Field Training in California 2018

By Claire Asher

It’s been a lot of hard work, but London NERC DTP cohort 4 have finally submitted their PhD project proposals. After snowy scenes here in London over the last week, it’s time to take a break from the computer and get out into the field for the #DTPCalifornia Field Training Course 2018!

A Raven on Santa Cruz Island, California. Runner-up in the 2017 California Photo Competition, Biotic Category. Image by Matilda Brindle.

The annual 10-day California field course aims to give the first-year PhD students a broad introduction to field sciences and help them develop practical skills for studying biology and geology in the field. But their training doesn’t begin when we land. The students are involved in planning and organising the trip, and must prepare teaching sessions for each location we visit. It’s been their job to plan the itinerary, prepare more than 60 teaching sessions and activities, organise meetings and visits with local academics, and produce a field guide, posters and a plant ID booklet – all with the help of 10 staff members from across the DTP. 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.

Rock formations in California. Winner in the 2016 California Photo Competition, Abiotic Category. Image by Andrew Knapp.

Why California?

For the fourth 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, the Plutonic geology of Mt San Jacinto, and the remarkable desert ecosystem of the Mojave desert.

This year, as well as favourites from previous trips, such as La Brea, Carrizo Plains and the Hopkins Marine Laboratory, the students have arranged to visit the Salton Sea and spend a day at Pinnacles National Park. Students will visit the Channel Islands and the USGS Earthquake laboratory for a second year running.

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 more!

Keep an eye on the hashtag #DTPCalifornia to follow our updates on the road, and watch this space for California-themed blog posts from Cohort 4 after we return.

Here’s a map of our planned itinerary:

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