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Stanford EARTH Field Program


The School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences recognizes that field-based education is both a fundamental component of general undergraduate education and an integral part of an earth scientist’s and engineer’s professional development.

Field-based education provides students with hand-on experience understanding earth’s dynamic processes and developing their observational, spatial, and problem solving skills. Topics topics include Earth History, California Geology, Coastal Ecology, Geologic Hazards, Human-Environment interactions, Energy Resource Production and many more.  Experiences take the form of field trips associated with lecture courses, stand-alone field courses, and quarter-long field schools comprised of multiple field courses.

There are field experiences available at all levels of experience and background.  Some of them are designed for upper level undergraduate majors and graduate students but many are explicitly designed for students with little or no background who just want to learn a little about the natural world and our interactions with it.

Stanford University’s close proximity to spectacular geological  and ecological areas provide a wonderful opportunity for diverse field-based educational activities and programs. Below is a selection of stand-alone field courses that are often offered and accessible to both majors and non-majors.




Upcoming Field Opportunities for 2017-18

Fall Quarter

  • EARTH 15/GS 5: Living on the Edge (Section 1: Oct 14-15, Section 2: Oct 21-22). A weekend field trip along the Pacific Coast for freshman. Tour local beaches, geology, and landforms with expert guides from the Department of Geological Sciences. Enjoy a BBQ dinner and stay overnight in tents along the Santa Cruz coast. Get to know faculty and graduate students in the Earth Sciences. Preference given to freshmen. Contact Prof. Elizabeth Miller for more information.
  • EARTH 42: Landscapes and Tectonics of the Bay Area. (Autumn 2018) An Introductory Seminar with weekly afternoon field trips to explore active faulting, erosion, and landscapes around Stanford. Contact Prof. George Hilley for more information. 

Winter Quarter

  • GS 183: California Desert Geologic Field Trip. Two class meetings during Winter quarter followed by a 6-day field trip over Spring Break to Mojave Desert, Death Valley, and Owens Valley. Basin-and-range faulting, alluvial fans, playas, sand dunes, metamorphic rocks, granites of the Sierra Nevada, lava flows and and the deposits of supervolcanic eruptions, hot springs, ore deposits, and desert landscapes. Involves camping and moderate hiking. Contact Prof. Gail Mahood for more information.

​Spring Quarter

  • ENERGY 101A: Energizing California. (April 20-21) A weekend field trip featuring renewable and nonrenewable energy installations in Northern California. Tour geothermal, bioenergy, and natural gas field sites with expert guides from the Department of Energy Resources Engineering. Contact Prof. Roland Horne for more information.
  • EARTH 193: Natural Perspectives. (Spring, May 25-28, 2018) 4-day field trip over Memorial Day weekend that combines exploration of regional geology, ecology, and environmental history with guided drawing exercises. Students will gain an understanding of the natural processes shaping California, acquire new skills and techniques for artistic expression, and gain an appreciation for how scientific and aesthetic perspectives complement and enhance one another in the study of nature. No previous scientific or artistic experience is required. Contact Richard Nevle for details. 
  • EARTH 1C: Know Your Planet: Science Outside: (Spring, Two day-long field trips, dates TBD) An introduction for Freshman and non-majors to field science.  Students learn and implement hands-on skills for conducting research "in the field." No previous field-work experience necessary. Focuses on the local geology, geomorphology, soils, ecology, and marine biology surrounding the Stanford campus. Along the way, we will also practice basic skills, from hiking to critical thinking, essential for conducting science outside of the controlled environment of the lab. This class is all about learning by doing, so be prepared to get your hands dirty and your feet wet while enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. 
  • GS 105: Introduction to Field Methods. Two-week, field-based course in the White Mountains of eastern California. Introduction to the techniques for geologic mapping and geologic investigation in the field: systematic observations and data collection for lithologic columns and structural cross-sections. Interpretation of field relationships and data to determine the stratigraphic and deformational history of the region. Contact Prof. Marty Grove for more information.

​Autum/Winter/Spring Quarters

  • EARTH 191: Stanford EARTH Field Courses. A 1-unit stand alone field course that is offered occasionally. It can be offered any term and is usually over a long weekend.  Topics and locations vary depending on instructor.  It may be repeated for credit.  Contact Ryan Petterson for more information.

Other ways to get out in the field:

The Wrigley Field Program in Hawaii is an interdisciplinary field school which immerses students in a 10-week long investigation of the geological, environmental, and ecological processes shaping the Hawaiian Islands. The program was first offered during the fall quarter of 2010 and will continue to be offered in alternate years (next offering in Autumn 2018, application available December 2017). Contact Ryan Petterson for more information.