Olivet Geology Goes West

The Department of Chemistry & Geological Sciences took its biennial National Parks trip to learn from and explore God's creation.

This summer students enrolled in the geological science field course Geology & Geography of North American Regions traveled to the American West to study the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Plateau by exploring the national parks of the region.

Led by professor of geology Dr. Charles Carrigan ’96, the group of 12 students included Jacob Baker, Sara Bell, Sarah Christy, Ethan Dandurand, Breanna Gifford, Mitchell Goodknecht, Rachel Harmet, Matthew Ingison, Faith Quigley, Geneva Stuart, Joey Verbeeren and Michael Yerge.

“Looking up at the 400-foot-tall Great Sand Dunes with a mountain background was breathtaking,” said senior Joey Verbeeren. “One of the reasons I love geology is I get to experience and observe all that I have learned in hands-on opportunities. I was able to take what I have learned in the classroom and apply it to the world.”

The group spent two weeks exploring the West as they hiked through the valleys of Rocky Mountain National Park that were carved by glaciers in the ice age; viewed the massive cliffs of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park; visited the sandstone arches of Arches National Park; hiked the canyon trails at Bryce Canyon National Park; visited the lava tube caves at El Malpais National Monument; and observed the meltwater from the Sangre de Christo mountains shaping the sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Recent graduate Breanna Gifford ’21 also participated in the 2019 geology trip, but found new joy from experiencing the sights as an upperclassman.

“Taking this course my senior year, I was able to prove to myself all that I learned during my time at Olivet,” she reflected. “It was rewarding to be able to answer some of the other students' questions, and it grew my confidence, showing me that my education was worth it.”

The goal of the trip was to learn how to identify rock types and structural features; identify numerous landscape types, describe the geologic history; articulate ways that humans interact with the region, with an emphasis on natural resources, hazards and the preservation and conservation of resources; and describe the history, purpose and operations of the National Park Service.

While the biennial trip always focuses on geology, it is open to all Olivet students who are interested in studying the natural landscapes. Zoology major, Mitchell Goodknecht found the trip to be extremely enlightening for his own academic journey.

“One highlight of the trip was seeing the various dinosaur track sites,” he said. “I've loved and studied dinosaurs since I was a mere toddler and being able to walk along areas where their footprints remain tens of millions of years later was incredible! As a zoology student, animals are my passion, but I love both modern and prehistoric animals and the only way to understand animals of the past is to look through the rock.”

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Geological Sciences and all other areas of study, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photography: Dr. Charles Carrigan

Published 8/20/2021
LB