Painted Hills Student tents, Mitchell, Oregon

Geologic Field Methods

Physical Safety and Camp Rules

Physical Safety and Camp Rules

The geology field mapping course at OSU's Mitchell Field Station and ISU's Lost River Field Station are usually one of the best experiences of your geologic education. To ensure the safety, comfort, and enjoyment for all students in camp, there are some policies and procedures that we must follow. Please read this section completely and carefully before completing your Consent and Medical Information form.

Physical Safety

Field Work. Field work is conducted an average of 6 days a week, and requires hiking most of the day (7 am to 4 pm in Oregon; 8 am to 5 pm in Idaho) over rugged topography; the work is physically strenuous. Students will spend evenings working on maps and related coursework, and assignments are due 1 to 4 times a week.

Weather. Temperatures during the day can range from as high as 105°F to freezing hail storms, and below freezing temperatures at night are not uncommon. The weather is generally dry with occasional thunderstorms. Field sites commonly have little shade, thus, students are exposed to the sun all day and skin should be covered with clothing or repeated applications of sunscreen. Students should wear high quality UV-filtering sunglasses and full brimmed hats. UV-protectant clothing is also recommended.

Terrain. Study areas are generally wild, without trails or roads. Students must be able to hike over steep rocky slopes, dry stream beds, and brushy hillsides. The terrain is uneven and sometimes quite steep. Mapping areas range from rocky canyons (with sheer cliffs, which we avoid) to gentle slopes. Elevations range from 1,900 feet to 10,000 feet above sea level. Good physical condition is a must for the health and safety of yourself and your field partners.

Health & Safety. Fieldwork entails unavoidable risks. The rugged character of the field sites poses physical hazards (e.g., tripping and falling). High temperature and strong sun pose serious risks of dehydration and sunburn. Substantial water consumption is necessary to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion. In addition, wild country in the western US is home to potentially dangerous animals (e.g., rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widow spiders, recluse spiders, mountain lions, bears, wolves, moose, etc.). All these animals will flee humans given the opportunity, but students must remain vigilant. Students should avoid distractions (e.g., loud talking and listening to music) to maximize awareness. With the changing climate, an additional risk are ticks. Ticks hide in grasses and brush, latching onto humans and animals as they tromp through. Wearing long pants, tall socks (and gaiters), long-sleeve shirts, and a hat will help keep ticks off of your skin (although not guaranteed). Wearing light colored clothes will help you more easily spot them as they try to find your skin. Two options to consider include using insect repellents containing DEET, which will help prevent ticks from latching onto you, and/or spraying permethrin (repels and kills ticks) on your shoes. For more information about DEET and permethrin, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or the TickEncounter Resource Center.

Safety Guidelines. All the above hazards can be avoided or minimized with caution and common sense. The faculty and staff will provide training in hazard avoidance to students. For example, for safety, students work in field parties of three. The camp provides first aid equipment and can assist with minor injuries such as sunburn, blisters on feet, minor cuts and abrasions, and minor sprains. For needs beyond these, we seek medical assistance at the local clinics or hospitals. Mapping areas are typically more than an hour and up to four hours from emergency medical assistance. In camp, students are expected to maintain cleanliness and treat illnesses in order to reduce transmission of illness to others.

Student Expectations.

  • Students must be prepared for cold, heat, and sun. Students must be sufficiently physically fit and in sufficiently good health to maintain strenuous physical activity and must not be at high risk for sudden onset of life-threatening medical conditions. Strenuous exercise and elevation can aggravate preexisting but otherwise minor or hidden conditions and pose a serious health risk. All students must ascertain that they are medically fit to attend field camp; we recommend consultation with a licensed physician.
  • Students must be able to walk without assistance five to ten miles per day over rugged terrain while carrying a backpack weighing at least 25 pounds (including lunch, 3 to 4 liters of water, emergency supplies, rain gear, and mapping equipment). Students should be capable of daily ascent or descent in the field areas ranges from as little as 500 to as much as 3,500 feet vertical.
  • Students must possess vision sufficiently keen (unaided or with correction) to be able to spot the physical hazards present in field sites. They also must be able to see well enough to comprehend geological features at physical scales ranging from hand specimens (examined with a hand lens) and local outcrops observed at a distance of meters, to mountain side exposures viewed from miles away.
  • Students are expected to maintain a professional and respectful attitude towards instructors, teaching assistants, and other students at all times. Patience, tolerance, and a sense of humor towards unexpected hardships (e.g., rainy weather) will serve students well over the course of the five week-long field course. Behaviors that are inappropriate in the classroom (e.g., inappropriate language or behavior directed at instructors or other students, violations of safety policies) will not be tolerated during this field course. For details on student conduct, see CWU's Student Conduct Code.

Camp Rules

One of the most important components of living at the field station is recognizing that it is a communal arrangment. Students and faculty share close quarters, eat together, and work together. Being courteous to each other and using common sense go a long way to an enjoyable field camp experience for everyone. A professional cook will do food preparation at Mitchell and the Lost River Field Station, but students share in meal setup, dish cleanup, cleaning washrooms and showers, and cleaning camp. A regular rotation of chores will be posted for each week. OSU's experience over 70 years and CWU's experience over 20 years of teaching a summer field mapping course has taught us how to best run it smoothly. That experience is summarized in "The Sermon" first crafted and delivered by Dr. Ed Taylor. Please read the Sermon over carefully.

CWU Student Conduct Code

During this course, students are responsible for complying with the policies, standards, rules, and requirements for academic and social behavior formulated by Washington State's Student Conduct Code. In addition, the OSU field station in Mitchell, OR is OSU property and is, therefore, subject to State of Oregon Administrative Rules. A similar set of rules apply to the Lost River Field Station. Please read both sets of rules carefully before submitting your consent and medical information form.


A recent Tetanus series, or booster, is required of each student. Central Washington University students should contact the Student Health Center (located on the corner of 11th and Poplar; phone 963-1881) about immunizations.


Students should be covered by Student Health Insurance or other appropriate medical insurance plan. The fees for this course do not cover medical expenses of students off campus and will not be used to pay medical bills.

Vehicle Use

CWU vans and OSU vans and pickups, to be driven only by faculty and students authorized by the universities, will be used for transportation of personnel and equipment to and from the field camp, and transportation during field camp. Personal automobiles are not allowed at the field station.

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