THE APPALACHIAN COLLEGE ASSOCIATION'S BERGER GRANT FIELD TRIP TO CHILE, ARGENTINA, PARAGUAY, AND BRAZIL: A FOCUS ON GEOLOGY SHAPING ECOLOGICAL DIVERSITY AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
The first night was spent in Buenos Aires, after a city tour and an evening at a tango club. The following morning, the group flew to Mendoza. The original intent was to cross the Andes to Santiago and head north to the start of the trip. A blizzard in the Andes prohibited crossing so the northward trek took place on the eastern side of the Andes through the deserts of the Sierras Pampeanas, at the Subtropical Divergence. The Andean crossing took place in Catamarca province with a road summit elevation well over 5,000 m.
The group proceeded northward to the traverse starting point at Antofagasta, Chile. Heading eastward, the first environments visited were the Coastal Cordillera and Atacama Desert. Climbing the gradient of the Western Cordillera, with its towering volcanoes, few plants were seen. Once the summit of the pass was crested, we entered the Puna, a high, dry plateau that is the southern extension of the Altiplano. After a night above 4300 m the group visited one of the world's largest dry, saline lakebeds.
Descending from the Puna through the Quebrada del Toro, the group entered the intermontane valleys of the Eastern Cordillera in Salta province, Argentina. After touring the Quebrada de las Conchas and the Valles Calchaquíes, several days were spent in the provincial capital where students and faculty met with counterparts from Salta National University. From there, the group traveled eastward across the broad savanna of the Chaco, stopping at an indigenous reserve. Through Paraguay, the trip crossed the rolling, basaltic, agricultural hills of the Paraná Basin. The final stop was at the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls, situated in a lush tropical forest.
The students came away with an appreciation of how the Andean uplift created the diverse array of ecosystems visited during the trip. Building from that they saw how the ecosystems influenced the indigenous and colonial cultural development.