University of Arizona

Geosciences 195D

Sense of Place

Map of Tucson The University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O'odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion, the University strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and Indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service.
"Go my children, burn your books. Buy yourselves stout shoes, get away to the mountains, the deserts, and the deepest recesses of the earth. Mark well the distinction between animals, the differences among plants, the various kinds of minerals. In this way, and no other, will you arrive at a knowledge of things, and of their properties."
—Peter Severinus, AD 1571
Description: Students are introduced to the geology and ecology of Tucson and surrounding mountain ranges, including interactions between past and present societies with desert and forest environments. Four Saturday field trips (one per month) are scheduled during the semester, each emphasizing a particular region with unique geological and biological aspects. This is a first-year colloquium course, but any UA student can enroll.

Click here for a short promotional video about this course.

A Tuesday evening class meeting will take place prior to each Saturday field trip.

Special Note
2017 was the 25th anniversary edition of Sense of Place.

Trip 4, the 100th trip all-time, took place on April 22. Delightful weather this year, an incredible trip. See the team photo here.

A banquet celebration for 25 years of SOP was held the same evening of the 100th trip. Click here to see the official invitation (pdf file).

Click here to see a short video (duration: 3:49 min.) of Dr. Bob Butler, the founder of Geos. 195D, giving background on the creation of this course.

April 26, 2017: Click here to see an article in the UA Daily Wildcat newspaper on the 100th trip.

Commemorative Patch
(click to see the high-res version)
Click here to see the elements of the patch

Banquet Group Shot. Photo—Allison McGraw (2016 SOP alumna)


  • Paul Sheppard
    • Office:  Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research
      407 Bryant Bannister Tree-Ring Building
      (click for a map or a photo)
    • E-mail: sheppard @
    • Office Hours:  MW 11:00 AM, or in the field
  • Gary Huckleberry
    • Office:  The outdoors
    • E-mail: ghuck @
    • Office Hours:  In the field

LTRR Building, snowy day
February 22, 2019

Field Trip Dates for Spring 2024

Trip #1: Santa Cruz River,
Birthplace of Tucson
(Click here for 1-page narrative)

January 20 (Tuesday night meeting is January 16)
Map of trip #1

Trip #2: Tucson Mountains
(Click here for 1-page narrative)

February 17 (Tuesday night meeting is February 14)
Map of trip #2

Trip #3: Desert Washes and Urban Flooding
(Click here for 1-page narrative)

March 16 (Tuesday night meeting is March 12)
Map of trip #3

Trip #4: Mt. Lemmon, All the Way to the Top
(Click here for 1-page narrative)

April 20 (Tuesday night meeting is April 16)
Map of trip #4


  • Tuesday night meetings before trips will be from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, in the Tree-Ring Building, ground floor.
  • All Saturday trips run from 8:00 AM to about 5:00 PM; barring unforeseen events, we'll leave on time and get back on time.
  • UA transportation provided.
  • All trips leave from and return to the south side of the new Bannister Tree-Ring Building (photo, map). Parking is available on Saturdays in the 6th Street Garage (except on basketball home game days).
  • Please bring this stuff:

    1. Layers of clothing for changing temperature during the day (Click here for local weather; click on Tucson on the map for 5-day forecast)
    2. Rain gear, as necessary
    3. Walking shoes and/or hiking boots; sandals or flip-flops won't cut it
    4. Hat, either for shade and/or warmth
    5. Your own sack lunch; an ice chest will be available
    6. Drinking water—a container with at least one quart of water
    7. Sunscreen! Really!!
    8. Notebook (spiral variety is best) and pencils (different colors if you got 'em)
    9. Optional: rock hammer, hand lens, binoculars, camera

Guidelines on Grading

  • Geos 195D is available either for letter grade or pass-fail
  • Letter grading is based on active participation and quality of field notebook
  • Attendance is required on all four course trips
    • Make-up trips and reports are possible for emergency absences
    • Only one make-up trip and report is allowed
    • See Professor Sheppard for the itinerary and lesson plan for any make-up trip
    • Missing two or more course trips is grounds for administrative withdrawal or a reduction of grade, even with make-up trips and reports

Suggestions on Field Notebooks

"[s]he listens [learns] well who takes notes" ("bene ascolta chi la nota")
Dante (c. 1265 - 1321)

Check out this 2015 NPR story and this 2016 NPR follow-up for evidence that handwriting notes is not only not dead in this digital age, but writing things down by hand is still a good way to record information, versus going strictly digital.
Brandon Groom, 2019
(click to enlarge)
  • Rule of thumb: Topics covered on trip stops should be recorded in notebooks
  • Leave adjacent pages blank for additional information later
  • Take field notes and sketches only on one side of the page
  • Use blank side for adding notes, interpretations, photos, and/or summaries
  • Provide plenty of room for sketches
  • Label all sketches, illustrations, and samples
  • Sketches can be very simple. For example, draw simple layers to represent the rocks in the side of A Mountain
  • For each field trip stop:
    • Title the field trip stop
    • Indicate location (maybe time of day, weather conditions, etc.)
    • Record your personal observations using written descriptions and/or sketches
    • Notes/sketches of rocks, plants, wildlife, human structures, etc.
    • Patterns in the landscape: orientations of rock layers, clusters or associations of plants, erosion features, etc.
    • Analysis of observations:
      • What might control patterns you observe in the landscape?
      • Focus on observations and simple analysis of observations rather than grand interpretations
      • Discuss observations with fellow students and trip leaders
      • Record questions to ask when you have an opportunity or research the answers after the trip
  • At the end of each field trip, summarize the field trip into one or two pages:
    • Integrate your observations, discussions, and questions of the day
      • How do geology and ecology interact to create environments?
      • How do people exploit and/or impact environments?
    • Think about the common threads and logical connections between the field trip stops
    • Comment on what parts of the field trip stand out
  • Later on, incorporate additional notes and information or photos, etc., into your notebook on adjacent blank pages

Conduct in Class

All participants in this course—professors and students alike—are expected to practice common courtesy, in the field as well as in the classroom.


The University of Arizona Foundation provided funding for the 2009 edition of this course.

Scholarship About Geosciences 195D, Sense of Place
The pedagogical strategies and effectiveness of this course have been described and assessed in peer-reviewed articles. Contact Paul Sheppard for pdf reprints.
  • Butler, R.F., Hall-Wallace, M., Burgess, T. 2000. A sense of place: At home with local natural history. Journal of College Science Teaching 30:252–255.
  • Sheppard, P.R., Donaldson, B.A., Huckleberry, G. 2010. Assessment of a field-based course on integrative geology, ecology, and cultural history. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 19(4):295–313.
  • Sheppard, P.R., Lipson, R., Hansbrough, D., Gilbert, J. 2013. Field trip pedagogy for teaching "sense of place" in middle school. Science Scope 36(7):49–54.

Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721 USA
Comments to Paul Sheppard: sheppard @