By Carol Woodland, Staff Reporter | Photo by Carol Woodland
New Mexico is full of amazing geological features and students who take Earth and Planetary Sciences courses are able to take advantage of the hands on approach to learning by participating in geological survey field trips.
John Rogers, professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences said that this semester there are six offerings within the department including a special topics course called Geology of New Mexico.
Rogers said he offers all students in Earth and Planetary Sciences the opportunity to take part in the field trips, and hopes to give students the opportunity to go on at least six field trips each semester in his classes.
“We’ve had two trips so far this semester, and we’ll probably have five more before the end of the semester,” Rogers said.
This semester students have been north of Albuquerque to Tent Rocks and to the east side of the Sandia Mountains to touch a geologic feature called the Great Unconformity.
There are also plans to visit the White Mesa area south of the Jemez, and to go on some trips with the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club, he said.
Students who go on the trips are able to collect fossils and minerals for themselves, and for those interested in collecting, the annual Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club trip to Bingham Mine near Socorro is not to be missed, Rogers said.
“We’ll collect barite, calcite, lead minerals, travertine; a whole bunch of stuff,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that while most of his trips are not too strenuous some of them may include several miles of hiking, so he lets students know beforehand how challenging the trips may be and what students need to do to prepare.
CNM is in a great location to study geology, as there are many different landscapes at each campus, Rogers said.
“Just walking between classes is a field trip. I’ve told my students that I don’t know of another campus in the world where you can see the diversity of volcanic features that you can see from CNM’s Main Campus,” Rogers said.
The Physical Geology and Earth History labs also offer students the chance to learn with hands on activities, he said.
Students in the Physical Geology labs are currently learning about geologic maps, and have also spent a lot of time this semester learning to identify different rocks and minerals, and are learning about how Earth’s geologic features work, Rogers said.
Studying geology offers students a chance to develop skills in other subjects as well, such as math and science, Rogers said.
“There is lots of math, biology and chemistry in geology, but you do not need to come in with a strong background,” he said.
Rogers said that while many students take one of the geology classes to fulfill a science credit, some are just taking it because they are interested in rocks, minerals and crystals, and some are pursuing geology as a career.
According to the US Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics website, bls.gov, the job outlook for geoscientists with a bachelor’s degree is promising, with a 16 percent increase predicted over the next eight years, which is faster than average for most occupations.
“Hopefully our classes sway some of those who were just taking it as a science class to maybe think about going that direction,” Rogers said.
Career possibilities include exploration for minerals or oil, working energy related fields, or environmental work, Rogers said.
“ P e o p l e don’t think of geologists as environmentalists, but a lot of us get work in the environmental realm working for private consultants, working for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and working for the New Mexico environment department ,” he said.
There are also jobs working for private consultants looking at geologic hazards and remediation of environmental disasters, as well as in education, Rogers said.
CNM’s Earth and Planetary Science classes all transfer to UNM, including the special topic courses, which, unlike some of the other special topics courses, are eligible for financial aid, Rogers said.
Rogers said that CNM will continue to offer the Geology of New Mexico class in addition to the Physical Geology class and Physical Geology Lab each semester on multiple campuses, Earth History and Earth History Lab, as well as the new Dinosaurs special topics course, which will only be held once or twice a year, he said.
“One of my goals is to just get students thinking about things that they see every day and maybe haven’t contemplated before. Like what is the origin of that hill sitting off in the distance? Is it a volcano?” Rogers said.