The first annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) was held in 1888 in Ithaca, New York (Fairchild, 1932), but official Sections of GSA formed much later. During the spring of 1949, a symposium in Knoxville, Tennessee, on mineral resources of the southeastern United States became the catalyst for the creation of the Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America (King, 1964), and the first annual meeting of the Southeastern Section was held in 1952 in Roanoke, Virginia (Wilson, 1954). The Northeastern Section formed much later, and its first annual meeting was held in 1966 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Socolow, 1968). At all of these section meetings, field trips have been important venues for geologists and especially students to gather together, examine rocks in the field, and discuss ideas. These field trips have been especially important at combined section meetings because they provide settings for geologists who are experienced in one geographic region to examine and compare the geology of other regions. The first combined meeting of the Southeastern and Northeastern sections occurred in 1976 in Arlington, Virginia. Since then, the Southeastern and Northeastern sections have met together on numerous occasions, including 1982 in Washington, DC; 1991 in Baltimore, Maryland; 2004 in Tysons Corner, Virginia; and 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Since the first combined section meeting in 1976, there has been a gradual increase in the role of technology in geology field studies. In fact, during the past several decades there has been an increase in emphasis in our society on the instrumental component of science, the goal of which is operational techniques to do or control things, and a corresponding decrease in emphasis on the natural philosophy component of science, the goal of which is a greater understanding of the natural world (Dear, 2006). The modern education acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), for example, is often used as a catch-all term that implies that science and technology are relatively synonymous, and implies that greater technology leads automatically to greater understanding of the natural world. This assumption, however, is not always valid (Dear, 2006), and technology should not be promoted as a substitute for field experiences. Technology can be a tool that leads to greater understanding of the natural world, but not all Science uses technology as a means of providing greater understanding. The benefits of new technologies include: (1) data of greater resolution; and (2) greater efficiency of capturing, storing, and visualizing data. The risks of new technologies include: (1) an overabundance of data, some of which may be of little value; (2) less time available for analysis of data, if geologists become occupied primarily with capturing and storing data; and (3) errors that arise from complacency and the perception that field-checking may not be necessary. In other words, there is a risk that a glut of data and vast amounts of time devoted to the capturing and storing of data may result in a reduced interest and (or) willingness to field-check data.
In the spirit of the early GSA section meetings, we feel that there are still enormous advantages to conducting geology field trips in conjunction with traditional meeting presentations and posters. In 2020, with this current combined Southeastern and Northeastern section meeting in Reston, Virginia, we have assembled eight different field trips that cover a wide range of territory in and around the Nation’s capital. These field trip localities include the immediate vicinity of Washington, DC, as well as various locations in nearby areas of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia. The physiographic provinces include Mesozoic Rift Basins, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge, the Valley and Ridge, and the Allegheny Plateau of the Appalachian Basin. The field trip sites exhibit a wide range of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, as well as rocks with a wide range of geologic ages from the Mesoproterozoic to the Holocene. We hope that this guidebook provides new motivation for geologists to examine rocks in the field, to discuss ideas with colleagues in the field, and to avoid becoming complacent.
The editors of this volume would like to thank the authors of the different field trip guides, the field trip leaders, and all of the reviewers who made suggestions for improving the field trip manuscripts. The editors would also like to thank Elle Derwent of GSA for her logistical help and guidance regarding the field trips, and April Leo and the staff of the GSA Publications Department for seeing this book through to publication.