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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Geology of the Andes

This past week was our first trip into the Andes Mountains, for examination of a geologic cross-section of the Andean Cordillera. We followed the path of San Martin through the Precordillera, traveling by bus through Villa Vicencio, which offered beautiful scenery as well as excellent geological sites. After a couple hours’ drive alongside steep vertical cliff faces and terrifying precipices, we arrived at the summit of this tiny mountain road, known locally as “the Year Long Road.” It acquired this name because of its 365 hairpin turns that had some of the students wishing for the topography of Eau Claire. Here we caught our first glimpses of the Frontal Cordillera. We were all astounded by its size as it dominated the horizon. We would later find out these were not even the tallest mountains we would see on this trip. The Andes Mountains are actually a series of five mountain ranges, including, from east to west, the Sierra Pampeanas, Precordillera, Frontal Cordillera, Principal Cordillera and Coastal Cordillera, and we examined almost all of these on our trip.
When asked what the highlight of our trip was, we would have to say our stop at Laguna Del Inca was our favorite stop. We had just spent 3 hours stuck at the border of Argentina and Chile and group morale was fading fast. After finally getting free, we decided to make one stop in Chile before heading home. We parked in the lot of a ski lodge and walked around the building. We were struck by the most beautiful view some of us have ever seen. Hidden behind that ski lodge off the freeway was an amazingly blue, glacial-fed, lake. Dr. Mahoney would explain that the peculiar gleam in the water was caused by “glacial flour” (rock ground so fine that it will never settle out). It was hard to get back on the bus after seeing such a place. We would not arrive at our campground in Uspallata until very late that night and after such a long day we all slept like rocks….pun.
Waking up the next day was an unforgettable experience. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, the group was stunned by the tranquility and beauty of the region. Over breakfast we would discuss the day’s events and traveling logistics. One thing we could all agree on was that this was the definition of “hands on learning.” You can read from a textbook the composition of rocks and the altitude of mountain ranges but you don’t really understand the concept until you hold it in your hands or can’t breathe due to the elevation. The classroom has its advantages but being in the Andes lets us experience firsthand what we can only read about in books back home. We would spend a few more days in the Andes honing our geology skills and creating unforgettable memories.
Dan Putman examining to a 250 million year petrified tree in Darwin's Forest

Puente del Inca, by far one of the most spectacular places in the Andes. After a landslide destroyed the hotel, hot springs rich in sulfur bubbled up around the ruins. 

Brennan tutoring Kelsey about the geology of Laguna Del Inca

Brandon and Kris observing folds in a rock face at BaƱos De Telecosta 

Cerro Tambillo in the Frontal Cordillera

The team hard at work compiling their geological data back at the hostel.

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