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Revitalizing Geological Field Training at UBC


Working with alumni to revitalize UBC’s historic geological field school and expand experiential learning at Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

Field School Renewal Design Gets Canadian Architect Award of Excellence

The new field school will be a complete rebuild of the facilities on the familiar Oliver field site. The old buildings will be replaced by new wood frame and plywood/sheet metal cladding construction that expands the capacity of the site to 90 people and adds dedicated teaching spaces. A novel canted wall design staggers sleeping bunks and maximize use of the building volumes--the approach was honoured with a 2012 Award of Excellence by Canadian Architect magazine.

Learn more about UBC's Geological Field School Renewal. Download the brochure.

Revitalizing UBC's historic geological field school

Fieldwork — data collection, constructing measured sections, interpreting geologic features, and mapping — has been incorporated into UBC earth sciences curricula for almost 100 years.

Since the 1950s, the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences has based its primary geological field school on a site near Oliver, British Columbia. Thanks to the generosity of alumni and industry partners (including companies such as Mobil and Shell) the University was able to formally purchase the property in 1961.

However, the facilities on the site range in age from 35 to 60 years, and are in urgent need of replacement. Maintaining the buildings — built or moved onto the property between 1950 and 1970 — has become a significant drain on the Department’s finances. Not only does the facilities’ dilapidated condition restrict their use, but the need for continual repair diverts resources from financing the student field trips and associated teaching support that are a vital and formative part of a geoscientist’s education.

The planned $3 million UBC Geological Field School redevelopment and teaching and learning fund will not only revitalize the current site, but also ensure that students have increased access to the training opportunities prized by the minerals industry. The award-winning designs will create a permanent geological training resource for all institutes of higher education in British Columbia, Western Canada, and potentially, international programs.

A Rich Heritage, Rich Potential

UBC’s current geological field school facilities consist of metal trailers on skids, originally designed for seismic surveys in arctic regions, and wooden shacks. The uninsulated shacks are adorned with the names of generations of UBC Earth and Ocean Sciences graduates who have helped form the foundation of Vancouver’s minerals community. The 88-acre camp is uniquely situated to take advantage of the varied local geology, and field curriculum has put a premium on ensuring students acquire top-notch mapping skills.

In addition to being used by UBC Earth and Ocean Sciences and Forestry students, training programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Environment Canada, and Simon Fraser University regularly take advantage of the site. Universities from the USA and the UK have conducted field school work at the camp, and it has been used by geoscientists and biologists from across Canada and around the world.

UBC Earth and Ocean Sciences students pay approximately $2,200 to attend field school — which provides for three weeks of instruction over the course of their degree. Meanwhile, field experience has become more and more important to industry — not only in hiring, but also as demographic trends thrust geoscientists and geological engineers into senior roles at earlier stages of their careers.

Geological Field School Campaign

The UBC geological field school redevelopment would transform the current site into a year-round facility, creating an educational resource for both UBC campuses and institutes of higher education in British Columbia, Western Canada and beyond. The new complex will consist of three buildings (including a cookhouse, study space and bunkhouses) with a combined area of approximately 6,000 square feet. A model for sustainability, the new buildings would reuse components of the existing structures and found materials, and ideally incorporate appropriate green technologies for heating and electricity generation. The Faculty of Science’s vision also includes securing a permanent source of funding to improve access to the field school, and to improve the quality of the experiential training held at the facility. The planned educational support fund will help significantly expand the duration and year-breadth of field programs, bolster teaching capacity, and improve student access.

The revitalized geological field school will offer students a field experience on par with the facilities and programming offered in UBC's Earth Systems Science Building, a $73 million new home for the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

The complete renewal brought on by both projects will be not only help UBC meet growing demand for geoscientists and industry professionals, but also ensure that students have access to world-class field training at a reasonable cost.

How You Can Help

Please contact the Development Office at 604.822.3404 for more information, and for details on how you can revitalize geological field training at UBC.

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