The High Sierra Institute at Baker Station

Columbia College

 Field Mapping

 Earth Science 35/Biology 39/Geography-Computer Science 59
Field Geology/Field Biology/GIS-GPS


Jeff Tolhurst, Ph.D.:, (209) 588-5235

Tom Hofstra, Ph.D.:, (209) 588-5155

Dave Pastizzo, M.S.:, (530) 223-2585

Facebook Earth Sciences Program Page

Suggested Readings:

1. Geology of the Sierra Nevada by Mary Hill, published by the University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 94704,

2. Geology by Frank H. T. Rhodes, published by St. Martin's Press 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10010,

 3. The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws

 4. Using Arc Pad:

 Note:  The pre-trip meeting on Monday, July 30th is MANDATORY.  You must provide your own food and gear for the two, three-day/two-night stays at Baker Station.  You can either camp at Baker Station or at one of the other campgrounds nearby (i.e. the Dardanelles, Kennedy Meadows, or USFS campgrounds nearby (i.e. Deadman, Brighton, etc.).


1) Students will learn to use a Global Positioning System, combined with Geographic Information System software to collect field data and produce maps for spatial analysis and decision making purposes.

 2) Students will learn to identify and map vegetation community types including various compositions and conditions of conifer forest, black oak woodland, riparian forest, aspen forest, scrub, meadow, sage flat, grassland, fell field community, "lava cap" community, and “barren” areas.

 3) Students will learn to identify and map geologic features including grantic and volcanic formations and glacial geomorphology.

: The class will meet three times:

1) Pre-meeting/orientation (Monday, July 30th from 6-9:05 pm in Sugar Pine 107);

2) Instruction weekend (Friday – Sunday, 8 AM - 5PM, August 10-12 at Baker Station)

3) Mapping weekend (Friday – Sunday, 8 AM - 5PM, August 17-19 at Baker Station)

 Our plan is to stay at Baker Station (elevation ~6,200 ft), near Kennedy Meadows, for two sessions of three days/two nights and base ourselves there.  Baker Station is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is renovated for use as a field station for educational purposes.  We will have potable water, restroom/shower facilities, sleeping/camping accommodations, and kitchen facilities.

 Pre-trip Meeting: Monday, July 30th from 6-9:05pm to get oriented with what to bring, where we'll stay, food, logistics, etc. We'll meet on campus in Sugar Pine 107.

Weekend 1:  Meet at Baker Station Friday at 8AM.  The three-day session will consist of groups revolving through the three instructors for instruction in geology, biology, and GIS-GPS.  Each group will spend one day with each instructor.  A significant portion of instruction will occur in the field near Baker Station.  Some driving may be necessary.

Weekend 2:  Meet at Baker Station Friday at 8M.  The three-day session will be spent mapping the specified area.  Students will work in groups to map in the field and prepare projects by Sunday 5PM.

What to Expect: Expect hot/warm to cool/possibly wet (thunderstorms) days. The weather is usually nice this time of year, but who knows what will happen! The region is prone to afternoon thunderstorms and it will be difficult to say what the weather will be like. Be prepared for a range of weather.

What to turn in for credit:

1) Field Log: In order to assess your individual learning, we'll ask you to keep a field log for the course. You will be expected to turn this in at the end of the class. This log should document the things you would like to learn before the trip as well as why you are taking the class. You should also enter into your log the things you learn about: geology, biology, and GIS-GPS. You will be asked to make an entry for each lesson as well as add an additional entry at the end of each day, reflecting on what happened during the day. A final summary of what you learned on the trip will be required for full credit. To summarize, the learning log should include: 1) a description of your background including why you are taking the class; 2) an entry at each stop along the trip of observations and new material learned; 3) an entry at the end of each day reflecting on what your overall impressions of the day were; 4) a summary of the geology/biology/GIS-GPS learned on the trip.

 2) Map: Each group will prepare and present a map.  This map will be assessed on accuracy, precision, and content including vegetation communities, geology, north arrow, scale bar, legend and title. Maps will be turned in in PDF format and will be presented via digital projector since no plotter will be available at Baker Station.

3) Summary:  Each group will prepare a summary or abstract of their work discussing: 1) the topic (what they did); 2) the significance of the study (why the topic was chosen); 3) the methodology (how they did it); 4) and their conclusion (what they found out – this section will be approximately 2/3 of the summary/abstract). The summary/abstract will be limited to approximately 150 words total.

Grading Scheme:

A = satisfactory completion of 1-3 above with strong demonstration of understanding of the concepts encountered in the course; appropriate use of notes and drawings to record lessons; map is well organized, summary is concise and focused. Also, appropriate conduct and behavior expected of a college-level geology student will be factored into your grade.  (Click here to read the Student Code of Conduct from the Columbia College Catalog)

B = field log incomplete; lack of comprehension of geological concepts observed; map incompleted or inaccurate, poorly organized summary. Also, appropriate conduct and behavior expected of a college-level geology student will be factored into your grade.

C = completion of field log; no map turned in or map, but no field log; poor comprehension of geological concepts observed; poorly organized summary. Also, appropriate conduct and behavior expected of a college-level geology student will be factored into your grade.

D = attendance on field trip only; no field log turned in; no summary turned in, no map turned in. Also, appropriate conduct and behavior expected of a college-level student will be factored into your grade.

F = no attendance or left course early and did not turn any work in. Also, appropriate conduct and behavior expected of a college-level geology student will be factored into your grade.

Note: I have had to add these statements based on past student behaviors: 

Other Rules:

1) We ask that you respect the sleeping habits of others in the group by quieting down after 10pm. (Most campgrounds ask that the noise be reduced after 9pm). If you have to be asked to maintain quiet more than once, your grade could be affected. If the behavior persists, you may be asked to drop the course;

2) NO SMOKING during field lectures and activities.  If you cannot adhere to this requirement you should not sign up for the course. Fire is a very serious threat in the field area we'll be visiting. Additionally some students have complained in the past that their allergies are triggered by second hand smoke. Please take these issues seriously - safety is the big issue. If you have to be reminded of this policy, your grade could be affected and you may be asked to drop the course.

*Please notify Tom, Jeff AND Dave of any medical conditions that could bear on the trip.

 What to Bring: -- Checklist--

Suggested items:

• Day pack, camera

• Map Board or Clip Board (link to field photos)

• Food and water

• Appropriate attire for hiking in mountainous terrain - including sturdy footware, hat, sunglasses, wind and rain repellent outer layer, insulating middle layer, and cool inner layer.

• Sun screen, bug repellent

 Accomodations at Baker Station include bathrooms with showers and flush toilets and a full kitchen (stove, oven, refrigerators, sink, etc.) with utensils, pots and pans, plates etc.  The bunk house has nine two-bed rooms.  Tent camping is permitted.  Nearest gas/store is five miles towards Sonora in Dardanelles.  See

 Items recomended for staying at Baker Station

· Bedding or sleeping bag

· Food (Three days worth - lunch in the field, breakfast and dinner at Baker Station)

· Flash light (bathrooms are a short walk (30 ft) away from bunkhouse)

· Whatever else you'd bring on a three night stay at a rustic cabin

High Sierra Institute Web Site:

Baker Station Web Page

Baker Station phone number: (209) 965-4237