Italy: Earth and Environment

Bounded on the north by the majestic Alps, held up by the sublime yet geologically complex Apennine Mountains, and surrounded by the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, Italy captures the hearts and imaginations of most who are lucky enough to pass through its spectacular landscape.  Perhaps better known for its deep cultural and intellectual history, Italy has played a profound role in shaping our understanding of Earth’s considerably deeper natural history. The nearly continuous, 250 million year geologic record locked into the rocks of Italy is unmatched anywhere on the planet, and reveals an astonishing story of radically different worlds, from the tropical carbonate platforms supporting an abundance of marine life in the ancient Tethys Ocean to periods of violent volcanism and mountain-building. Indeed, it is in the rocks of Italy near the home base of this program where Walter Alvarez (University of California, Berkeley) and others found the iridium anomaly at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary marking the end of the age of dinosaurs thanks to the impact of a 10 km comet or meteorite.

The Earth and Environment in Italy program is designed for students who are looking for a rigorous program built around field-based projects that focus on the interactions between the major earth systems: the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere (including humans). Based out of the Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco, we take advantage of our central location in the Marche region of Italy to take extended field trips to study the Dolomites in the Italian Alps, the famous Carrara marbles of Tuscany and the rugged coastal settlements of neighboring Croatia. Students have additional opportunities to travel throughout Italy and neighboring countries as part of their independent research projects and on days off from the academic program.