Department of Earth Science

Students realize need of field sketching skills

How often do students insist on returning to the U at night to extend their working day?

According to professor Haakon Fossen, Department of Earth Science and Bergen Museum, GEO-students do. That is if they get a chance to work on their field sketching skills:

- Geology is, by nature, a field-based branch of science, and making on-site sketches is the best way to approach and explore an outcrop.

Field sketching sharpens our ability to observe and forces us to make important decisions regarding things such as unconformities, cross-cutting relations, layer continuity and grain size variations. Students realize this once they are exposed to field sketching during field trips and fieldwork. Everyone seems to agree on its usefulness, but surprisingly enough, few if any universities offer a field-sketching course.

A student initiative

Students in Bergen recently decided to do something about this. Through their local association “Fagutvalget” and its leader Ingeborg Aarsland, they teamed up with professors Haakon Fossen and Jon Inge Svendsen. –We are no experts on the subject, they say, but when students come to us to get help like this, we are not going to turn then down. More than 100 students expressed interest in such a course within hours of putting the announcement out on Facebook, so two separate courses were arranged this month.

Learning by sharing

The course consists of a theoretical part and a more extensive hands-on part. At the start of the course, the lecturers share fundamental concepts and principles that they had picked up through years of fieldwork. However, the most important part was practically oriented: The participants were to make sketches based on a couple of pictures of actual localities. Furthermore, the deal with the participants was that they would all have to share their sketches. By means of a handy projector we were able to project sketches on the wall, point out things that worked well, and discuss how the sketch could be improved. Everybody was happy with how this worked, and with a wide range in styles and approaches everyone learned quite a bit from these exercises.

It is up to the students themselves to take it further. As usual, practice makes perfect. – Make at least one quick sketch every day for a few weeks, and you will surely outsketch me, Fossen said.