THE APPALACHIAN COLLEGE ASSOCIATION INTERDISCIPLINARY FIELD TRIP TO BOLIVIA
Traveling from east to west, the trip crossed tectonic provinces from the Brazilian Shield to the Altiplano. The primary focus of the journey was the development of sustainable forestry practices in the eastern lowlands. As the group move westward into more arid environments and higher elevations, forests diminished and the geology became better exposed. Dramatic cultural transitions were clearly related to the environmental changes.
Dense forests occupy the Brazilian Shield, Neogene foreland basin and Sierras Subandinas. Steep slopes in the Cordillera Oriental and the Andean rain shadow usher a rapid change to an unforested, arid to semi-arid, mountainous region. Cultural pressure on indigenous forestry resources seems to defy attempts at sustainability.
The journey began in the lowland city of Santa Cruz and headed eastward to a campsite in La Chonta National Forest. Outcrop in the foreland basin area is minimal to nonexistent. The second site was one of the Serrianas Chiquitanias situated on the Brazilian Shield near the town of Concepción. Folded, coarse-grained gneiss was exposed on the low monadnock. From Santa Cruz, the trip traveled westward to Cochabamba, passing through folded Cenozoic strata in the Sierras Subandinas. Phanerozoic strata, exposed in the Cordillera Oriental around Cochabamba and en route to La Paz exhibit fossils and structures that reveal Andean orogenic history. On the Altiplano the group visited indigenous ruins at Tiwanaku and Isola del Sol, on Lake Titicaca. Peaks in the Cordillera Real played a prominent role in indigenous spirituality.
The trip succeeded in introducing ACA students to a region of the world that was beyond their normal experience. In the interdisciplinary format, students learned to appreciate how the local geology influences local ecosystems and culture.