GeoSociety Organized Annual Winter Geological Field Trip to Southern New Mexico

Extended Van Trip Included 29 EAS Undergraduate Majors, 2 Geology Graduate Students and 2 Geology Professors

Founded in 1998, GeoSociety is a recognized, student organization within the University of Houston’s Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences. With over 100 current undergraduate and graduate student members, the organization seeks to build fellowship between undergraduate geoscience students by organizing social events, facilitating career preparation, volunteering in the community, and exploring geology outside of the classroom. A tradition of GeoSociety is the annual winter field trip. This year, it took place January 2-8, 2020, and visited geologic sites in southern New Mexico.

Group Photo
Photo of the field trip group with the mountains of southern New Mexico in the distance.

The 2020 trip was led by EAS geology professors Peter Copeland and Mike Murphy and included 29 EAS geology and geophysics majors that ranged from sophomores to seniors. EAS geology graduate student Shelby Johnston and former EAS undergraduate student and Geosociety president David Lankford-Bravo helped organize and co-lead the field trip. Lankford-Bravo is now a Ph.D. student in geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. GeoSociety president Laura Taylor-Barnett organized field trip logistics that included arranging transportation and making reservations at camp grounds. The group traveled in rental vans from Houston.

The group visited geological sites around Silver City in southeastern Mexico along with visits to the gypsum sand dunes in White Sands National Park. They also visited outcrops sites in the City of Rocks State Park and Gila National Forest, including a visit to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Drone Training
EAS geology alumnus David Lankford-Bravo (to right) training EAS undergrads in how to use a drone for geologic mapping.

Four undergraduate students in the group had been previously selected by Dr. Copeland to conduct original, undergraduate geological research on the deformational history of the Florida Mountains in southwestern New Mexico. In the field, these four students, supervised by Drs. Copeland and Murphy, made geologic maps of the area. These students were trained in drone photography by Lankford-Bravo whose current Ph.D. research study in Utah relies heavily on drone photography.

Undergrad researchers Hunter Martin and Kenneth Shipper digitally merged the drone photographs to form a continuous base map for the area, and the geological observations were overlain onto this base map. Undergrad researchers Rachel Ronquille and Audrey Schmitt collected rock samples in the field and brought them back to the lab in the EAS department to extract key minerals for dating by sieving and heavy liquid separation. The four undergrads will combine their multi-disciplinary results into a more integrated geologic understanding of the Florida Mountains.

Hess Corporation and Apache Corporation

This extended and wide-ranging trip was only possible because of generous financial support from Hess Corporation and Apache Corporation which allowed the 29 geology students to participate at minimal personal expense.

- Bryan Moore, Vice President of GeoSociety at University of Houston