Glacier field school inspires students

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

UVic geography 477 students explore Bridge Glacier during a week long field school. Credit: Shannon Fargey

A helicopter carrying a group of UVic geography students lands safely on Bridge Glacier, in the Lillooet Icefield with enough gear for seven days of fieldwork.

The students, led by UVic geographer, Shannon Fargey, are equipped to survive the variable weather conditions and the long days exploring this remote backcountry, as they learn about scientific research in physical geography. 

Fargey has been teaching the GEOG 477 course in recent years in locations that provide UVic geography students with the unrivaled opportunity to experience a largely untouched mountain landscape.

“Dedicated field schools provide an opportunity for students to build strong relationships and gain hands-on experience in techniques of monitoring and management in the geographic discipline,” says Fargey.

“Collecting samples and conducting analysis in the field is quite different than in the lab; I see field schools as exceptional opportunities to gain industry-standard experiences in data collection,” she adds.

This field school was above and beyond what I could've imagined. It was extremely eye-opening and was hands down the most inspiring course I've ever taken in my degree. I came away from the trip with more knowledge and excitement about physical geography than ever.”

—UVic geography student Emily Heins

“It is an amazing opportunity to teach students practical experience using current instrumentation and data collection methodologies in remote environments,” says Fargey.

When they return from the field, students prepare a series of reports based on field data and collected samples.  

“The data students collect adds to our understanding of environmental change in alpine environments; project work from this course has been published in academic journals and presented at national conferences,” says Fargey.

"Genuinely, that was the best part of my entire 6-year educational journey and by far the coolest week of my life," recalls student Maja Nymann. "Thank you, a hundred times over not only for making it happen and advocating for these field courses but for planning seven days of adventures and packing days of food for 14 vegan lactose intolerant gluten-free students as well. No small feat!”

Fargey notes, “this past offering felt special—it was the return of field school learning—for myself and the students since COVID-19.”

“They were an exceptional group, who thrived in this challenging environment, and they immediately connected as a team and supported each other while maintaining positive attitudes,” she adds. 

Over its history, the GEOG 477 field school was based in Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Jasper National Park, Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park, and Bridge Glacier in the Lillooet Icefield area of the British Columbia Coast Mountains. In 2023, the field school will move to a new remote glacier site in the Coast Mountains, still part of the Lillooet Icefield, on Homalco First Nation territorial lands.

The field school will be offered again in fall 2023.


In this story

Keywords: field schools, climate, teaching, geography, glaciers, research

People: Shannon Fargey

Publication: The Ring

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