Students don’t take their local geology for granite at the Parowan Gap

Forgoing the typical four walls of a classroom, students in professor Casey Webb’s Geology of National Parks lab met 20 miles north of Cedar City at the Parowan Gap on Saturday, Nov. 11. There, they studied its unique landscape and learned about the formation of the rocks in the area. 

Southern Utah University is often referred to as the University of the Parks. This is due to its convenient location within several hours of all five of Utah’s national parks, as well as other natural attractions. The geology department at SUU has capitalized on this by creating a course that focuses on the geology of the surrounding parks. Students can also register for a corresponding lab, which allows them to take two field trips per semester.

“What I love about geology is that the rocks have stories to tell,” said Webb. “If you can speak their language, you can understand their stories, and basically … understand earth’s history.”

Webb believes that students are able to learn much more exploring the geological features of the outdoors than they do sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture. He urges students to take advantage of the landscape that surrounds them, which is why he provides them with opportunities to research through field trips. The Parowan Gap is just one example of the rich geology accessible to students at SUU.

Geology professor Casey Webb lectures in front of a boulder near the Parowan Gap.

“Parawon Gap gives us a really unique opportunity to see 180 million years of history and the different stages of development that have really shaped the region that we live in,” Webb explained.

On this field trip, students made multiple stops, analyzing geological features such as dinosaur foot prints, examples of angular unconformity and even petroglyphs on the gap’s walls. Students made observations and conclusions about the landscape based on what they were taught in class, connecting the dots about the history and formation of the area.

“Watching the sunset is pretty fun,” described Tanner Judd, a student attending the field trip. “Learning the [geology] is cool too, getting to go to national parks, but I love any time I can be outside.” 

Like Judd, many students were drawn to this course because of their passion for the surrounding environment, as well as the fulfillment of a general education requirement. As Judd said, “Take geology classes. They’re fun.” 

Geology of National Parks is taught during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Register for GEO 1050 and 1055 to take this class and its accompanying lab.


Author: Heather Turner
Photographer: Heather Turner
Editor: Lily Brunson