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Fall 2007 Program Description


16 credits; 6 credits may be applied to the Geology major.

Geology 240-07: Field Observational Skills (6 credits)

This course takes place mainly at the start of the seminar in order to instill some basic field skills that will be used throughout the seminar, and in particular during the independent projects. The course will emphasize detailed mapping and how to make thorough, relevant observations and measurements in the field. A component of this class includes drawing lessons from Paula Metallo.

Instructors: Professors Davidson & Montanari


(3 credits)

A series of extended field excursions to a variety of locations in the Apennines and the Italian Alps (the Dolomites) will lead to an understanding of the large-scale evolution of mountain belts and their relationship to Mediterranean plate tectonics. Students will write a couple of papers that synthesize field observations and place them in the larger context of plate tectonics.

Instructor: Professors Davidson & Montanari

Geology 242-07: Basin Analysis

(3 credits)

A regional study of the stratigraphic section will form the basis for a synthesis of the history and interplay of tectonics and sedimentation of the region surrounding the Osservatorio before and during the creation of the mountains. This course will involve a combination of lectures, readings, fieldwork, lab work, and a final report.

Instructor: Professor Montanari

Geology 243-07: Event stratigraphy

(2 credits)

This class will focus on sudden, unique, and often catastrophic events in Earth’s history and how such events are deciphered from the rock record. Rocks exposed near the Osservatorio contain evidence of two mass extinction events that are associated with catastrophic asteroid or comet impacts, in addition to several episodes of global ocean stagnation. This course will involve lectures, readings, discussions, and a final paper.

Instructor: Professor Montanari

Geology 291-07: Independent Study

(2 credits)

Working in groups of three or four, students will undertake field-oriented research projects of their own design, applying concepts and methods they have acquired on the seminar or in other geology courses. The results will be presented to the whole group in the form of a talk and a poster.

Instructor: Professor Montanari


Geology 240 and 241 will be completed in the first half of the program; Geology 242 and 291 will occupy the second half of the program; Geology 243 will extend throughout the duration of the program. During the times when the seminar is on extended field trips, students will have the weekends free and will be given food stipends and access to some of the OGC cars to encourage independent exploration of Italy. Coldigioco is about 20 minutes from a train station that provides access to the rest of the country. Rome is a mere 3.5 hours away. A more detailed schedule will be presented at a later date.


Students will be housed in dormitory-style rooms in renovated farmhouses in the village of Coldigioco. The meals — Italian cuisine — will be prepared by the group, providing an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of classic Italian country cuisine. The dining room is also the lecture hall, and when the weather is nice, meals are outside on the terrace with a view of an 11th century watchtower. Bag lunches will be prepared for days spent in the field. While on field trips, the group will stay at campgrounds, so sleeping bags and pads are required; the program will provide tents and other supplies.


Current junior and sophomore geology majors are given first priority in the selection procedure. Within that group, the selection criteria include overall academic achievement (the total number of geology courses is not crucial), progress toward completing distribution requirements, and impressions gleaned from applications and conversations with referees (especially other faculty within geology) about the student’s general suitability for a program abroad. Important factors include adaptability to life in a foreign country and the ability to work smoothly and effectively as a part of a group.