May 2015


General information


Dan Morgan

Guil Gualda

Teaching Assistants:

Lydia Harmon

Samantha Tramontano


In this course, we will study Earth and Environmental processes and systems in the field, with an emphasis on field methods. In 2015, the course will be held in New Zealand, which will give us the opportunity to study a variety of topics in the Earth Sciences, including current and past volcanic activity, earthquake geology and hazards, geothermal energy, and glacial geology.

Motivation and goals


Rocks preserve the most extensive record of the evolution of the planet, from which we are able to retrace Earth’s history over 4.5 billion years, and field geology plays a particularly important role in decoding this complex record. In this course, we will learn the methods of field geology and will apply them to understand geologic processes at an active plate boundary in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We will study a variety of topics in Earth and Environmental Sciences in the field, by exploring the varied and diverse geologic activity of New Zealand. Topics will include current and past volcanic activity, earthquake geology and hazards, geothermal energy, and glacial geology.

Significant emphasis will be placed on natural hazards and resources in a geologically active region: we will study volcanic super eruptions and their deposits, associated hazards, and energy resources associated with magmatic systems in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the North Island; mountain building and destruction processes, effects of glaciers on landforms, earthquakes and associated hazards in the South Island. And we will do so while visiting much of New Zealand and exploring fantastic scenery in the South and North Islands. Part of the field work performed during the course will directly contribute to an active NSF-­‐funded project focusing on the evolution of super eruption-­‐forming magma bodies, and it will contribute to and benefit from active collaboration with faculty and students of Canterbury University.


The course will start in Auckland on May 03 and finish in Christchurch on May 29, 2015. We will be based in 2 different areas in New Zealand over the length of the course, and the topical focus will change accordingly:

AUCKLAND (North Island):

Introduction to geology: rock types, magmatism, metamorphism and deformation, mountain building, sedimentation

TAUPO and ROTORUA (North Island):

a. Volcanism in the Taupo Volcanic Zone: styles of volcanism, volcanic hazards, evolution of magma bodies at depth, magma eruption processes

b. Geothermal energy harvesting: origin of geothermal waters, methods of study of geothermal systems, economic use of geothermal energy

c. Field research of super eruption deposits, in connection with NSF-funded CAREER project on the evolution of magma bodies that lead to super eruptions


a. Earthquake geology: origin of earthquakes, hazards associated with populated areas, study case of recent seismic activity around Christchurch

b. Glacial geology: Glaciers as agents of surface transformation, feedbacks between mountain destruction forces at the surface and mountain building processes

c. Hydroelectric energy generation: design and use of hydrothermal energy




Course evaluation will be based on participation, field exercises (outcrop descriptions, geologic cross-sections and maps), and oral presentations.


There are no prerequisites for this course. Students with all levels of experience in geology are encouraged to apply. Activities will be adjusted to take into account prior experience and course-work.


3 credit hours. This course is listed as MNS in AXLE.


Cost: US$ 8,600

Included: tuition, lodging, transportation within New Zealand, most meals (depending on the location), and entrance fees to National and State Parks.

Not included: Airfare from Nashville to Auckland or from Christchurch to Nashville, transportation from and to airports, regular meals in major cities, and incidental expenses.

Financial support

For information on the Global Summer Fellowship Program, offering scholarships of up to $8,500, consult GEO:


Last updated: Apr 02, 2015