Summer Field Experiences

Field research conducted by an interdisciplinary team under challenging conditions is a unifying capstone experience, and especially useful preparation for careers requiring intensive collaboration. EMPOWER includes a two-course integrated field program in the northeastern U.S. and Rwanda that cross-cuts the EMPOWER research theme. During the field experiences, students execute small, tractable group research projects that build on existing instrumentation and research activities. Trainees are exposed to different legs of the energy production pathway, from directly observing the production and preservation of hydrocarbons, the myriad processes operational in actively producing hydrocarbon basins, and the impacts that result from energy extraction and consumption.

(1) Domestic Field Experience: Northeastern U.S.

Students have the option to enroll in a regional 3-week field course that capitalizes on local resources and active research by faculty in 1) the Devonian Shale Basin of NY and PA; 2) the meromictic Fayetteville Green Lake, NY; and 3) experimental watershed research areas at Huntington Forest in the Adirondacks and the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH. The regional field course prepares participants for the rigor and teamwork required for the subsequent international field research opportunity at Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

Fayetteville Green Lake, which is only 10 km from campus, is world-renowned as a natural laboratory for microbial studies, including life in extreme environments, and is an analogue for conditions that promote hydrocarbon preservation in the geologic past.

Huntington Forest and Hubbard Brook are established research sites representative of forest ecosystems in the northeastern U.S., where participating faculty maintain long-running experiments. Participants visit these sites to learn about atmospheric deposition of pollutants associated with fossil fuel consumption, and the impacts of this deposition on vegetation, soil and surface waters in the region.

(2) International Field Experience: Rwanda

Following the domestic field course, students have the option to participate in a 3-week international field program in the East African Rift Valley. At Lake Kivu in Rwanda, which is one of the large lakes of the African Great Rift Valley, trainees study processes of organic matter deposition and hydrocarbon formation, a unique fossil fuel extraction facility, and other developing world energy solutions (geothermal, solar, hydropower). The project team has a long and established track record of research activities in East Africa, and Syracuse University operates a 40’ research vessel on Lake Kivu. The excellent logistical infrastructure of Rwanda, coupled with our established working relationships with the Rwandan government and academic institutions, provide an efficient and safe research field program, and a remarkable international capstone experience for NRT trainees.