Coch, N. K., 2013. A field course in tropical coastal geology.
South Florida, United States, is an ideal place for conveniently studying modern carbonate environments and their fossil equivalents in close proximity. It is the only place where such field studies can be carried out with the excellent logistical support available in a major metropolitan area (Miami). Consequently, south Florida has been used extensively for training petroleum geologists as well as providing reef and quarry trips of short duration for geology classes. However, south Florida can also be used to study geomorphic features; biogenic and clastic sedimentology in fresh, brackish, and saline environments; and stratigraphic studies which correlate widely-spaced rock outcrops. In addition, many aspects of environmental geology, including groundwater, water pollution, ecological changes accompanying development, and the effects of hurricanes, can be studied here. This holistic approach was used in a 3 week laboratory and field course first offered in the summer of 1985. The area has been visited several times since then, and the places and features described in this paper are accurate as of February 2012. A uniformitarian approach was used, in which students studied rock outcrops and then examined the present-day depositional equivalent of each facies by snorkeling over modern reef tracts in the Florida Keys. Outcrops of Pleistocene rock units were examined from Miami southward through the Florida Keys. Students utilized the outcrop data, along with published data and their own observations of reef complexes, to make a regional stratigraphic synthesis and paleogeographic reconstruction for the study area. This article describes the course structure, field exercises, and logistics, which can serve as the basis for similar courses or site visits in this area in the future. Additional information is provided so instructors can tailor the course around their available time and financial limitations, anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks.