Wyoming Field Studies Program

The Wyoming Field Studies Program is a unique introduction to the fundamental practices of paleontology, ecology, and archaeology, with a strong emphasis on field techniques. Students are given the opportunity to unlock a natural time capsule, one teeming with remnants of life that date back 150 million years.

Thanks to the generous donation of land to the University of Pittsburgh by rancher Allen Cook, the University of Pittsburgh Honors College maintains stewardship of the Allen L. Cook Spring Creek Preserve, a bountiful 6000-acre tract that embraces pristine dinosaur-bone-bearing beds, Native American archaeology spanning 9,000 years, indigenous prairie ecology, and a section of the original grade of the 1869 trans-continental railroad. Located near Rock River, Wyoming, the Spring Creek Preserve includes prominent outcroppings of the Jurassic Morrison Formation, a geological formation that contains some of the most famous dinosaurs known to North America. In fact, the first example of the famous Diplodocus carnegii, whose skeleton lives across the street from the Honors College in Pittsburgh, was unearthed at a different point along the very same formation! Unlike the diplodocus's excavation site, the Spring Creek Preserve was left untouched during the Western US excavations of the late 19th and and early 20th centuries; as such, students explore the concepts and methods of paleoecology in a pristine environment.

In addition to their work in the Spring Creek Preserve, students will take numerous short field trips to other study localities and into the nearby Medicine Bow Mountains for learning, hiking, and recreation. A multi-day field trip will explore the broader geology, paleontology, archaeology, and ecology of the state of Wyoming, including visits to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Thermopolis hot springs, Green River Formation fossil collecting sites, and the Killpecker Dune Field. Participants' experiences will be broadened through community with students from the University's Studio Arts Department, whose creativity is inspired by the local environment every summer, and by delving into fictional and non-fictional literature set in the area, historical accounts of the Laramie region, and discussions of the political and ethical issues surrounding land use in the West.

Course Information

Read the Course Description

Meet the Professors

Download the Brochure (PDF)

The Preserve

See photographs from recent sessions

Learn more about the preserve's history in the Washington Post profile, Jurassic Park

Read about the field studies program's inaugural year in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Review the latest report on the Spring Creek Preserve from Wyoming's Casper Star-Tribune.