Meg Hopkins, Pacific Northwest - Fieldwork - University of Derby

Meg Hopkins, Pacific Northwest

Meg Hopkins, who is studying Geology and Environmental Hazards as a joint honours degree, tells us about her fieldtrip to the Pacific Northwest

Where did you go and for how long?

We went to the Pacific Northwest for 11 days. We flew into Tacoma and spent the next week-and-a-half doing a circular loop through Washington, down to Oregon and back up again.

What was the purpose of the fieldtrip?

To see first-hand how earth-surface hazards can have an effect on surrounding environments and residents. We looked at a range of hazards including tsunamis, nuclear weapons plants, landslides, active volcanoes, drought, and earthquakes, and identified why this specific area was at risk.

How did you approach your work/what skills did you use?

Over the last two years at the University of Derby we have acquired a range of skills that are particularly useful on fieldtrips. We have been taught how to write a field notebook that we can use to make extensive notes and sketches throughout the trip for use in our research when we get back.

We also use observations, another skill we have been taught in detail, to make judgements of our own on why we think the land has become the way it has. These skills were both used for the duration of the fieldtrip in order to widen our knowledge of the area.

What were the highlights of your trip?

Personally, I feel the highlight of the trip was the three days spent on Mt. St. Helens. It was such an impressive sight and the history behind the 1980 eruption was fascinating.‌

We stopped at Visitor Centres on both the East and West sides of the volcano, and were privileged enough to be able to talk to the rangers at these centres who gave us a very detailed analysis of why the eruption had caused so much damage.‌

On these days we also visited areas where the effects of the eruption were clearly visible. Being able to see the paths of the lahars and the areas where vegetation was stripped bare really gave us an idea of how devastating this blast had been.‌

What did you learn from your experience/how has this helped with your studies?

Fieldtrips are always a good way to gain a greater understanding of processes, as we get to see them first-hand. This trip was particularly interesting as we were introduced to environments we would never see in the UK, such as the Cascadia Mountain Range.

It was a fantastic opportunity, and the notes I took will definitely aid me when it comes to completing the coursework for the module.

How would you describe your overall experience/would you recommend this experience and course to others?

I can honestly say that my time at the University has been incredible. I haven’t got a bad word to say about the staff or teaching in the geoscience department, and I feel like I have been supported fully throughout my time here.

I will always recommend the course to future students because it's a fantastic and thorough course that will set you up for life in the geological world. I would also recommend this fieldtrip; nothing beats seeing the geology you study at a desk, out in the real world.