The University of Texas Institute for Geophysics Marine Geology and Geophysics Field Course

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Dan Duncan, Marcy B Davis, John A Goff, Sean P S Gulick, Kirk D McIntosh and Steffen Saustrup Sr., University of Texas, Institute for Geophysics, Austin, TX, United States
The University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, part of the Jackson School of Geosciences, annually offers a three-week marine geology and geophysics field course during the spring-summer intersession. The course provides hands-on instruction and training for graduate and upper-level undergraduate students in high-resolution seismic reflection, CHIRP sub-bottom profiling, multibeam bathymetry, sidescan sonar, several types of sediment coring, grab sampling, and the sedimentology of resulting seabed samples. Students participate in an initial three days of classroom instruction designed to communicate geological context of the field area along with theoretical and technical background on each field method. The class then travels to the Gulf Coast for a week of at-sea field work. Our field sites at Port Aransas, and Galveston, TX, and Grand Isle, LA, provide ideal locations for students to investigate coastal processes of the Gulf Coast and continental shelf through application of geophysical techniques in an exploratory mode.

At sea, students assist with survey design and instrumentation set up while learning about acquisition parameters, data quality control, trouble-shooting, and safe instrument deployment and retrieval. In teams of four, students work in onshore field labs preparing sediment samples for particle size analysis and data processing. During the course’s final week, teams return to the classroom where they integrate, interpret, and visualize data in a final project using industry-standard software such as Echos, Landmark, Caris, and Fledermaus. The course concludes with a series of final presentations and discussions in which students examine geologic history and/or sedimentary processes represented by the Gulf Coast continental shelf with academic and industry supporters. Students report a greater understanding of marine geology and geophysics through the course’s intensive, hands-on, team approach and low instructor to student ratio (sixteen students, three faculty, and three teaching assistants). This course (to our knowledge) remains the only one of its kind, satisfies field experience requirements for some degree programs, and provides an alternative to land-based field courses. www.ig.utexas.edu/research/mgg/courses/geof348K/