Geology Student Completes Prestigious Field Camp
October 14, 2016
A senior from San Angelo, Dunlap knew she needed to complete some sort of field experience to graduate, so she shot for the big time and landed one of only 29 available slots in the Lehigh University Field Camp, one of the most competitive college field experiences in the country.
“We started out in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and over the span of four and a half weeks, we went all the way to Mackay, Idaho,” Dunlap said. “So it was 7,000 miles round-trip. We were doing fieldwork, we did a lot of hiking and we camped the whole time. We were definitely roughing it.”
This year’s field camp consisted of four instructors leading Dunlap and another student from Texas, four from Washington and 23 from East Coast schools on a driving, hiking and camping trip through the Bighorn Basin, Tetons, Yellowstone National Park and areas of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Their fieldwork consisted mainly of observing and mapping the geology of different areas with regard to how the land has been shaped by various phenomena, including glaciers and rivers.
“We did a lot of glacial mapping and observing geological effects from the Quaternary Period,” Dunlap said. “We mapped alluvial fans, glacial moraines and river terraces to see the dynamics of the landscape and how it is changing.”
ASU’s New Family Honors Program Enhancement Fund helped Dunlap pay for her trip, but she still had to supply and carry her own equipment.
“I took my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, all the clothes I was going to wear,” Dunlap said, “plus my backpack that I use for fieldwork.”
“I definitely should’ve done some extra training in advance because I was not used to the elevation,” she added. “I tried to get in some running beforehand, and I thought my training at ASU would be enough because we hike a lot on our field excursions. But it wasn’t enough. This trip wupped my butt, that’s for sure.”
“What’s awesome about the ASU geology program is that we get to go out in the field a lot…I’ve really been able to add a lot to my research”
But around all the work, there was also time for the campers to explore national parks, go fishing and get up close and personal with the local wildlife.
“We saw lots of moose,” Dunlap said, “and lots of gophers and chipmunks. I saw a wolf when we were in Yellowstone, and that is the scariest thing I ever saw. We also saw a lot more snakes than I was expecting, as well as a lot of horny toads, which was cool to see all the way up in Wyoming. But we didn’t see any bears, thank goodness!”
Dunlap’s favorite story from the trip happened during the final days while make their toughest hike up the side of a mountain in Idaho.
“I’m just a klutz,” she said. “Combined with not being able to breath or get enough oxygen to my brain because of the elevation – I fell in the river. It was an ice-cold river up at the very top of the mountain. That’s the funniest story for me personally, and I think everyone else thought it was pretty funny, too.”
Having survived her “Maigan vs. Wild” experience, Dunlap is now back at ASU, where she is scheduled to graduate in May 2017. In the meantime, she is staying busy with her involvement in the Honors Program, Honors Students Association and GEO geology student group. Later this year, she will present her research at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Seattle.
Outside of her work on campus, Dunlap enjoys hiking with her new buddy, a blue heeler/shepherd-mix puppy named Wilson. She also tries to set a good example for her younger sister, Katie, a sophomore geology major at ASU.
After she graduates from ASU, Dunlap plans to study paleo-ecology in graduate school on her way to a Ph.D. and a career as a university professor – and she is confident that ASU has her well prepared.
“What’s awesome about the ASU geology program is that we get to go out in the field a lot,” she said. “Add to that the things I learned at the Lehigh Camp, and I think I’m more well-rounded as a geology student. I’ve really been able to add a lot to my research.”