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Nature’s classroom: Students make discoveries, memories in Southern Appalachian Mountains

This article was originally posted on Apr 12, 2012, re-posted on Jun 11, 2012

2012 Geology trip
On the shore of Lake Chatuge in northeastern Georgia: (L-R) Brian Schrock, Jonathan Erdahl, Julia Gregory (front), Jeri Grevis, Rachel Domaoal (front), Julia Ross, Monica Galarowski (back), Caroll Karns, Becca Garst, Jacob Galloway, James Fisher
“Coming back down a mountain is the hardest part,” says Olivet geology major Jeri Grevis.

Jeri learned this — along with how to better identify rock types, how to use geological equipment and how to cook creatively while camping — during the recent field trip led by Dr. Charles Carrigan ’96, geology and chemistry professor. Assisting him was Ryan Alexander ’07, adjunct physical sciences professor.

Not your typical tourist attractions

Using Google maps and his trusted GPS, Dr. Carrigan carefully planned the route—with some special considerations: finding examples of the geological features he’d talked about in class; travel times; places to stay, get food and buy gas; and seeing multiple sites each day.

The trip itinerary included the Valley and the Ridge in eastern Tennessee, and the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. Along the way, the group spent three nights camping in tents and cooking their meals outdoors, one night in cabins, and two nights in a conference building at the East Tennessee Nazarene campground.

Highs and lows of the natural world

Having fun while learning on this trip were:
• Geological engineering majors Jonathan Erdahl (junior, Tinley Park, Ill.); Becca Garst (senior, Peotone, Ill.); and James Fisher (junior, Wales, Mich.)
• Geology majors Jeri Grevis (sophomore, Crown Point, Ind.); Caroll Karns (junior, Burlington, Wis.); Julia Ross (freshman, Mahomet, Ill.); and Jacob Galloway (senior, Gilman, Ill.)
• Chemistry major Julia Gregory (junior, Roscoe, Ill.)
• History major Monica Galarowski (junior, Orland Park, Ill.)
• Elementary education major Rachel Domaoal (junior, Bremerton, Wash.)
• Teaching assistant Brian Schrock (senior, geology major, Houston, Texas)

They enjoyed many interesting experiences together, including:
• Climbing Mount Le Conte — the tallest mountain in Tennessee at 6,593 feet — near Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
• Exploring Ocoee River Gorge in southeastern Tennessee
• Experiencing the beauty of North Carolina’s Whitewater Falls, the highest falls in Eastern America at 411 feet
• Visiting an active quarry operation in northeast Georgia

“In one place, we stopped to look at rock formations. On the other side of the road, there was a makeshift landfill, an old dump,” Dr. Carrigan says. “Couches, tires, televisions and junk had been thrown into a little valley. Students got to see the bad alongside the good that day.”

Making memories while mapping

“The first couple of days, it was so cold that I couldn’t take notes in my field book because my hands were shaking so much,” Jeri says. “Then I stepped in mud up to my knees, and I was covered from the knees down. I was still muddy when we went to a restaurant for dinner that night.”

“One success was that I unraveled the mystery of the Brunton compass on this trip,” Jon says. “I really knew what I was doing with it this time. I used it to find the angles of a road cut when we were mapping the folds.

“I learned a lot more about geology on this trip than I could have learned in the classroom or by looking at pictures. Actually seeing everything helped me grasp the descriptions I’d heard. Field trips are a necessity for learning geology, and also a lot of fun!”

Acres that comprise Olivet's beautiful, park-like campus in Bourbonnais, Illinois