Environmental and Geological Field Studies in the Rocky Mountains (on hiatus in 2018; not accepting applications)

UPDATE: Sophomore College regrets to announce that the Rocky Mountains course is on hiatus for 2018 and is not accepting applications.

The ecologically and geologically diverse Rocky Mountain area is being strongly impacted by changing land use patterns, global and regional environmental change, and societal demands for energy and natural resources. This field program emphasizes coupled environmental and geological problems in the Rocky Mountains, covering a broad range of topics including the geologic origin of the American West from three billion years ago to the present; paleoclimatology and the glacial history of this mountainous region; the long- and short-term carbon cycle and global climate change; and environmental issues in the American West related to changing land-use patterns and increased demand for its abundant natural resources. In addition to the science aspects of this course we will also investigate the unique western culture of the area particularly in regards to modern ranching and outfitting in the American West. These broad topics are integrated into a coherent field-study as we examine earth/ environmental science-related questions in three different settings: 1) the three-billion-year-old rocks and the modern glaciers of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming; 2) the sediments in the adjacent Wind River basin that host abundant gas and oil reserves and also contain the long-term climate history of this region; and 3) the volcanic center of Yellowstone National Park and the mountainous region of Teton National Park. Students will complete six assignments based upon field exercises, working in small groups to analyze data and prepare reports and maps. Lectures will be held in the field prior to and after fieldwork.  The students will read two required books prior to this course that will be discussed on the trip.

Important Logistics

This course involves a ten-day backpacking venture in the Wind Rivers and hiking while staying in tents near Jackson Hole, Wyoming and in Yellowstone National Park. Students make their own arrangements to arrive in Salt Lake City on Monday, September 3. Hotel lodging will be provided for the night of September 3, and students will be met by the SCAs and Professor Chamberlain on the morning of September 4. Thereafter students will travel as a Sophomore College group, with travel being arranged and covered by the class. The class returns to campus on Friday, September 21.

This course may have expenses not covered by the program fee:  for some students it will be more expensive to travel to Salt Lake City than to Stanford; not all students already own personal gear such as hiking boots or thermal underwear (bigger items such as tents and sleeping bags can generally be borrowed). If Financial Aid recommends that you receive assistance with the program fee and you are accepted to this class, then we will also invite you to request financial assistance with those expenses. Consult our page about money for more information.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Page Chamberlain

Professor of Geological Sciences

Page Chamberlain received his Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics from Harvard in 1985. He is a professor in the Department of Earth System Science. His research is in isotope biogeochemistry. He has worked in the Rocky Mountains, Tibet and the Himalayas, Mongolia, and the S. Alps of New Zealand.