Geology field courses

Geology students, Dartmoor National Park

The field is the best natural laboratory for developing a real understanding of all aspects of the subject. Led by our expert field geologist staff, field work allows you to put into practice theories learnt in lectures, seminars and lab classes.
You will become an experienced field-worker, able to apply academic knowledge and skills to a range of Earth science problems. You will develop skills, which will serve you outside of geology, such as team work and independent learning.

Plymouth provides you with opportunities for extensive overseas fieldwork. Building on UK-based fieldwork in your first year, you begin your second year with a trip to the Spanish Pyrenees. During second year fieldwork, you will hone your geological mapping skills for your final year project. Field courses are compulsory in years 1 and 2, while year 3 will see you undertake local fieldwork, with overseas options available. Your selection will reflect your geological interests, putting theory into practice in order to investigate the geological history of a region. Subsequent field trips take advantage of exceptional geological environments in order to further your field knowledge.

“The overlapping diversity of disciplines here at Plymouth makes it a great place to study geology, and our fantastic geological backyard is ideal for an outstanding range of fieldwork experiences.”

Professor Iain Stewart MBE
Chair in Geoscience Communication
Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute

<p>Dartmoor #157602818</p>
<p>Death Valley National Park</p>
Death Valley, USA

Current field courses

Year 1 

Dorset and Cornwall. Get field experience early in your degree through day trips and a short residential field course. These trips help you to understand stratigraphy and Earth history, covering key skills such as sedimentary logging, field sketching, rock descriptions and geological mapping. 

North Devon. Visit wild coastlines and moors to practice geological sketching and hand specimen identification of a range of rocks and minerals. You will undertake a simple geological mapping exercise, study world class structural geology and develop your observational skills. 

Year 2 

Spanish Pyrenees. In Ainsa you will focus on sedimentary rocks deposited in a deep marine environment, and in Benasque you will look at granite intrusion and folded strata. This trip focuses on refining the skills you will need to complete your mapping dissertation.

Pembrokeshire (Wales). The focus of this trip is to further develop geological mapping expertise, using the dramatic landscape and geology of St David's Head, where you will be set the task of mapping a section of coastline and moor in an independent mapping exercise. Subsequently you’ll undertake a series of exercises tailored to your mapping camp destination.

Year 3

Death Valley (USA) (optional). This trip takes in active faults, volcanoes and awe inspiring landscapes in the area around Death Valley, which lies to the south of the major continental rift system of the Basin and Range Province. Here we can see in detail how extensional tectonics interact with climate to control surface processes, geomorphology, stratigraphy, geological hazards and resource distribution. This area also includes the sites of recent, and potentially future, volcanic activity, including the Long Valley Caldera, one of the most carefully monitored volcanic areas in the world. We also examine the interaction between human activity and the environment in such a tectonically active and hot, arid region.

Sicily (optional). This field trip gives an introduction to volcanology. Not only will you visit an active volcano and learn about its four distinct evolutionary phases, you’ll also visit the Etna Volcano observatory to meet the geologists who monitor this volcano daily.

Year 4 (MGeol only)

Dartmoor and Somerset

Year 4 fieldwork is currently split into two separate specific projects. Each project involves short intense field data collection followed by laboratory analysis of the field data and synthesis of results and interpretation either as a report or a group oral presentation. One project is related to digital data collection techniques to address the issues of emplacement of the Dartmoor granites. The other project critically evaluates the evidence for tectonic verses salt-controlled evolution of structures and stratigraphy in North Somerset and analogues in the North Sea basin.

<p>Death Valley, Geology field courses</p>
Death Valley, USA
<p>Geology field courses, Death Valley USA<br></p>
Death Valley, USA

"The third year trip to Sicily was the most striking as the ability to see geology in action by climbing the active volcanoes Etna and Vulcano, and studying their respective impacts on the geological record was amazing."

BSc (Hons) Geology student

Etna volcano, Sicily


<b></b>Spanish Pyrenees<b></b>

Spanish Pyrenees
<p>Clearing 2019 - students on Dartmoor with climbing instructor</p>