Student fieldtrip kicks learning off with a bang

2 March 2017

A new international field trip to New Zealand this year has given University of Queensland students a chance to study landscapes associated with volcanic eruptions, mountain building, earthquakes, landslides, and glaciations along an active plate margin first-hand.

PhD student in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Sarah Kachovich said students had a “fantastic time” during the 13-day field trip course, GEOS2110 Tectonic geomorphology of active plate boundaries, in February.

“We visited Auckland, Taupo volcanic zone, Wellington, Marlborough Sounds, Christchurch, Canterbury Plains, Aorangi, the Southern Alps, the Alpine Fault and Milford Sound” she said.

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences Head Professor Jonathan Aitchison, Professor Jamie Shulmeister and Dr Teresa Ubide co-ordinated the field trip course.

Professor Aitchison said the course gave students the chance to learn first-hand important geological concepts with experiences unavailable in Australia. 

“Students studied the origin and evolution of surface features in New Zealand's North and South Islands, influenced by deep-earth processes along an active plate boundary,” he said.

“Combine this with the effects of strong global climate fluctuations throughout numerous ice-ages and students were in one of the best places to study dynamic landscape evolution.”

Professor Aitchison said the course had demonstrated, with great success, the benefits of the recent school merger between the two former schools of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the School of Earth Sciences.

“We were able to provide an interdisciplinary course to a range of students with very diverse backgrounds, from law, urban planning, education to geology,” he said. 

Student comments about the course included:

Douglass Beck, in Christchurch: “So eerie seeing kilometres of driveways, street signs and lamp posts with no houses. By far the most interesting trip I've been on and a good motivation for my last few months of study.”

Breanna Evert, at the Tongariro crossing: “Luckily this active volcano only blew our minds.”

The newly formed School of Earth and Environmental Sciences conducts a range of overnight or longer intensive field trips in Australia and overseas to support student studies by developing practical skills.

Working in the field offers the chance to build knowledge, interact with environmental sites and tour active research stations. 

Students can explore the wonders of a range of fascinating landscapes and locations, including Heron and North Stradbroke islands, Gladstone and Mount Isa, Central and North Queensland, New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Professor Aitchison said the School’s international field courses offered students the chance to see first-hand just some of the global challenges the School was working towards meeting.

Group photo at The Neck, a sliver of land between Wanaka and Hawea Lake. (Credit: Clwedd Burns)
Group photo on a sunny day with Aoraki / Mount Cook in the distance. In the mid-ground are the distinctive blue coloured waters of the glacial feed Lake Pukaki. (Credit: Clwedd Burns)
Group photo in front of the Tasman Glacier, where students discovered the extent of the recent glacial retreat (Credit: Clwedd Burns)