1. Field camp isn’t for Mines students only.

Thirty students from Imperial College, London, joined 30 Mines geophysics students for field camp
in 2012. Together they collected data with the goal of characterizing the geothermal system of the Pagosa Springs, Colo., area. “And every year, it seems, we get ‘strays’ — one or two students from other schools,” said Geophysics Department Head Terry Young. A student from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, also participated in the 2012 field camp.

 

2. It’s a four-week program.

The first half of the session is held in the field and the second half on the Mines campus, where students process and interpret data for a final presentation.

3. Ordinary campers don’t pack like this.

Students at the Pagosa Springs study site needed equipment for geophysical methods such as deep and shallow seismic, gravity, electromagnetics, self-potential, resistivity and ground-penetratingradar to collect data. The department owns “the doghouse,” the trailer that houses the seismic recording system. Brian Passerella, lab and field coordinator, manages all of the department’s survey and radio equipment and keeps it in operating condition. It’s a full-time job. Equipment for the 2012 camp lled a 20-foot long moving truck from bottom to top.

4. It’s held during summer vacation.

Summer field camps are a longstanding tradition at Mines. But vacation? “Students get up early and stay up late,” said Young. “From daylight until dinner they’re working in the field. After dinner they’re working with instruments and getting a first look at data.” In addition, they’re all thrust into leadership roles, taking turns being responsible as “site boss” for the project.

5. All undergraduate students attend field camp, a required course, the summer before their senior year.

“By then they have a firm educational foundation,” said Young. “With this hands-on application in a real world setting, everything clicks into place.”

 

6. Graduate students also attend.

The Imperial College attendees last summer were primarily master’s students. Mines grad students also attend camp if they’ve had no previous field experience. Mines Geophysics Professor Andre Revil brought grad students and postdocs to camp, where they had a vested interest in gathering data that would help solve their research questions.

 

 7. The data is important to many.

“I love seeing how energized students get when they realize they’re making a difference to communities,” Young said. “They really want to make an impact.” A good example is the data that Mines researchers made available to residents of Pagosa Springs, who are interested in using geothermal energy to heat their business district, in addition to starting a geothermal greenhouse project and educating their community — especially their students — about geothermal energy. Field camp is returning there this summer to continue studying the geothermal potential of the area.

In years past, students have applied geophysical techniques to determine the presence of oil and gas in different areas, or the presence of water in other areas — matters of critical importance to those communities.

8. Safety comes first.

To get acquainted with one another and also to reinforce safety protocols, Mines and Imperial College students held a Geophysics Olympics on campus before departing for Pagosa Springs. “Once in the field, we always start with geology,” explained Young. “What are we working with? What can we appreciate from the surface?”

 

9. Michael Batzle leads the camp.

Young said Batzle, the Geophysics Department’s Baker Hughes Chair, “has a unique, natural ability for relating to local ranchers and farmers.” Batzle has led the camp for the last six years. “His style opens doors,” added Young. “He organizes town hall meetings for locals to hear what and how we’re doing.” During the 2012 camp Batzle and Revil were interviewed by the local radio station to provide information to residents about the field camp’s activities and objectives. Faculty and staff also and opportunities for field camp students to learn about the local culture, geology and history. The 2012 camp agenda included a visit to Chimney Rock National Monument and the Southern Ute Cultural Museum.

 

10. Dawn Umpleby makes it possible.

“Logistics are an enormous task,” noted Young. “Dawn is on site for field camp now instead of handling details from a distance.” Program Assistant Umpleby also organizes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach for the department by arranging for graduate students to visit area schools and talk with young students — the future workforce. Some visit the work site and get a hands-on lesson about geophysics.

 

11. Others help make the course extraordinary.

Many contribute to the experience. For instance, Bob Raynolds, a consulting geologist and research associate with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, gave a roadside tour on the way to Pagosa Springs that provided context and set a framework for the historic geology of the area. Included in the tour were stops at an alligator and tilapia farm — only possible in Colorado because of natural thermal heating in the region. In addition, Mines alumni and supporters are often camp visitors, as Jim Payne ’59 and Bob Albers were last summer. Industry, too, plays a major role. A great example is CGG, the Paris-based geophysical service company that provides vibroseis trucks and equipment for deep seismic exploration, and its subsidiary, Sercel, which donates a seismic recording system, complete with an expert to work with the system and teach students how to operate it. Mines faculty also collaborate with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation on each summer’s location and research pursuit, and often their representatives visit the camp.

 

12. Forget about the starving camper stereotype.

There’s always a barbecue and always the generosity of Mines supporters. For instance, a few years ago the camp traveled to the Estancia Basin east of Albuquerque, N.M., to examine the region for water sources. Vern Woods hosted the entire group on his ranch — with faculty members sleeping in a barn loft. Woods procured a huge barbecue and a smoker, which were used to feed the whole group breakfast and dinner, with lunch supplies also provided daily.

 

13. In the end, sharing is the most important summer camp lesson.

“In the past eight years or so, our field camps have taken on a strong research avor,” said Young. At the end of their two-week data analysis back on campus, students publish their work and give a final presentation of their ndings. Often clients attend. “This past summer we had a large delegation from Pagosa Springs,” said Young. Government

agencies — from the Department of Energy, an important sponsor, to the Colorado governor’s of ce — also benefitted from the geothermal study results. “We supply data for free to anyone who wants it,” noted Young.

 

14. It’s never forgotten.

“When we conduct exit interviews with our graduating seniors, field camp almost always comes up as a highlight of their years at Mines,” said Young. And years and decades later, alumni are still talking about it.