An outside perspective, or one day in the Andoma-Gora field camp

Students from St Petersburg University have completed a geological field mapping programme in the Andoma-Gora Specially Protected Natural Area (SPNA), located on the southeastern shore of Lake Onega. Despite the fact that the Andoma geological section is well-known in the professional community, a field camp for students has been organised there for the first time.

Marina Kashkevich, Associate Professor in the Department of Geophysics and the Fieldwork Coordinator of the Institute of Earth Sciences at St Petersburg University, spent a day with the students in the Andoma-Gora field camp.

Organising student fieldwork on the territory of the Andoma-Gora SPNA presented a special challenge due to the fact that the site had not been used as a training ground before. Hence, an increased responsibility was assigned to both the coordinator and the students themselves. ‘It took us quite a while to choose a field site, because we knew that there were practically no alternatives to the Crimean field site, which had been used as a summer base for geological fieldwork for 70 years,’ said Marina Kashkevich. ‘After numerous discussions, we settled on the Andoma-Gora. There were many challenges to resolve, from methodological issues and provision of equipment and material resources necessary for the fieldwork, to the legal issues of carrying out educational activities in a protected area.’

The fieldwork was undertaken by eight second-year students in the academic programmes "Geology" and "Petroleum Engineering". In addition to professional knowledge and practical skills in geological mapping, lithology and palaeontology, they gained experience and invaluable transferrable skills of living in a real field camp. They set up tents, cooked food over a campfire, fought hurricanes, and learned to get along and work in a team.

The first thing that struck me in the camp was its excellent organisation. The guys set up the camp themselves under the watchful eye of Anna Ivanova, Deputy Head of the Department for Technical Support of Educational Programmes at St Petersburg University. Dinner was unbelievably delicious, the firewood neatly stacked, the dishes washed, and the generator purred reassuringly nearby.

Marina Kashkevich, Associate Professor in the Department of Geophysics, Fieldwork Coordinator of the Institute of Earth Sciences at St Petersburg University

During the fieldwork, the students exercised in: identifying rocks and measuring the orientation of planar features; and drawing lithologic columns, cross-sections and map fragments to get an idea of the geological structure and development history of the area. Sergey Snigirevsky is Associate Professor in the Department of Sedimentary Geology at St Petersburg University and the Fieldwork Supervisor. He suggested that the students give their guests a tour around the Andoma geological section as the mid-term assessment test. In pairs, the students conducted a full-fledged seven-hour geological excursion, presenting the geological landmarks of the Andoma-Gora. They talked about the shallow-water sea that was there in the Devonian period, the climate of that time, and showed the fossils of the fauna that inhabited this sea 380 million years ago.

The geologists explained that a special feature of this territory is that the rocks are multi-coloured. Bright red, orange and burgundy colours in rocks are due to the large amount of iron. The guests were also shown geological structures of more modern times, formed as a result of glacier movement and neotectonic activity, and examples of the erosion processes and landslides that form the modern relief.

I enjoyed listening to the young geologists’ fascinating and very detailed stories. It was impossible not to get excited by their enthusiasm. I shared their fascination with armoured fish fossils, the bright multi-coloured sandstones and clays of the Devonian, the inconceivable folds and complex tectonic history of the southeastern part of Lake Onega.

Marina Kashkevich, Associate Professor in the Department of Geophysics, Fieldwork Coordinator of the Institute of Earth Sciences at St Petersburg University

‘In the "fish" bone-bearing breccias, I personally found a fossilised tooth and a piece of the bony plate of a lobe-finned fish that lived in the late Devonian. Indeed, it was the students who helped me to correctly identify my palaeontological finds. By that time, they had already compiled their own sample collections and described them. I was promised to be invited to the final test; and I am looking forward to seeing again the cross-sections, the photographs of the outcrops and the samples collection,’ shared Marina Kashkevich, Associate Professor in the Department of Geophysics and the Fieldwork Coordinator of the Institute of Earth Sciences at St Petersburg University. She added that the practical skills that students gained during the fieldwork would come in handy more than once in the their professional lives, the acquired knowledge and experience will enrich and broaden their perspectives, while the wonderful moments and vivid impressions will be forever imprinted in their memories.

The fieldwork in the Andoma-Gora Specially Protected Natural Area became possible thanks to the efforts of the Fieldwork Supervisor Sergey Snigirevsky, Associate Professor in the Department of Sedimentary Geology, and Anna Ivanova, Deputy Head of the Department for Technical Support of Educational Programmes at St Petersburg University. She became an irreplaceable person in the field camp — an educator, mentor and true friend to the students. Priceless assistance was also provided by: specialists in palaeontology and sedimentary geology; the Head of the Department of Natural Science Collections at St Petersburg University Vadim Glinskiy; and engineer Mikhail Kozin. The Fieldwork Coordinator Marina Kashkevich also expressed her special gratitude to the University vehicle fleet and the driver Sergei Nevdashchenko.