The undergraduate geoscience experience typically culminates in a field-based capstone course
that utilizes outcrop mapping, geologic observation, and interpretation across multiple
disciplines to provide the graduating geologist with fundamental field-mapping skills. However,
due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the field-based geoscience programs have been temporarily
suspended or shifted to an online format. To address the demand for graduating seniors in the
broad field of geoscience, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology developed an
innovative hybrid course consisting of two parts: (i) a 14-day online course on geological field
methods, followed by (ii) a 15-day in-person geologic mapping course based out of Rapid City,
South Dakota, USA. Analysis of this new hybrid course provides a benchmark on how to develop and
execute field-based geoscience education with greater accessibility to field geology through a
combination of online and face-to-face teaching. Our hybrid course model was taught during the
first summer of the pandemic (28 June to 28 July 2020), and this experience provided the
following insights: (i) there are four key stages to leading a field camp over a five-month
timeline: development, logistics planning, implementation, and review; (ii) key decision makers
and stakeholders in the process include the students, instructors, field-camp logisticians,
campus dining and housing facilitators, field-station director, department chair, provost, and
the Board of Regents; (iii) logistics, transportation, accommodation, and dining services
require advanced levels of consideration to adequately address COVID-19–related risk and
uncertainty; (iv) online teaching and exercises can address geological field methods, but they
cannot adequately assess a student’s ability to map geology in the field; (v) field-mapping
exercises need to be adjusted to reduce the number of people in one field area and lower their
interaction to support social-distancing guidelines from relevant government and health
authorities; and (vi) plans need to be put into place for overall health and safety as well as
contingency plans in the event of an outbreak before and during the field camp. We hope that
this experience of delivering a geology field camp during the COVID-19 pandemic is useful in
providing a benchmark on reasonable field-camp practices, identifying critical successes and
unknowns, and guiding field-camp development during pandemics. We also hope this contribution
will serve as a useful guide for universities and businesses that intend to engage in
face-to-face activities during this time of uncertainty.
Manuscript received 4 Sept. 2020. Revised manuscript received 13 Nov. 2020.
Manuscript accepted 2 Dec. 2020. Posted 5 Jan. 2021.
© The Geological Society of America, 2021. CC-BY-NC.