UW News

June 17, 1998

UW undergrads set for geology camp in Montana

News and Information

A six-week camp in the rugged Montana backcountry promises to transform 20 University of Washington undergraduates into full-fledged geologists. That’s a great reward for geological sciences professor Stewart McCallum, who has conducted the camp at least 20 times since the early 1970s.

The students leave Sunday for Dillon, Mont., a town of nearly 4,000 people about 65 miles south of Butte. There they will learn how to identify rock formations and how to make geological maps by superimposing contacts between those formations, along with other geologic features, on a topographical base map. They also will learn how to use global-positioning satellite information to make their maps more accurate.

The camp, a required course for geology majors, runs through Aug. 2. It will include several lengthy mapping projects and field trips to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.

“We give them the field experience to back up what they learn in the classroom,” McCallum said. “We like to think it helps them to see the links that tie together all the information they have gotten from the classroom.”

The students, most near the end of their undergraduate careers, begin the camp by creating charts depicting stratified formations from different periods of geologic time. For instance, the Madison Formation, a dominant feature of the region, includes two different types of limestone and is rich in fossils. The Morrison Formation, from the Jurassic period, also occurs in the region. The Morrison Formation contains most of the dinosaur skeletons found in Colorado. However, in this area of Montana it is much thinner, so dinosaur finds are exceedingly rare.

“But last year we found a major dinosaur bone in the Kootenai Formation, which is right above the Morrison,” McCallum said. “That’s one of the little bonuses. You never know what you’re going to find. The students get pretty excited when they find something like that.”

The camp might sound like fun, but McCallum said it’s also arduous labor. Students spend eight to nine hours a day, six days a week, in a hot, dry climate trudging along steeply sloped, rocky terrain. They also are required to write reports that go with their maps and charts. They stay in dormitories at Western Montana College, along with student groups from several other universities.

“It’s far and away my favorite course,” McCallum said. “It’s hard work but the rewards are really tremendous. You can see the students actually start to become geologists.”

McCallum can be reached at mccallum@geology.washington.edu or (206) 543-9494 before Saturday, June 20. Beginning on Monday, June 22, he can be reached at the same e-mail address or at (406) 683-7011.

Name Hometown Name Hometown
Shon Bentley Bothell Mary Barnes Kent
Bryan Dreyer Seattle Nicole Huston Seattle
John Mowery Longview Scott Riegel Billings, Mont.
Scott McDonald Spokane Steve Rankin Seattle
Rebecca Cordingly Seattle Steve Moon Seattle
Kurt Krigbaum Tacoma Ian Shaw Billings, Mont.
Jennifer Adleman Arlington, Mass. Suzanne Steffens Benton City
Zachary Morgan Bothell Ellen Maier Redmond
Tina Gary Seattle Alyssa Beck Kirkland
Gretchen Moore Kirkland Mike Costello Bellevue