A Decade’s Worth of Field Britches

It’s mid-summer, and it is time for geological fieldwork with my undergraduate research students. As I’ve written before, geologists commonly go to the field to collect their primary data, and for William & Mary geologists, summer is a prime time to gather field data for Senior Research projects.

The prudent geologist wears pants in the field. Preferably long pants that are suitably rugged. The image below illustrates a decade’s worth of my field britches.

My well-utilized field britches are dungarees made by Carthartt. The pants get older from left to right.

My well-utilized field britches are dungarees made by Carhartt. The pants get older from left to right.

In the field, I wear dungarees made by Carhartt; these are heavy-duty pants with numerous pockets for field accessories. I buy them a tad long so they cover the upper 2/3s of my boots. New pants are stiff and bulky, but ideal for slashing through tangled undergrowth in a Virginia forest or traversing across a sage-covered flat on Utah’s Fish Lake Plateau. I’m a big fan of Carhartt dungarees.

Annotated image of a decade’s worth of Carthartt field pants.

Annotated image of a decade’s worth of Carhartt field pants.

With time, the Carhartts become softer and suppler. They also fade due to long-term exposure to the sun. Geological fieldwork is not easy on field britches. Even as tough as Carhartts are, fieldwork eventually takes its toll. A close inspection reveals holes in the back pockets and rear (the bum); I typically sit on rocks while I write up field notes and rocks abrade the fabric. In some of my older pants, I’ve patched the holes to keep them in service. Permanent markers, which we use to mark on samples, occasionally leak and leave ink stains on the accessory pocket.

Most of the use (and abuse) that my Carhartts have experienced come from doing geological field work with William & Mary students. This year my Carhartts have gotten to do fieldwork in Oman, Norway, and Virginia.

My research cohort this summer includes Katie Valery (a Charles Center Honors Fellow), Katie Lang and Richard Watson (both English-Stonehouse Fellows), and Mark Simonds (class of 2017 who is working to finish a manuscript on his research from last year). There will also be cameo appearances in the field by rising Geology seniors Danny Focht and Aubrey Vaughan later this summer.

On Tuesday, Richard started his fieldwork examining the Petersburg batholith in the south-central Virginia Piedmont. On a humid day, we collected samples for geochronology at the expansive outcrops on Belle Isle in Richmond, and then struggled through overgrown clear cuts near Dinwiddie, fruitlessly searching for exposure. Good field pants were a must.

Happy W&M geologists on the outcrop at Belle Isle, Richmond. From bottom to top: Katie Lang, Mark Simonds, Katie Valery, and Richard Watson.

Happy W&M geologists on the outcrop at Belle Isle, Richmond. From bottom to top: Katie Lang, Mark Simonds, Katie Valery, and Richard Watson.

Some less-than-happy geologists searching for outcrop in the wilds of south-central Virginia.

Some less-than-happy geologists searching for outcrops in the wilds of south-central Virginia.

Next week we’ll journey to the Blue Ridge Mountains for Katie Lang’s project. Not only will we trek over the mountains to find outcrops, but we’ll also journey inside the Blue Ridge to survey rocks and structures exposed in the old 19th century railroad tunnel engineered by Claudius Crozet beneath Rockfish Gap.

Heading into the darkness: a spring field outing to the Blue Ridge tunnel (photo by Pablo Yañez).

Check back to see how our field britches fared in the tunnel and learn of our latest discoveries beneath the Blue Ridge.

Categories: Faculty & Staff Blogs, Research, Study Away Tags: , , , ,
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  1. Benjamin Weinmann

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