Department of Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences

Spring Break Field Trip 2024

This year DEEPS undergraduate students visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona for their annual Spring Break Field Trip (SBFT). Twenty-six students, Assistant Professor Emily Cooperdock, and Lab Manager Travis Parsons explored the spectacular geological features and processes, and bonded over snowy mishaps and sandwiches. Here is what they had to say about their adventures:

The trip started strong with a hike up Superstition Mountain, a mountain formed by volcanic activity more than 18 million years ago and the sacred homeland of the Western Apache. 

We were all amazed by Tonto Natural Bridge, the world’s largest natural travertine land bridge. Of course, nothing beats the spectacular red sandstones of Sedona Arizona; the pilgrimage to Cathedral Rock is definitely worth the trek!

The DEEPS SBFT is all about teamwork, sharing, learning from each other, and not taking ourselves too seriously. Some of the joys of the trip were as simple as communal cooking, setting up tents together, and sitting around the campfire. It was also a great chance to make new friends! As Olivia Cox, class of 2026 put it, “It was important to me to meet other people in the department as well as faculty and grad students.”

Hot or cold, day or night, rain or shine (or graupel), the SBFT perseveres. Unexpected snowstorms couldn’t cramp our style! We were all smiles from Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest. Plus we got to touch a meteorite?!! …Maybe, we’re not 100% sure if it was real. 

6 million-year-old volcanoes in Arizona? Lava flows covered in snow?! Spatter cones?!! We saw it all at Sunset Crater Volcano and the S P Crater cinder cone volcano before heading to Wupatki National Monument, an Ancestral Puebloan site featuring a 104-room Pueblo constructed from the iconic red moenkopi sandstone bricks. Hats off to the natural blow hole formed by a network of underground caverns—it really blew us away! 

How do you make a geologist cry? Take them to the Grand Canyon. Many tears of joy were shed taking in the vast, magnificent beauty of the canyon and the millions of years of sedimentary history it unveils. How many people can say they butt-slid down the South Kaibab Trail? We can. Best sandwich-eating view ever.

Entrenched meander at Horseshoe Bend? Bill Clinton’s nose at Antelope Canyon? Owls, tarantulas, and snakes, oh my! Just another day in Arizona. It’s hard to believe water and wind alone formed these magical, undulating passageways of the slot canyon! 

Zion, you took our breath away! We had so much fun exploring the Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, and the Narrows. Seeing the Grand Staircase sequence in real life was truly unforgettable. As Gabriel Traietti, class of 2025, commented, “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to see some of the most stunning geology in our country and learn more about what a future in the field might look like.”

We can’t wait for what next year’s SBFT will bring!