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Ohio State University geology majors and faculty gather behind Temple Hill in Manti for real-world geological studies through the school’s Field Geology Program. OSU has maintained a field geology camp in Sanpete County for 70 years. The camp is a place where OSU students and faculty have applied classroom principles to real-world geological problems and conducted geological research since 1947.

 

Snow and Ohio State geology teams, faculty hold reunion

Event Marks 70th year of joint field school

Robert Stevens

Managing editor

6/22/2017

EPHRAIM—What began as the brainchild of the first man to geologically survey Sanpete County has blossomed into a successful academic partnership between two colleges that has lasted for decades.

Since 1947, the Ohio State University Field Geology Program has conducted a geology camp in Sanpete, with Snow College as host. Dr. Terry Wilson, who has directed the field camp a total of 24 years, has organized a reunion where nearly 100 alumni and faculty, former and current, are celebrating this year’s anniversary.

“Now, 70 years later, we still operate a strong program from our Ephraim base. I think it’s a testament to the program’s success that so many people are attending it from all over the country,” Wilson.

The program was founded by OSU’s Dr. Edmund Spieker, who drew upon his experience from 20 years prior for the idea. Spieker had been commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey in the 1920s to complete the first geological mapping of Sanpete County.

When Spieker selected Sanpete and Snow College as the location of the OSU field station, Wilson says, he envisioned the site would be a professional training-ground for undergraduates and a base for geological research for graduate students and faculty.

Wilson says Spieker’s goals have been amply met and, thanks to that fact, there is a long list of undergraduate and graduate theses and dissertations, as well as journal publications, about the geology of the Sanpete Valley region. Many of those can be accessed at www.guides.osu.edu/earthsciences/utah.

Wilson’s first year as field camp director was 1987. Although she has not acted as director for every single year since then, and she is planning on retiring soon, she says she has countless fond memories.

“I love coming out each year with a new batch of students and introducing them to, not only the local geology, but Ephraim, our host Snow College and the rest of Sanpete,” she said. “We have had nothing but adventures.”

1,635 students have completed their capstone geologic experience over the last 70 years in the Sanpete-based field geology course, says Wilson. She says the area is “a fascinating setting for ongoing geological investigations,” and provides a proper location to apply classroom principles to real geological problems.

One of those former students is Snow College’s own Renee Faatz, who is an assistant professor of geology. Faatz describes the field camp as a capstone of OSU’s geology program where OSU geology majors put what they have learned in the classroom to practical use in interpreting geology and constructing geologic maps.

Wilson says the OSU geology field camp continues to be generously supported by Snow College, as it has been from the beginning.

“We rely on access to Snow computer labs for short exercises designed to enhance 3D visualization and complete structural analyses,” Wilson said. “Our colleague and OSU alum Renee Faatz continues to lead the geology program at Snow, and supports us in myriad ways.”

In 70 years, the course’s duration has been shortened from 10 weeks to six, and the format of the course has changed. But its philosophy, Wilson says, remains the same: to “put the responsibility to see, to think, to relate, and to conclude onto the student, rather than have teachers point and tell,” as Spieker said at the time.

“The 70th anniversary of our Field Camp in Utah provides the opportunity to reflect on the value of our field program, provide input on future prioritization of field programs, and to endow [our] field camp for the future,” Wilson said.

“I would particularly like to convey to Sanpete residents how much the Ohio State University geology program has appreciated the welcome we have received over all these years. We are thankful that numerous landowners in Sanpete Valley continue to allow us access to their properties for our class activities—some still remember Dr. Spieker.”

Wilson says she’s not sure if the field camp will continue for another 70 years, funding being her biggest worry.

“Every state is ‘cut, cut, cut’ these days, so there is that concern” Wilson said. “But we are one of the oldest continually operating geology field camps in the country, and we think the fact that we have had the support of our host and partner Snow College is a big part of why we run a successful operation here.”

Wilson says she feels the program does have a few decades of life in it still, with the support from Snow and alumni. Petroleum discoveries in Sanpete County have been made, and Wilson says the OSU alumni who work in the oil, gas and related industries are very supportive of maintaining the program.

Dr. Edmund Spieker performs the very first geological survey of Sanpete County sometime in the 1920s. Years later, while a professor at Ohio State University, Spieker returned to Sanpete when he established OSU’a Field Geology Program. The program’s professors and students have been coming to Sanpete every summer ever since, and is celebrating its 70th anniversary here this week.