Skip to main content

Undergraduate Study

Fieldwork in Geology

All of our geology degree programmes provide excellent experience of working in the field, taught by academics who specialise and excel in field-based research.

These are fantastic opportunities for travel and studying your chosen subject in exciting locations, and double-up as superb occasions to get to know your peers and lecturers better. Students undertake a compulsory* field-based module in each year of study to ensure they are confident using geology field skills.

Please note that field course destinations are subject to change.

Cornwall is home to world-class examples of igneous, metamorphic and structural geology that are visited every year by numerous university geology departments from the UK and across the globe. Whilst the students at these universities must make the long journey to Cornwall to explore its geological riches, you will benefit from having all of this on your doorstep.

In your first year of study during terms one and two, we will teach you all the core skills needed to collect data during field work on nine one-day fieldclasses to a range of iconic localities reached with no more than one hour’s drive.

In your second year there are seven one-day fieldclasses integrated within core modules on structural, igneous and metamorphic geology, and sedimentology. When each day is done, you’ll be home in time for dinner and to enjoy the comfort of your own bed!

View our Flickr album to see images of our Cornwall one-day field classes

The first year geology fieldwork programme culminates in our Pembrokeshire Fieldcourse in West Wales. Pembrokeshire is home to a diverse and well-exposed coastal succession of predominantly Paleozoic rocks spectacularly deformed during the Caledonian and Acadian episodes of mountain building, roughly 370 - 500 million years ago. It is the perfect natural laboratory to cement and build upon your first-year training in field data-collection techniques.

By the end of your stay in Wales, you will have developed the skills and confidence to work independently as a field geologist and will be ready to tackle the more advanced challenges provided by our second year fieldcourse programme.

View our Flickr album to see images of our Pembrokeshire field work.

On the Dorset Fieldcourse we investigate the lifecycle of a sedimentary basin, the Wessex Basin, from its inception in the Permian to its demise in the Cenozoic. This field course makes use of UNESCO World Heritage site coastal exposures, including the Jurassic coast, to trace evolving environments from the sediments and fossils that accumulated across some 200 million years of Earth history.

On the fieldcourse you learn to place observations you make on the local palaeontology, sedimentology and structural geology, in the context of global changes that occurred at the time, such as massive volcanism, and we explore the sometime profound environmental effects that ensued. We also see how the combination of environmental changes and plate movements led to the formation and trapping of hydrocarbons in what was one of the largest onshore oilfields in Europe.

The Isle of Skye in Northwest Scotland is the second largest island in the Hebrides. Its diverse and extensive geological history, high levels of outcrop exposure and upland terrain make it a spectacular location for honing your skills in field geology.

This Fieldcourse pulls together the skills you have developed during your fieldwork experiences to date to teach you how to produce a geological map using exposure mapping techniques. The spectacular geology of the field area set against the backdrop of Skye’s Cuillin Mountains and the Scottish Highlands make this fieldcourse a challenging and highly rewarding experience.

View our Flickr album to see images of our Isle of Skye field work.

The Summer Vacation Project (SVP) is a third year module (CSM3379). It starts during the summer break after your second year exams with you carrying out your own independent fieldwork programme, and finishes in term two of year three with a report write-up.

Every geology student must complete a SVP and most students will choose to undertake an independent geological mapping exercise in the UK or abroad over five weeks. Alternative SVP options include an industrial placement working with a company in industry, or a research project in collaboration with one of the department’s world-class research groups. Recent examples of destinations include Iceland, Canada, Spain, Norway and the Scottish Highlands. SVP fieldwork is an experience of a lifetime and the skills gained through its organisation and completion are invaluable to your future career prospects.

The third year 10-day field course in Almeria, southern Spain, takes place in the beautiful Betic Cordillera which hosts world-class exposures of igneous (including volcanic), metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, and abandoned gold and other mines.

The aim is to bring together what you have learnt during your degree to carry out the type of activities that might be expected of a graduate exploration geologist or geotechnical engineer. You will undertake group-based and individual tasks to determine the levels and extent of subsurface mineralisation from drillhole data, analyse geotechnical aspects important to mine development, and/or assess any potential impacts on the environment from exploration activities through to mine closure.

Video of our 2018 Geology field course in Spain

View our Flickr album to see images of our Southern Sopain field work.

Cyprus hosts some of the most spectacular field geology in Europe, including a complete section through the crust and upper mantle of a former ocean basin, jumbles of rocks brought together as a result of continental collision, sedimentary sequences which record changing depositional environments in the eastern Mediterranean, a variety of mineral deposit types, and evidence of past and very recent and dramatic earth movements.

The aim of this third year 10-day field class is to bring together what you have learnt during your degree to carry out the type of activities that might be expected in a geology-facing job role.

View our Flickr album to see images of our Cyprus field work.

Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands, belonging to Spain but located off the coast of northern Africa. The island is home to world-class geology, volcanology and ecology, and Teide volcano national park is a designated World Heritage Site. This  third or fourth year field course focuses on geohazards, centred around the impressive central volcano of Teide.

On this field course you will develop your independent field research skills, whilst exploring themes related to: geohazards and their geological deposits; geophysical and geochemical hazard monitoring; geothermal and hydrothermal processes; tectonic landscape evolution; and hazard and risk. The module will also equip you with vital transferable skills, developing communication and interpersonal expertise.

View our Flickr album to see images of our Tenerife field work.

*If you have mobility or health disabilities that prevent you from undertaking fieldwork, reasonable adjustments and/or alternative assessment is possible. This could include replacing a fieldwork module with an alternative learning experience.

Photo slideshow of our Geology field work and field courses

Geology Fieldwork