Wyoming Field Studies

The Wyoming Field Studies Program is a unique introduction to the fundamental practices of paleontology, ecology, and archaeology, with a strong emphasis on field techniques. 

Thanks to the generous donation of land to the University of Pittsburgh by rancher Allen Cook, the University of Pittsburgh Honors College maintains stewardship of the Spring Creek Preserve, a bountiful 6000-acre tract that embraces pristine dinosaur-bone-bearing beds, Native American archaeology spanning 9,000 years, indigenous prairie ecology, and a section of the original grade of the 1869 trans-continental railroad. Located near Rock River, Wyoming, the Spring Creek Preserve includes prominent outcroppings of the Jurassic Morrison Formation, a geological formation that contains some of the most famous dinosaurs known to North America. In fact, the first example of the famous Diplodocus carnegii, whose skeleton resides across the street from the Honors College in Pittsburgh, was unearthed at a different point along the same formation. Unlike the diplodocus's excavation site, the Spring Creek Preserve was left untouched during the Western US excavations of the late 19th and and early 20th centuries; as such, students explore the concepts and methods of paleoecology in a pristine environment.

In addition to their work in the Spring Creek Preserve, students take numerous short field trips to other study localities and into the nearby Medicine Bow Mountains for learning, hiking, and recreation. Multi-day field trips explore the broader geology, paleontology, archaeology, and ecology of the state of Wyoming. Participants' experiences are deepened by delving into historical accounts of the Laramie region and discussions of the political and ethical issues surrounding land use in the West.