Fieldwork, the backstage

In the last two centuries, geologists devoted a lot of time and energy to extensive field studies, aiming to understand the evolution of Earth. Direct observation in the field of structures and relationships between different types of lithologies, units of rock determined by physical characteristics and composition, provide geologists with important information on the formation and shaping of our planet. Field geologists can expect plenty of time outdoors. A field geologist is a very curious person and from the start of their career will have an innate will to spend time in direct contact with nature. This inevitable feeling, also known as nature fever, often evolves into a need for scientific discovery. The more a geologist goes into the field, the more he needs to spend time in the field in the future.

Releasing pressure on the rock. A big hammer doesn’t break your back but breaks hard rocks. However, Val, safety first!
Releasing pressure on the rock. A big hammer doesn’t break your back but breaks hard rocks. However, Val, safety first!


When a field geologist hears the call of wild and unknown landscapes, they starts looking at any available geological or topographic maps for the perfect areas to be investigated. Nowadays, other tools, such as satellite views, and aerial images can be used to first have a direct look at an area of potential study. A fundamental part of field geology now is having well identified targets, thus taking advantage of every single minute and not lose time in the field. For instance, we first planned our field work in Corsica in the laboratory. We were looking for preserved gabbroic rocks that are found in Monte Maggiore (Northern part of Corsica).

Valentin sharing his thoughts with Justine (left) and Carlotta (right). Disagreements and discussions could lead to a better understanding of a geological situation.
Valentin sharing his thoughts with Justine (left) and Carlotta (right). Disagreements and discussions could lead to a better understanding of a geological situation.

Once the study area is identified, a field geologist can leave for the established destination. However first (s)he needs to be well prepared for any inconvenience. A field geologist is not afraid of rain, trees, rivers, sea, and any natural or weather impediment. Good boots, rain coat and winter coat, comfortable and waterproof trousers, hat, glasses are just a few of indispensable materials a geologist has to take with him. Not just personal items are needed but safety equipment is also very important; gloves, sunscreen, a hardhat, and goggles are all important items required for a safe field excursion. Last but not least there is the necessary geological equipment: compass/clinometers, hand lens, notebooks, hammers, high-Viz jackets. Hammers are mandatory in any field trip where rocks samples are collected, always accompanied by properly used safety equipment. The backpack of a field geologist always tends to be completely full at the end of the trip. Samples often occupy more than a half of it, therefore a good geologist is always careful to pack only what is really necessary in the field.

Prof. Laura Crispini discovers strange features in the rock she sampled. The lens allows her to see details at the mineral scale.
Prof. Laura Crispini discovers strange features in the rock she sampled. The lens allows her to see details at the mineral scale.

In the field, geologists feel as if they are home; uncontaminated nature is their new home. Wind, rain, forest is not a problem. Although sometimes geologists might be considered crazy, they never go to the field alone. A great team is the best way to work fast and well. Sharing information, observations, and ideas is the best way to deal with both areas never investigated before, and with those outcrops that are still poorly understood.

These few tips on the backstage of field geology tell you what is essential for a successful trip. An important consideration is still missing, though: the contribution of seniors geologists. Junior geologists like us still lack experience and can take advantage of the knowledge that senior experienced geologists can transmit. The goal of any junior geologist is to become completely autonomous. We can just hope that one day it will be our turn to deliver what we know to the next generation of geologists.

And of course, have a great field trip! Tell us about your experiences in the field! If you want to know more about how to analyze the samples brought back from the field stay tuned for future posts.

Team picture at Monte Maggiore, Corsica. From left to right: Carlotta Ferrando, Justine Francomme, Prof. Laura Crispini, Prof. Elisabetta Rampone, Valentin Basch, and Dr. Giulio Borghini. Team picture at Monte Maggiore, Corsica. From left to right: Carlotta Ferrando, Justine Francomme, Prof. Laura Crispini, Prof. Elisabetta Rampone, Valentin Basch, and Dr. Giulio Borghini.
Team picture at Monte Maggiore, Corsica. From left to right: Carlotta Ferrando, Justine Francomme, Prof. Laura Crispini, Prof. Elisabetta Rampone, Valentin Basch, and Dr. Giulio Borghini.

Written by Carlotta, Justine, and Valentin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s