FA Field Camps

Knowing what you are getting into is very important, so we have outlined some of what we see as things you would want to or need know.

What does a typical field day look like?

Our field modules are quite different, given the landscape, instructors and the progression of skills you are developing. Our field camp modules build on each other, with greater autonomy developed throughout each module and in the field camp.

Due to the variability below are some outlines / descriptions of some typical field days in our geology programme.

A field day example from our first introductory module at Westport

This module provides foundation training in field skills and mapping. This day plan is from mid field camp where students are starting to undertake geological mapping of a sequence exposed along the coastline.

Breakfast and packing lunch at 7am. Field and safety briefing at 8am followed by departure for the field. Short (15 min) drive to Gibsons Beach. Gather into field groups to determine scale and North on our geologic base maps. As a group work our way down to the shore platform and start at our first geologic mapping outcrop. Start the geologic mapping process working our way along the shore platform describing geologic units, taking strikes and dips. In the morning we will stop for morning tea, and later lunch. We will then work through the afternoon until 5pm. The group will then meet back at the vehicles and head back to the Westport Field Station.  A short free time break when getting home prior to dinner at 6.30/7pm followed by desert. A short discussion on stratigraphic columns and calculating stratigraphic thickness using Pythagoras theorem, followed by an evening of drafting a schematic stratigraphic column.   

Group discussion at our first outcrop when mapping the coastal exposure at Gibsons Beach

A field day example from our third module mapping on the Kaikoura Peninsula

This module further develops and tests your field mapping skills on the Kaikoura Peninsula. This module description is from Day 4 in this module.

Breakfast and packing lunch at 7am. Field and safety briefing at 8am followed by departure for the field. Short (15 min) drive to South Bay. The group splits into independent mapping groups or 3-4 members, with each group having been predetermined and having planned their mapping routes the night before hand. As independent mapping groups the timing of breaks, duration at and number of outcrops is up to the group. FA staff are with you in the field, “floating” amongst the groups, providing guidance and answering questions throughout the day. Field mapping typically finishes around 5pm (earlier in winter due to conditions and loss of light). In the summer field days at Kaikoura are commonly finished with a swim at one of the sandy beaches. Dinner and desert at 7pm. Evening work is comprised of transferring working field map information to a final paper geological map.

A mapping team taking strike and dips in South Bay, Kaikoura Peninsula

What level of fitness is required for field camp?

Our field camp is quite varied from modules out in open mountainous landscapes to days travelling in a van to coastal outcrops. For many students our modules with field mapping at Castle Hill Basin and Kaikoura Peninsula is a test on fitness. These field areas are relatively vast, however you have multiple days to map to map take on the area, allowing you take on hills, rivers, trails at your own pace. In terms of a distance covered in a day, this is defined by you and your mapping team, a typical day might involve over 5km of hiking.

An aspect to consider when you are in the field is what you will be carrying in your backpack. We recommend you have at least two nalgenes with you (it is summer in NZ and the sun is intense), your lunch, snacks, sunscreen, wet weather gear (as in NZ the weather can change very quickly) and room for rock samples and rock hammer. All of these things add up and over the first couple of days can be a bit off putting. Once in the swing of field mapping these aspects become reduced and you really start to enjoy the field environment.

How should I prepare myself for the field camp?

Keep yourself fit and healthy. If you have any injuries try to get on top of these and have an effective management strategy for these while you are on field camp. This also goes within any medical and mental health conditions – have a plan, bring any required medications, if in doubt consult your own medical professional and get their advice.

Get yourself a great pair of hiking boots, the higher the ankle the better support.

Get a really comfortable backpack that has adequate storage capacity – think could I fit everything listed above in my bag? Having an uncomfortable backpack can really spoil your experience of being in the field. We suggest a 30L or 40L backpack.

Have an awesome set of wet weather gear. You will not just use this on the field camp but get the most use out of it in one of your many adventure while here in New Zealand.

Get a sun hat. NZ’s sun is intense and can cause heatstroke pretty quickly. A hat is a must when outdoors in New Zealand during the summer months.

Water. Don’t bring water with you, but bring at least two nalgenes (i.e. 2 Litre capacity) or equivalent (i.e. 2L + Camelbak).

If you want great photos bring a camera. Cell phone cameras are pretty good, but a camera is a research tool when it comes to geological sciences.