Witnessing Geology’s Impact Firsthand With Penn in the Alps

September 15, 2016

As part of the Penn Summer Abroad program, the participants in the 10-day “Penn in the Alps” course received an intellectually and physically rigorous introduction to a region with geological, biological, historical, political, and cultural traits found nowhere else. Led by Reto Gieré, chair and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, the students took an interdisciplinary approach to learn how the dramatic geology of the Alps shaped the way the region looks and operates. Gieré, who is from Zurich and has ancestral roots in the region’s alpine valleys, served as the students’ personal guide to the region.

“When you grow up in the mountains you are affected by them in all ways,” Gieré says. “Geological features have influenced the area’s history, the plants and wildlife, the languages, just everything. It’s one thing to read about it or hear about it, but, when you see it, it’s a different story.”

Offered through the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, the course drew rising sophomores, juniors and seniors from diverse disciplines.

Constantly on the move, the students spent the better part of most days hiking, with stops for discussions of notable sites or natural phenomena. In the evenings, they settled down to multi-course meals at remote hostels and mountain inns.

Each student was asked to prepare a research paper on an Alps-related topic outside his or her academic major. The students presented their topics at points along the trail.

Click here to read the full article.