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Undergraduate Course Field Trips
including Freshman Seminars

Freshman Seminars


Faculty: Adam Maloof and Frederik Simons

In this Freshman Seminar, students learn how to make geological and geophysical field observations, then analyze and model the data to shed light on the interplay between active tectonic landscapes, changing climate, and ancient civilizations. During the fall-break students visit sites of geological and archaeological significance on Cyprus and collect material for subsequent analysis and presentation. Scientific writing is an integral part of this seminar and its assess ment. The field trip is mandatory. All expenses are covered by the University, the Geosciences Department, and a donation by Richard L. Smith ‘70.

Visit this seminar's website for more information. An extended slideshow is available.

Profs Maloof and Simons are veterans of the Freshman Seminar program: see the 2007-2009 edition Earth's Changing Surface and Climate, which was centered on field work in California.

Global change and the impact of human activities on the biosphere

Faculty: Anne M. Morel-Kraepiel, François Morel, Satish Myneni

See Freshman Seminar booklet or

Read about this seminar in the NEWS AT PRINCETON:
"Take a closer look at everglade restoration"

“ The Everglades are a test. If we pass the test, we get to keep planet earth. ” — Marjorie Stoneman Douglas.

A one-week field trip to the Florida Everglades during the spring break is mandatory to evaluate water quantity and quality in the context of geology, chemistry, and biology of the ecosystem. During this trip students observe the environment and collect samples that are subsequently analyzed in the laboratory at Princeton University. The resulting data is interpreted, synthesized, and written up for a final class report. Funds are provided by the Geosciences Department.

How Nelson Mandela can help us cope with Global Warming

Faculty: Samuel G. Philander

See Freshman Seminar booklet or
Discussions of global warming are polarized in part because laymen are expected to accept the words of the experts on faith, most of whom are either alarmists or deniers. There is a need to democratize the topic, the way Mandela democratized rugby. South Africa is an ideal place to explore ways to do this because it is a microcosm of the world, from the perspectives of climatologists, and also of social scientists and economists. It has very rich people, very poor people, an economy that depends on the burning of coal, and remarkable geography.
This freshman seminar will enable a few students of Princeton University, in collaboration with a few seniors at a high school in a slum of Cape Town, to develop ways to use the remarkable geography of southern Africa to democratize discussions of the scientific and social aspects of global warming. Students plan on devoting their spring break to the class trip to Cape Town, South Africa. This seminar is intended for both science and non-science majors. All costs of the field trip are covered by the University.

Course Field Trips

GEO 255 / AST 255 / CHM 255 / EEB 255

Faculty:  T. Onstott, E. Turner, L. Landweber

A one-week field trip during the semester break is optional. During this trip students visit, sample, and perform experiments on several of the many hot springs in and around Yellow Stone National Park (YNP) that are accessible and host a plethora of microscopic to macroscopic life forms living in a wide range of geochemical environments.  Students are provided with field notebooks and instructed on how to make field measurements, sketch what they see, and critically observe relationships between the biology and the geology of an active volcanic caldera. The microbial mats at YNP provide a portal through which students can glimpse the nature of Earth’s early biosphere and experience first hand life in extreme environments. Funds are provided by the Geosciences Department.

Evolution and Catastrophes

GEO 365

Faculty: Gerta Keller

A one-week field trip during the semester break is mandatory. During this trip students visit localities where rocks detail the transitions across major mass extinctions and climatic and environmental changes. They are actively involved in fieldwork, including digging trenches to expose fresh rocks, observing, describing and measuring rock sequences, and collecting sediment samples for analysis in the laboratory. Evenings are devoted to lectures, discussions of the day’s work and reports. The results of fieldwork and laboratory analyses form the basis for the term report. Past field trips have visited Mexico, Texas, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, and the Alps. Funds are provided by the Geosciences Department.


GEO 370 / CEE 370 / ENV 370

Faculty: A. Maloof

This course
has three regional weekend field trips designed to complement problem sets and take students to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Eastern Kentucky Appalachia, and the Catskills Mountains of New York. The fourth is a mandatory spring-break field trip with varying locations (e.g., Bahamas, New Mexico) where students focus on specific research projects that range from dune migration and tidal channel dynamics, to generating records of sea level rise in the Caribbean or climate change in the American West. The field data collected on this trip are the focus of the final research projects. Funds are provided by the Geosciences Department.

Earth Materials

GEO 372

Faculty: Blair Schoene

Students participate in a mandatory one-week field trip over fall break. In the field, students learn to make observations in both outcrops regional scale geology in order to untangle complicated tectonic and thermal histories recorded by rocks in the Earth’s crust and mantle.  Students visit modern continental rifts and active faults, super volcanoes, deep crustal terranes exhumed during mountain building, and granitic batholiths.  The centerpiece of this trip is to collect rock samples and field data that form the basis of the students’ final projects for the second half of the course. The field trip in the fall of 2010 visited New Mexico, though future locations may vary.  Funds are provided by the Geosciences Department.

Structural Geology

GEO 373

Faculty: Blair Schoene

This course involves numerous local field trips to observe rocks that were deformed during the Appalachian mountain building event, and one spring break field trip to a more distant location (SW U.S. such as Utah, Arizona, California or Nevada).  Students learn to observe and measure large and small scale structures and determine the mechanisms that deform Earth’s crust during episodes of plate tectonic interactions and mountain building.  Field work involves making geologic and structural maps in beautiful areas.