30. July 2021

“You just have to get out there in the field” A geographic excursion in the Covid era

A geographic excursion in the Covid era

Authors: Julia Feth, Johanna Niedick

Determining soil types, looking for outcrops, studying valley shapes ... these activities have been classic elements of geography excursions for students throughout generations. Every semester, some 20 students head off for with a geography field trip guide to explore the Siebengebirge or Seven Mountains, a hill range on the east bank of the Middle Rhine southeast of Bonn that was once volcanically active. This year would have been our turn to go on the excursion, but the pandemic impacted us in the University of Bonn Geography department as well. A report by Julia Feth and Johanna Niedick. An article from forsch 2021/01.

A geographic excursion in the Covid era
A geographic excursion in the Covid era - Julia Feth and Johanna Niedick are studying Geography B. Sc. in the 4th semester. Together they went on a field trip. © Julia Feth
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Instead of going out all together in a big group we could only do the excursion in pairs and without our instructor, who gave us some documents to take along however: a map of the various stations we were to visit in Bonn and lists of the equipment we would need and the questions we were to answer.

So after gathering the equipment we took off for the Siebengebirge. But at a fork in the road up on the Rodderberg we realized we didn’t really know if we were headed the right way for our “research”. Luckily we ran into a friendly employee of a riding and hunting club up there, Gut Broichhof, who assured us we were going the right way but also already knew the answer to the question at hand, which was “What is the height of the crater rim of the dead volcano?” The answer to which is: 196.7 meters. So our estimate was a bit off,

we were thus lucky to be able to talk to a local. Such enlightening insights are part and parcel of any good field trip, those moments when theory and practice come together the way the instructor intended.

Changes required by the pandemi

But the pandemic has brought about many changes, such as that we only get to consult the literature after the excursion, so that our observations and the interrelationships surmised from outcrops or quarries out in the field can only be verified afterward.  So Covid means you basically don’t get such enlightening moments while out in the field, you get them back at your desk at home.

Later on while out looking for certain outcrops we ran into two people who live up in the Siebengebirge and thus know the area. And once again we got lucky, for one of them was a geographer who was able to tell us how to get to the outcrop we were looking for. He let us know that we were following in the footsteps of a host of geography students who have come before, and are often seen up on the Dollendorfer Hardt and other places around.

Arriving on the Weilberg, we were rewarded with the sight of a most impressive quarry.

Field excursions are still a valuable possibility despite Covid—studying geography without them is simply unimaginable. You just have to get out there in the field if you want to study geography.

Julia Feth and Johanna Niedick are 4th semester students in the BSc Geography program, who took the class excursion as a pair.

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