Field Training in California

By Claire Asher

Dire wolf at La Brea tar pits.

Dire wolf at La Brea tar pits.
Image copyright Angharad Jones

Our second cohort have submitted their project proposals, and it’s finally time to take a break from the computer and get out into the field for the #DTPCalifornia Field Training Course 2016! The 10-day field course aims to give the first-year PhD students a broad introduction to field sciences, including planning, preparation and teaching, as well as practical skills for studying biology and geology in the field. This year, we’ve given the students control of the trip – planning the itinerary, preparing over 25 teaching sessions, organising meetings and visits with local academics, and producing a field guide with the help of experienced staff from across the DTP. Out in California, the students will run their planned sessions themselves, passing on their specialist knowledge to the rest of the group, and offering the students the chance to learn from other disciplines. And this year, I’m lucky enough to be joining the students on their adventure across California!

A natural geological formation in the hidden valley at Joshua Tree National Park

A natural geological formation in the hidden valley at Joshua Tree National Park.
Image copyright Lowri Evans

Why California?

For the second year running, our field course will be exploring the geology and biology of California, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. California was chosen for the wealth of scientific interest it holds, from giant red woods in Sequoia National Park, to the incredible fossil collection at La Brea, near Los Angeles, the Plutonic geology of Mt San Jacinto, and the remarkable desert ecosystem of the Mojave desert. California offers the students the chance to cover topics ranging from conservation to ecology, marine biology, botany, structural geology, tectonics, sedimentation, anthropology, palaeontology, palaeoecology, evolution, entomology, hydrology, natural hazards, fault geology, animal behaviour, sexual selection, land use, environmental pollution, and many more.

Over the next two weeks, while we are enjoying the incredible geological and biological sites of California, here we’ll be posting some short blogs by the students on their experiences of the California field course. David Arnold will explain why he pushed for the La Brea tar pits to be in the itinerary, Rachel Devine talks about the steep learning curve in combining biological and geological entries to produce a field guide, and Daniella Rabaiotti from cohort 1 reminisces about her reptilian highlights from the trip last year.

Here’s an interactive map of our planned itinerary:

Click on the United States to zoom in to our detailed route. There, you can click on each site along the way to find out about the activities and topics we’ll be covering!

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