Going West since 1988!
The idea for what is now the University of Georgia IFP began way back in the late 1980s as a way for introductory geology students to encounter “textbook examples” of geologic phenomena in real-life, instead of through the classroom slide projector. The western U.S. has a little bit of everything – deserts, mountains, volcanoes, active faults, geysers, landslides, great fossil locations – and a lot of it not covered up by vegetation like it is here in Georgia. The program was initially created for students in the UGA Honors Program and thus was known as the Honors Field Geology Program (HFGP).
The first trip ran for 10 weeks in the summer of 1988, and hit all the highlights: Carlsbad Caverns, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, Yosemite, Point Reyes, Crater Lake, Mount St. Helens, Glacier, Yellowstone, and others. Just like today, all transportation was by van with campground accommodations. One of the students from that inaugural year, Liz Stanley, has posted a gallery of some photos from 1988, as well as from more recent years in which she joined us in the field just for fun. (We always welcome camp visitors!)
In subsequent years, the field trip was shortened to 8-weeks long. In 1993, we added an Anthropology component and changed the program name to GASFP – Geology and Anthropology Summer Field Program. This revised program added visits to archeological sites and museums, such as Ocmulgee, Chaco, and Warm Springs, and broadened the focus to include humankind’s varied and changing relationships North American landscapes.
Later we also made PE credit available for the miles of hiking and outdoor training our participants complete. In 2002, we added Ecology to the mix and turned the program into what it is today, a truly Interdisciplinary Field Program. Our current approach is to teach all these disciplines as integrated and interdependent, encouraging students to make big picture connections among the basic sciences, land-use decisions, and environmental issues.
In Summer 2015 we also added a Creative Writing class to the IFP. Throughout the program, students developed writing and photography skills to document the trip. Check out their incredible work on Medium!
Today the IFP is still run by the UGA Geology Department (with help from the Honors Program, Rec Sports, and the Center for Applied Isotope Studies), and the fundamentals of the program haven’t changed. We still emphasize excellent academics and scientific discovery. Every summer we still log thousands of van miles, visit dozens of parklands, and camp out (almost) every night. Many of the current program faculty have been involved since the early years, and between us we have several decades of experience leading students on a safe, educational, and fun trip across the country.