2nd Year


This seven-day field course focuses on the Mesozoic (Triassic–Cretaceous) sedimentary rocks deposited during the development of the Wessex Basin and the younger Cenozoic (Eocene) rocks of the Hampshire Basin. The rocks are spectacularly exposed in cliff sections along the East Devon and Dorset coastline, and are examined at Budleigh Salterton, Ladram Bay, Lyme Regis, Charmouth, West Bay (Bridport), Portland, Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and Hengistbury Head (near Bournemouth). The focus is on the sediments and the fossils they contain, with a view to interpreting ancient environments and the origin of the sedimentary basin in the context of Mesozoic and Cenozoic earth history. Also of interest are the geological conditions that led to the formation of oil reserves in this region.

The trip reinforces many fundamental aspects of geological observation and acquisition of field data that were introduced in year 1. In the evenings, time is spent analysing data collected during the day, and learning about related research studies in this area.

What students say about this field course:

‘An enjoyable trip. I particularly felt that I engaged well with the geology.’ (2016)
‘Loved this field trip – the demonstrators were particularly fantastic!’ (2016)


The far north-west of Scotland is an area of classic geology, containing one of the first major overthrust zones to be recognised, and an area of intensively studied Precambrian gneisses widely regarded as a model for the nature of the lower continental crust. The course has a number of objectives:

  1. Training in a variety of geological mapping techniques involving a range of rock types and geological settings, including highly deformed rocks and metamorphic terrain, in preparation for students’ independent work.
  2. An opportunity to link the study and description of rocks in the field with examination of the same rocks in the laboratory.
  3. A study of the geological evolution of north-western Britain through about three billion years of Earth history.
  4. The acquisition, processing and geological interpretation of gravity and magnetic data.

The principal focus of the course, however, is on recording information, and on the techniques of geological mapping. Mapping is one of an Earth scientist’s most fundamental skills. It comprises the ability to record and interpret the three-dimensional patterns and relationships of rock bodies, and to work out the sequence of events that formed them. As part of the training, students learn:

  • to record information in a field notebook: descriptive notes and measurements of thickness, distance, orientation.
  • to make detailed and clearly labelled sketches of features seen in outcrop, with interpretation.
  • to record outcropping rock types, measurements and other data on field slips – copies of topographic base maps taken into the field.
  • to make interpretive sketches of the geological features of a large area by making “sky-line cross-sections” from panoramic views.

We learn and practise a variety of mapping techniques:

  • Mapping an area of a few square kilometres by visiting essentially all outcrops and tracing out geological boundaries by observation and inference.
  • Walking a traverse across a succession of rock types, collecting information for constructing a geological cross-section.
  • Mapping well-exposed areas of outcrop in detail by pace-and-compass traverse and grid mapping.
  • Logging sedimentary successions in continuous coastal outcrop.
  • Mapping and measuring folded and metamorphosed rock sequences, and inferring complex three-dimensional structure.

On return from the field, students learn to compile a final version of the geological map from their field slips and recorded data, adding further interpretation in the form of cross sections and an account of the geological history. The field centre at Inchnadamph provides laboratory space to follow up field observations by studying the rocks of the area in hand specimen and under the microscope.

This course also includes professional instruction on fieldwork safety and survival in remote and rugged terrain.

What students say about this field course:

‘All the demonstrators were excellent.. they really encouraged me to ask questions, which greatly benefited my understanding.’ (2018)

‘(…)the material was well taught and I now feel much better prepared for the mapping project this summer!’ (2016)