SD Mines professor teaches field survival to geology students

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Research scientists are probably not the first group that comes to mind when you think of emergency preparedness, but their careers can lead them into remote and even dangerous places. However, a South Dakota School of Mines professor is working to make sure his students are truly prepared for their futures.

Tim MasterlarkTim Masterlark, Physical Geology Professor at SD Mines, is experienced in more than just geology.

“I spent a year with the United States State Department on a Jefferson Science Fellowship program. I was placed with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and on a small team- the high threat programs,” he explains.

After this emergency preparedness training with the Department of Defense, he made field survival part of his freshman geology class.

When I went through this training, it was intended for deployment to a Foreign Service post, but to me it was very clear that these skills were useful for just life in the USA,” Masterlark says. “Walking around campus, you look around, you see students looking at the sidewalk, faculty looking at the sidewalk, watching their feet. They’re lost in thought, they’re not paying attention to their surroundings.”

Tq Training

Masterlark says he knows that his students will eventually pursue careers researching disasters like volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and earthquakes, where situational awareness can help save lives.

“Geology students are attracted to geology because mostly they want to work out in the field. They love the outdoors, they want to look at the rocks structures, and so it means being outside,” he explains. 

That’s why the next step in training includes a field trip to the Badlands.

I want to teach them how to be functional to achieve their scientific mission while simultaneously paying attention to their surroundings, the situational awareness and also being uncomfortable, maybe wet and dirty all at the same time,” Masterlark adds. 

Students expressed that they think it’s an important aspect of their research curriculum.

“Being able to jump in and see how we do when there’s an incident and we don’t know when it’s occurring, and the mental toughness that he talked about,” says geology freshman Andrew Sansness while explaining why the training is beneficial. 

Nicklaus Wiswedel, a post-baccalaureate student, agreed, saying, “I think it’s really great to have the kind of skills like this to be able to handle any kind of crisis situation if need be.”

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