Ask-a-Geologist #15: What Geology Field Notes Do I Take When I Find Rocks and Minerals?

What geology field notes should I take when I find rocks and minerals?

This Ask-a-Geology question is about what type of notes to take when you are out hunting rocks. While some rock collectors never write anything down, it is a good idea to learn how to take geology field notes so that you can remember the details about the samples in your collection

The Best Geology Field Notes for Rock and Mineral Collectors

Ellie wrote to us and asked, “What type of notes do you take when you find rocks and minerals out in nature?”

Well Ellie, geologists like to take a notebook and a pen wherever they go, especially if they’re out hunting for rocks. They have special notebooks that they use called field notebooks that have waterproof paper and they use special pens, but you really don’t need anything that fancy.

Example of Geology Field Notebook

I have a little spiral-bound notebook here that I like to use and carry around if I find something neat. And what I’ll do is, if I’m out looking for rocks or if I just happen to find something interesting and I’m going to keep it in my collection, I like to write down things like where I found it, what date I found it on, and different properties of the rock.

As you can see here, this is an entry that I did. I was out hunting rocks with my kids one day, and we found this really neat sample near a playground. So in my notebook, I wrote down about a rock I found, the date that we found it, which was March 13th, and the location where we found it. We were near a playground near our house, so I wrote down the name of the playground, and we found it in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

I’m not a great artist, but I like to make a little sketch of the rock that we found. This is a picture of the rock, and it shows some dark mineral grains and some light mineral grains. And what we came up with was, this is possibly a granite.

So I wrote down what we thought it might be, that we think it’s a granite. It looks like it has some quartz, some feldspar, and some micas in it because it looked like you could kind of flake off the mica with your fingers.

Geologists Love to Draw Pictures in the Field Notebook

I also drew a little map of the area where we found the sample. And since we thought we had found a pretty unique rock and there were not a lot of rock outcrops in the area, we went looking around to see if there was anything that we could find in the area. And we didn’t really find any big outcrops, so we came to the conclusion that this was probably a piece of granite used during the construction of the playground itself.

So we wrote all that down in the notebook so that in the future if we’re ever looking at our rock collection and we want to know a little bit about this particular sample, we can go back to our notebook and find it.

Tips to Create an Organized Rock and Mineral Collection Notebook

Now, one thing that you can also do is, a lot of people will make a little mark on their samples, especially if they just kind of keep them in a box.

You can use a little bit of white-out and make a little circle on your rock, and use a sharpie or something and make a little notation of the number of the rock sample that you found. So you can give you, it’s your samples and ID, or you can just write down the date that you found it. So that when you’re looking through your samples a few years from now, you can go back to your notes and see what the unique features are of that particular rock.

Now if you find something that you think is a mineral and you take it back to your house, and you want to do some samples, you can expand the entry in your notebook by talking about the color, the streak, and the hardness. You can also do that with rocks if you can test and see if there’s calcite in the mineral with the fizz test. You can write all of that into your field notebook.

So sometimes it’s good, I like to use a two-page notebook. And on one side I will write everything that we found when we were outside looking around, and then I’ll use the second page to come in and write down anything that we found when we were testing the samples after the fact.

Now, we haven’t tested this particular sample yet, but when we do, I will go ahead and fill in that second side of our geology field notes and see if we can come up with any more conclusive information about what that rock might be.

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