Academic Overview and Courses

The 12-week program is based at the Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco (OGC). It starts in early August and ends in late October, in order to take advantage of optimal weather for fieldwork. Most of our time is spent in the field, making observations and collecting data. This is a time-intensive program with typical days (including weekends) starting with breakfast at 7:30 AM and ending with dinner at 8:00 PM. The modular nature of the program, built around individual field projects, means that one and two-day breaks are unevenly distributed throughout the semester with one six-day break near the middle of the program. The last two weeks of the program are dedicated to a capstone independent research project that culminates in a research paper and presentation. Prerequisite: Introductory lab science course; Earth or environmental science course recommended but not required.

Courses:

ENVS 230: Earth Systems and the Environment
Instructors: OGC staff & U.S. based program faculty director
4 semester credits

This course focuses on 1) the operation of the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere within the context of the Earth system as a whole, 2) how the operation of these systems may change over time and 3) how these systems define the environmental context in which humans live. We will draw on the immense field laboratory of the Italian peninsula to explore Earth system processes from the deep geologic past to the present. Course work will be based primarily on field observations and analysis.

ENVS 330: The Geology of Italy
Instructors: OGC staff & U.S. based program faculty director
4 semester credits

Although Italy’s geology, like much of the American Midwest, is characterized in large part by limestone bedrock, the landscape and geological history of Italy are unlike anything encountered in the central United States. In this course we will learn techniques for deciphering the sometimes complex geologic history recorded in the rocks of Italy, and will use these techniques to reconstruct events of mountain building, crustal deformation, igneous activity, metamorphism, erosion, extraterrestrial impacts, and climate and environmental change that have shaped the geology and landscape encountered today on the Italian peninsula.

ENVS 389: Directed research
Instructors: OGC staff & U.S. based program faculty director
2 semester credits

Working in small groups (2-3), and in consultation with program faculty, students design and implement a field-based research project that draws on what they have learned during the program and from previous coursework. These projects typically have open-ended research questions that require the collection of field measurements and/or samples for further analysis in the laboratories at OGC. Many students have used these projects to form the basis for an undergraduate senior thesis at their home institutions.

ART 105: Science and the Aesthetic
Instructor: OGC staff
4 semester credits

Communicating through graphical and visual means is an important skill that all scientists need to master. In this course, students learn to translate their scientific understanding into illustrative visual representations and to make effective, aesthetically pleasing figures for presentations and publications. Drawing from the cognitive sciences and making use of Italy’s long art history, students explore the connections between art, science, and our sense of the aesthetic in order to develop their own skills in the visual communication of scientific information.

ITAL 100: Basic Italian
Instructor: OGC staff
2 semester credits

A working knowledge of the Italian language will allow you to move around the country more confidently and is helpful when working on your independent research project at the end of the semester. This intensive language course offered during the first three weeks of the program includes classroom study and homework aimed at acquiring skill in conversational Italian, which you will have opportunity to practice and improve throughout the semester.