GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 152-9
Presentation Time: 3:55 PM


ROUGVIE, James R.1, SWANSON, Susan1, FURUKAWA, Susan2 and YOUD, Daniel2, (1)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Beloit, WI 53511, (2)Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Beloit, WI 53511

The Landscapes in Transition program at Beloit College employs innovative approaches to geoscience education through the lens of Asian studies. Funded by the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment, the two-part program includes field courses that focus on China’s Yellow River and its relation to urban and rural life over the previous three millennia and the role of natural and cultural heritage in sustaining rural communities in Akita Prefecture, Japan.

Students participating in the China course visit the Songshan UNESCO Global Geopark, located in Henan Province and near the southern banks of the Yellow River. Here, students observe and consider spectacular overturned folds that are described in English language trailside interpretive signage as an “inverted universe.” Significantly, the corresponding Chinese language description of this phenomenon—i.e., qian kun zhuandaodraws from the symbolism of the classic Book of Changes (Yijing), thereby affording students the opportunity to consider how the Chinese philosophical tradition overlaps with the form of geologic structures and impacts perceptions of the natural environment.

Students participating in the Japan course explore the intersection between geoscience and cultural practice in the Oga Peninsula; they seek to understand the role that geoheritage can play in promoting rural sustainability in the face of stark depopulation and aging problems. The area is home to the Oga Peninsula-Ogata Geopark, a Japanese National Geopark partly included in Oga Quasi-National Park. It is also home to the Namahage ritual in which young men reenact New Year’s Eve visits by ogre-like deities in cultural practices that are included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Students investigate geoheritage and the roles governmental departments, tourism associations, and community members play in balancing education, preservation, and economic development goals.

Landscapes in Transition has generated interest in the geosciences by students who were initially more attracted to the humanities. Likewise, students with initial interests in geology have pursued language study as a result of the program.