TIES Argentina

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is developing an innovative program in immersive experiential learning known as Thematic Interdisciplinary Experiential Semester (TIES). The program seeks to provide participants with a truly transformative experience in a rigorous, challenging, interdisciplinary, project-based program designed to examine a central theme from a variety of scientific, cultural, economic and political perspectives. TIES Argentina is a pilot program launched in Spring 2011 involving a collaborative interdisciplinary effort by faculty in biology, economics, geology and Latin American studies focusing on the natural and cultural setting of Mendoza, Argentina. This pilot program involves a vibrant living-learning community of 17 students selected from across disciplines and across age groups. Courses are designed in 3.5 week concentrated blocks for project-based inquiry, with dedicated overlap between the blocks to provide interdisciplinary linkages.
This blog will chronicle the adventures, learning experiences and trials and tribulations of the participants in TIES Argentina. We will try to update on a weekly basis, and welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Andean Cordillera

After our project developing a geologic cross section of the Andes Mountains, we had a free day to enjoy Mendoza followed by a day of touring the wineries in the region of Maipú in the province of Mendoza.  We visited two wineries, the first being a larger and older winery called Lagarde that was established in 1897.   We examined the process of wine production from picking the grapes to bottling the final product.  After learning about the manufacturing processes we were then taught proper wine tasting techniques and tasted three different wines made at Lagarde.  The second winery we toured was called Palo Alto which is a smaller, newer boutique winery established within the last decade.  We got to see the similarities and differences between the two wineries before tasting the wine produced at Palo Alto.  We tried three different varietals of Malbec, which is Mendoza’s most well known grape.  After an elaborate lunch we had the opportunity of touring an olive oil factory.  After learning the processes involved in producing olive oil, we got to try a variety of oils.

The very popular Malbec grape

The group at the Lagarde winery after our tour and tasting 

On February 25 we started our second geology project and headed back into the Andes.  For this project we were examining the Malargüe Fold and Thrust Belt near Las Leñas that developed during the uplift of the modern Andes and the sedimentary basins that formed during this deformation.  The first day we camped along the Rio Atuel and were cooked a traditional Argentinean asado by our comedic bus drivers, Luis and Jorge.

Jorge and Louis preparing for a traditional Asado

Before beginning of our basin research project, we gathered in the Triassic rift basin exposed in Cañon Rio Atuel for a brief biology lesson from Dr. Todd Wellnitz about stream ecology – a taste of the many exciting biology lessons we are looking forward to in the coming weeks.    

Todd Wellnitz explaining stream ecology in Rio Atuel.

Later that morning, we then traveled to Los Lenas in the southern central Andes to examine the record of mountain building.  We split into five groups, each lead by a geology student.  Each group was responsible for a different aspect of the poster we would later create.  We travelled into the mountains to Valle Hermoso which is at about 9,000 ft. elevation.  After a challenging hike we examined the deformed rocks in this area and stopped for a lunch that overlooked the spectacular valley. 

Greg Valitchka overlooking the stunning Valle Hermoso

Alex, Greg, and Tom explaining the deformation of the Malargue fold and thrust belt

 The next day, we headed to El Sosneado to measure and describe the sedimentary basin that was initiated by uplift and deformation in the Andes about 9-12 million years ago.  We then travelled back to Mendoza to compile the information we gathered.  The next geology field trip will examine similar processes in a different portion of the Andes, and the two areas will be compared in our geologic poster.


Olivia Iverson explaining some of the sedimentary structures during the basin analysis in El Sosneado.

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