Home > SEMINARS/FIELD TRIPS > 2015-2016


Junior Class Field Trip

New York City Behind-the-Scenes Infrastructure (September 30 – October 4, 2015)

Sponsors: University of Notre Dame, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences


Organizers: Diane Westerink, Joannes Westerink

Purpose of this trip: To expose students to some of the biggest and most innovative infrastructure design and construction efforts going on in the United States; to provide an opportunity to see first-hand that the need to rebuild our often failing infrastructure is huge; to learn about the complexity of the structural, transportation, water resources, and environmental projects that keep our nation productive, efficient and healthy; and to interact one on one with project and design engineers. These trips help students see the wide range of opportunities available to become innovative leaders and also help connect the classroom to the outside world.

Fall Geology Field Trip - Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Organizers: Jeremy Fein, Melissa Berke

Purpose of this trip: The 2015 Fall Geology Field Trip introduced students to the geology of the iron and copper ranges in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Emphasis of the trip was on understanding the regional geology before, during, and after the formation of Proterozoic banded iron formations and the Marquette Mineral District, as well as the copper deposits of the mid-continent rift as seen on the Keweenaw Peninsula. A wide range of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock types and geologic structures are studied, and the trip includes a structural geology field exercise. Prior to the trip, there were lectures on the regional geology, and each student had prepared a presentation on one aspect of the geology that was seen in the field.

Spring Geology Field Trip - Meteor Crater/Sunset Crater/Grand Canyon/Death Valley/Red Rock Canyon

In the Spring 2016 semester, Prof. Simonetti led the week-long (Spring Break) undergraduate field trip to several spectacular locations within the southwestern USA. The first stop was Meteor Crater, Arizona. Meteor Crater formed as the result of a collision that occurred ~50,000 years ago between an asteroid traveling 26,000 miles per hour and our planet. Meteor Crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. Next, the group visited the Grand Canyon, Arizona. The Colorado River has carved the Grand Canyon into four plateaus of the Colorado Plateau Province. The Province is a large area characterized by nearly-horizontal sedimentary rocks lifted 5,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level. From ~1,200 million years ago (late Proterozoic), 13,000 feet of sediment and lava were deposited in coastal and shallow marine environments. Mountain building ~725 million years ago lifted and tilted these rocks. Subsequent erosion removed these tilted layers from most areas leaving only the wedge-shaped remnants seen in the eastern Canyon. The group subsequently made a quick stop at Sunset Crater Volcano, located a short distance southeast of Grand Canyon National Park. Sunset Crater is the youngest in a line of volcanoes within the San Francisco volcanic field. The 340-meter-high cone erupted ~1000 years ago and produced a blanket of ash and lapilli covering an area of >810 square miles, and forced the temporary abandonment of settlements of the local Sinagua people. The group then traveled to Death Valley, California. The geology of Death Valley spans almost 2 billion years and has recorded various periods in Earth’s history, from tranquil marine environments to recent periods (few million years ago) of rifting and tectonism marked by faulting and volcanic activity. Students were exposed to fundamental geological concepts that include faults, dipping beds, folds, magmatism/volcanism, and recognition of different types of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks types. Lastly, the group visited Red Rock Canyon (Nevada), located immediately to the west of Las Vegas. About 180 million years ago, the area west of Las Vegas was completely arid, similar to today’s Sahara Desert. A giant dune field stretched from Red Rock Canyon NCA eastward into Colorado, and windblown sand piled more than a half mile deep in some locations. Shifting wind patterns left a record of curving, angled lines known as crossbeds within the Aztec Sandstone. Atmospheric exposure has caused oxidation of the Fe-bearing minerals in some areas, giving the rocks their red and orange colors. A significant geological feature of Red Rock Canyon NCA is the Keystone Thrust Fault, which is part of a large system of thrust faults that extends north into Canada and began to develop ~65 million years ago.