driver’s license or other identification
  • health card
  • any medications that might be essential (e.g. epi-pen, inhaler)
  • cash to meet your needs for the day
  • lunch, snacks, juices and water (in plastic or metal bottle; 1 L minimum)
  • field notebook, safety goggles, small 10% HCL bottle, whistle (kit supplied to students on tutorial day) 
  • compass (supplied by department and signed out to students during tutorial day) 
  • clipboard for carrying maps and photos
  • large, clear plastic bag (zip-lock style) for your maps, in case of rain
  • geologic hammer (see below for more details)
  • hand lens and grain size card (available at U of C Bookstore)
  • navigational (square) protractor (available at U of C Bookstore)
  • rulers (15 cm and 30 cm; clear plastic)
  • pocket calculator (one that can do trig functions)
  • pens, pencils, eraser
  • coloured pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • textbook (“Geological Field Techniques” by Angela L. Coe, Wiley-Blackwell 2010; available at U of C Bookstore)

It is strongly recommended that you also have:

  • belt and cradle attachment for carrying hammer (and compass if using a Brunton)
  • small pocket knife
  • paper tissues
  • insect repellent
  • sun glasses
  • thin or medium black marker or ink drawing pen
  • graph paper
  • lined paper
  • tracing paper
  • stapler or paper clips and a few binder clips
  • camera
  • extra socks
  • extra food
  • extra water

DO NOT bring any of the following items to field school:

  • guests or pets
  • your own vehicle
  • a picnic cooler
  • your bike, skateboard or roller blades
  • chisels
  • flares or fireworks of any size, shape or colour
  • ‘bear’ spray or pepper spray
  • alcoholic beverages
  • recreational/illegal pharmaceuticals
  • firearms or weapons of any kind

The geologic hammer . . . a lifetime tool (unless you lose it . . .)      

There are two basic types of geologic hammer, pointed tip and chisel tip. Pointed tip hammers are thought to be more useful for crystalline or granular rocks, while chisel tip hammers are considered more useful for laminated or foliated rocks. Either is fine – it’s your choice. While the Department of Geoscience does not endorse any one product or vendor, you might consider one of these Estwing brand hammers:

  • E3-20PC: 20 oz, chisel tip opposite hammer, polished finish, nylon vinyl grip (standard weight & the favourite)
  • E3-24PC: 24 oz, chisel tip opposite hammer, polished finish, nylon vinyl grip (heavier weight, next favourite)
  • E3-12PC: 12 oz, chisel tip opposite hammer, polished finish, nylon vinyl grip (light weight rock tickler)
  • E3-22P: 22 oz, pointed tip opposite hammer, polished finish, nylon vinyl grip (standard weight)
  • B3-22P: 22 oz, pointed tip opposite hammer, painted finish, nylon vinyl grip (standard weight)
  • E3-14P: 14 oz, pointed tip opposite hammer, polished finish, nylon vinyl grip (light weight rock tickler)
  • B3-14P: 14 oz, pointed tip opposite hammer, painted finish, nylon vinyl grip (light weight rock tickler)

Unless you are prepared to care for it, do not buy a leather-handled hammer. The leather cracks and falls off if you do not wax is regularly (which makes the handle very slippery!). Nice tool, but not recommended in our dry climate. The hammers listed above all have steel handles with pliable nylon vinyl grips. Wooden handles are available, but are about the same price. The wool also tends to dry out and split after a few years.

You can buy geological hammers in Calgary, at better hardware stores and certain lapidary shops (i.e. House of Tools, Sears, Green’s Rock and Lapidary, Ribtor – check the White/Yellow pages for addresses and phone numbers). You may also want to special order from either or Both of these Canadian companies carry Estwing hammers, and they will send them to you quickly. If you bring an Estwing hammer to field school - put your name on it! There are other manufacturers of rock hammers, and you are welcome to choose, just be sure the hammer is designed for rock or masonry, not metals or wood.

Back to top

Preparing for Field School

One of the first things you need to do is ensure that you are officially enrolled in a field school. Be sure to consult an academic advisor if you are unsure of which field school(s) you need and if you have the appropriate eligibility and prerequisites. Once you are registered, make sure that you read through all of the information posted on this website and are aware of all policies, procedures, deadlines and dates. Each section of field school also has a D2L website – once you are registered and the site is updated, you will be given access to it. Your instructor will use D2L and/or e-mail to communicate important messages to you. Ensure that you update your e-mail address in the system to the one that is most reliable and that you use the most often. If you have a summer job, make sure that you speak with your employer to adjust your start/end date and get the necessary time off for field school.

Start saving up for field school as soon as you are registered.  GLGY field schools require that you pay for accommodation and transportation when you pay tuition.  Tuition and fees associated with a field course are due by the fee deadline for the semester in which the course is scheduled. It’s also a good idea to buy certain items several weeks in advance of field school. If you need to buy a brand new pair of hiking boots, you should plan to do so in time to be able to wear them in. To be mentally prepared for field school, you should buy the textbook at least one month in advance so that you can read it over.  Some items on the equipment and supply list are specialty items that may take some time to get – start collecting your equipment and supplies well in advance of field school.

Field school is a unique experience that can be mentally and physically challenging. Some students find that preparing the mind and body for working outdoors, in rugged terrains and all weather conditions is essential, especially if you don’t usually spend much time outdoors. Try exploring Calgary’s parks and walking trails over the summer months. Talk a walk in the rain to test your rain gear. Practicing hiking across rugged terrain in the mountains, being sure to choose trails with at least 600 – 800 m elevation gain. If your section will be camping, and you’ve never camped before, spend a weekend or a few days sleeping on the ground in a tent and cooking over a fire or gas stove. Read about the flora and fauna commonly found in your field school destination. Talk to your fellow students that have already taken a field school for hints and tips on how to make your field school experience the best possible.

If your instructor hasn’t contacted you by at least two weeks prior to the start of your field school, make sure that you contact them to ensure that it is still going on as planned. If it is, there’s not much left to do except attend the orientation and safety meeting, receive your field school kit, meet your instructor, TA and fellow students, begin your adventure, work hard, and have fun!

Back to top