Examine Himalayan geologic history. Consider the benefits and challenges of living in a geologically dynamic region of the world.
Through field experiences, project-based learning, and lectures, the program incorporates the following topics:
Earth science field skill development
The orientation in Kathmandu will provide foundational background knowledge, through site visits around the Kathmandu Valley and interactive lectures and discussions in the classroom.
Students and instructors will then travel across central Nepal and up the massive Kali Gandaki valley with structured field lessons designed to develop basic geoscience field skills. Students will learn to “read” the rocks and use maps and satellite images to better understand past and present Earth processes.
During a grand traverse of the Himalayan range—from the rain-soaked region south of the mountains, through the deepest gorge in the world, between two of the tallest mountains in the world, to the arid edge of the Tibetan Plateau to the north—students will witness a broad range of Earth processes and rock types, allowing them to develop experience with a variety of field observational methods: structural geology, map and cross-section construction, and field identification of geologic features such as rock types, sedimentary structures, and river terraces.
Geohazard analysis and societal contexts
Students will study aspects of hazards assessment, engineering geology, hydropower development, and road building — critical topics to understanding interactions between Himalayan societies and Earth systems interactions.
The program will also focus on risk reduction, particularly in relation to landslides and earthquakes. As earthquakes in Pakistan and China have recently shown, the active tectonics of Asia combined with weak architectural choices, leads to extremely high risk for Himalayan societies. The steep mountain slopes and intense rainfall events make landslides a regular hazard.
The program will consider other geohazards such as flooding and climate change.
Introduction to Earth and human system interactions
The Himalaya are the highest mountain range on Earth and home to diverse cultures that both depend on the mountains and are constantly challenged by their dynamic nature. The same processes that brought ocean sediments to the top of the highest mountains millions of years ago continue today.
Students will consider how the Himalaya are undergoing perpetual transformation and how these changes affect and are affected by human settlements that line the valleys, top the ridges, and spread across the mountainsides.
Field study project on a topic of your choice
Students will pursue their own interests within Earth science and geohazards field studies by conducting an original field study project, with support from program faculty and partners in Nepal. Particular emphasis will be placed on projects that combine field observations of Earth systems with analysis of their impacts on human society. Students may work individually or in small teams. The project may be conducted in the Kathmandu area or in adjacent mountain or hill regions.