Dating Dinosaurs, Reading Rocks

Ceri R. '16 Course 7A & CMS
Monday, September 22, 2014

The EAPS Department Fall Field Trip provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with the geology of central Massachusetts.

Read this entry in the MIT Admissions Blogs

Towards the beginning of the school year, my friend Rachel R. '16 forwarded me this email:


On Saturday September 13th and Sunday September 14th, I will lead our “annual” field trip to central Massachusetts. This trip is intended for all members of the MIT community and will involve a brief introduction to the geology of Massachusetts and visits to spectacular places in the central part of the state. We will see dinosaur footprints, 200 million year old rift-deposits with astronomically forced cyclicity, glacio-fluvial deposits from ca. 10-15 thousand years ago (including varves), and metamorphic rocks that formed at ca. 10 km depth in the crust. We will depart MIT at 8:00 AM on Saturday, camp at Barton Cove, and return at approximately 1-2 PM on Sunday.

Everyone is invited to participate. Camping equipment is available, if needed. For those that do not want to camp Saturday night, a van may be able to return to MIT by 7 PM. Please let me know if you would like to come or at least be included on subsequent emails regarding the trip. We can always use volunteers from the faculty and students to help out and/or co-lead and welcome ideas for new field trip stops. Let me know if you have any questions.

Traditionally we have had a great turnout amongst grad students, staff as well as new undergraduates. Please come along and tell anyone you know in the MIT community that they are welcome. It is a great opportunity to meet new people and talk about geology! We don't have infinite space as this is a tough weekend for van rentals so sign up early and reserve a space!


I've always had some curiosity about geology (since I took an Earth Science elective in high school), love hiking, am very quickly becoming more interested in studying more macrobiological things (so this gives a taste-ish of field work), had a really good friend who graduated in Course 12 last year (and I'm pretty sure she specialized in geobiology... I hope I got that right), AND I'm trying to do more new things in college. Because college. So Rachel and I decided to sign up for the trip together!

This video is pretty much just a compilation of me squinting at the camera a couple times, bits and pieces of scenic hikes, and clips of Sam Bowring talking about awesome/exciting geological features and rocks while cars rudely decide to drive by and mess with my sound quality. I tried to fix what bits I could, but my priorities this weekend were finishing other homework and trying to get this up before midnight, which prevented me from nitpicking while editing. Which is probably a good thing.

Basically, if you take anything away from this, it's that Course 12 is underrated by MIT undergrads (there are so few per year!) and that rocks are cool. Also camping and hiking--they're cool too.  And, lastly, as much fun as one may have while getting away from campus for a weekend, it can also get cold and rainy and cause n00bish vloggers to wince at the camera unintentionally (I'm working on this whole photogenic thing).



Photos via EAPS Flickr photostream (All photos credit Helen Hill or Judy Pu as noted)

The EAPS Department Fall Field Trip provides the opportunity to get up close and personal with the geology of central Massachusetts. Within a two-hour drive from MIT participants discover 200 million-year-old dinosaur footprints, lava flows and sandstones (some with fish fossils) deposited during the early stages of the rifting of North America from Africa, deposits of sand and gravel from melting glaciers, glacial lake deposits, evidence for starkly different climate in the past, and much, much more. Designed to be an introduction to how geologists see the earth and read the rocks, the goal of this overnight trip is to encourage participants to think about the processes that shape our world, how processes are recorded in the rocks, and how we can deduce earth's history.

The route from Boston to central Massachusetts passes through an impressive, and perhaps unexpected, variety of geologic environments: A diversity reflecting the long, complex, and incredibly interesting geologic history of northeastern North America. The group camps overnight at Barton's Cove on the Connecticut River where they enjoy a barbeque and campfire activities.

Sunday morning is spent exploring the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College before returning to campus early in the afternoon.

This annual trip is free and open to the entire MIT community including alumni and friends.


Sam Bowring

Learn more about Professor Bowring's work in this video bio