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Italy & France Physical Science 

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Day 1-5

Live and work, at a new altitude

Many rigorous scientific field studies, regardless of subject matter, demand that the observer or researcher venture far beyond the lab in order to gain insight. This expedition is no different. Join a small team of peers and make your way to Briançon, France, our jumping off point for this hands-on earth science expedition. After getting to know the group and orienting yourself to the new altitude and surroundings, set off to discover the Alps as they are meant to be experienced. Climb aboard a whitewater raft and take on the Class II and IV rapids of the Romanche River. Then, pack your hiking gear and prepare for a two-day hut-to-hut excursion, visiting quaint chalets and engaging with locals. To acquaint ourselves with the physical qualities of our surroundings, we practice reading topographical maps and identifying the region’s distinct peaks, valleys, flora and fauna. While the core of this segment is focused on rock and glacial formations, we pause for a quick visit of a local farm to sample the wonderful meats and cheeses cultivated in this fertile Alpine prairie.


Day 6-10

Settle in to your field research station

Transfer to a working geological research station and prepare to learn alongside professional geologists. Together, you’ll explore the rock faces and glacial formations that tell the story of the Alps. Explore multiple glacial landforms and different sediment types, including glacigenic, proglacial and periglacial. Learn what a cirque looks like, and how to spot an Arete. We quickly settle into the rhythm of life as a professional geologist, reflective of our own potential career paths. The week continues with a further examination of core geological skills and concepts. Gain experience hand drawing a map of a geological cross-section. Dive into real-world stratigraphy and analyze the geometric relationships between different rock layers. Then, suit up to go rock climbing and get a literal feel for the history represented by the Alps’ unique geological formations . After saying goodbye to new geology colleagues and the peaks we’ve come to love, we turn to our next assignment – at an astronomy research station. Point your lens upward and connect the physical world with the stratosphere. Discover how the forces we've observed on earth impact the cosmic features in space. Lastly, use well-defined astronomy formulas to discern between constellations, nebulae and globular clusters.


Day 11-17

Onward to Italy — land of volcanoes

After arriving in southern Italy, we make our way to Vulcano Island, part of a significant volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Learn how experts monitor volcanic hazards and how to assess the impact of an eruption. Survey the island by kayak and stand-up paddle board and camp on black sand beaches in nearby Lipari. In Sicily, we make our way to the city of Catania, home to Mount Etna. Orient yourself at a volcano research lab and dive deeper into analyses of lava and rock samples. In the shadows of the most active volcano in Europe, we learn about plate tectonics, gain experience using an electron microprobe and tools such as radiocarbon dating to better analyze data and samples. Then, in town, we have a chance to taste local delicacies such as black pudding and meat jelly, inspired by Etna herself. Prior to our transfer to Naples, we push ourselves further with an on-site case study of Etna. Explore the potential hazards of an eruption and its social, environmental, agricultural and economic impact. Learn how experts use modern prediction systems to stay ahead of an eruption and offer your own prognostications.


Day 18-21

Practice the art and science of seismology

This last segment of the journey explores seismology, with a hands-on introduction to earthquakes. Hike up the infamous Mount Vesuvius and experience seismic monitoring firsthand at a scientific observatory. Learn how to interpret a seismogram or seismic signals, plus gather parametric data such as earthquake origin times, locations, and magnitudes. Discover how professionals in the field use these data points to characterize the frequency and size of earthquakes and identify active faults. Stand on hallowed ground, which once destroyed the ancient cities of Pompeii in 79 AD and look forward, in the direction of your own future.

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