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Andes Field Camp


Cornell University/University of Buenos Aires
Field Course in Geological Sciences

  • EAS 4170 - summer course in field mapping and geology of the Central Andes
    The Greater Andes Mountains of San Juan and Mendoza Provinces, Argentina
  • EAS 4170 will be offered in Northern Hemisphere Summer 2015

The Andes Field camp is supported by generous contributions from Shell Oil Company.

Applications from Non-Cornell Students Preferred by February 1, 2015.
Decisions Will Be Made in Late-February or Early-March


Contact for American students: Professor Suzanne Mahlburg Kay
Dept. of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Snee Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
FAX: 1-607-254-4780
Phone: 1-607-255-4701 for more information.

Argentine students: Professor Victor A. Ramos
Dept. of Geology
University of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phone and FAX (54-11-4701 6947).


Field mapping course designed to fulfill a field requirement for college undergraduate or graduate students doing degrees in Geological Sciences and to provide a rigorous field geological experience for other interested and qualified college students. A general introduction to geological sciences and a course in structural geology are required prerequisites unless waived by the instructor. The course consists of lectures in Buenos Aires and field exercises in the Sierras Pampeanas, Precordillera, and Main Cordillera Ranges of the Argentine Andes. Classes and field exercises are held in combination with students, faculty and staff from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) geology department. The field area is marked by spectacular rock exposures and superb examples of geologic phenomena in an active tectonic environment.  The first part of the course is based on field exercises that include mapping of recently active faults, Precambrian metamorphic rocks including a Precambrian ophiolite, Paleozoic to Tertiary sedimentary rocks, and Tertiary volcanic rocks. A principal exercise is construction of a geologic map and structural cross-section across the Precordillera range. The second part includes two mapping projects and a 4 day field trip with study exercises in the adjacent Frontal and Main Andean Cordilleras. The final part is optional for UBA students. Lodging is at the university in Buenos Aires, in tents in the first part of the field exercises, and in cabins for the second part of the field exercises.

Course: Cornell Summer Session Course EAS 4170.  All students register for 4 credits of EAS 4170 through the Cornell summer session.  Regular Cornell may students sign up for an additional credit of EAS 4910 (1 credit) in the fall semester which includes preparation of a report on some aspect of the field region using the field work, notes on regional geology, library resources, and computer-based satellite imagery at Cornell. Some Cornell students have used the field course as a spring board for doing undergraduate research projects.  Enrollment is limited to 15 American students.

Minimum prerequisites: An introductory course in physical geology and a course in structural geology (EAS 4260).  Some field experience through an introductory field course or field experience in other course is recommended. Spanish is useful, but not required. Lectures and explanations are given in both English and Spanish. All Argentine instructors are fluent in English.  All Argentine students have studied English and many are relatively fluent. Language restrictions are considered in assigning groups when joint efforts are required.

Application Procedure
To apply for the class, you need to send Prof. Suzanne Mahlburg Kay (Dept. of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Snee Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, a letter (an e-mail attachment is preferred) that includes: a) your name, address (including e-mail and telephone), b) your class year and expected graduation date; c) a description of the geological sciences and related science courses that you have taken along with your grades in those course, d) a statement as to your interest in the earth sciences, and d) a discussion of any physical or mental health problems you have, that would affect your participation in a vigorous outdoor setting that involves living in a tent for part of the time, We would also like to know, for interest, if you can speak any Spanish. The ability to speak Spanish is not required. Students not enrolled at Cornell also need to have a letter of reference sent to Prof. Kay from a professor in the earth sciences.

We will notify you of acceptance by February 15, 2015. Subsequently, you will receive information on officially registering for the class through the Cornell Summer School. You will receive an information packet about the end of May with equipment lists, etc and some material to be read before arriving in Argentina. As described in the class information, you need to make your own travel plans to and from Buenos Aires as the course officially begins and ends there. Cornell does not allow us to take responsibility for making international travel plans. There are a number of discount air-fares available WEB and through travel agencies.

Cost: Tuition cost in 2015 is $1,260 per credit or $5,040 for 4 credits. Tuition covers all course material, transportation and lodging in Argentina. Most meal costs are included. Students pay their own round-trip airfare from the US to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Discount air fares from the US are generally available for less than $1000.00. Course officially starts and ends in Buenos Aires.

Financial Aid:  Regular Cornell students can apply for financial aid if they qualify for financial aid in the regular academic year – see Suzanne Kay in Snee 3140 for details. 

Registration Procedure with Cornell:
After being accepted by Professor Kay, you need to register officially for EAS 4170 in the special program division of the Cornell Summer Session. EAS 4170 is an official Cornell course and credit can be transferred to other colleges and universities.  Forms and instructions for registration are in the Cornell summer brochure available through the Cornell Summer Session, B20 Day Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Phone: 1-607-255-4987. FAX: 255-9697. E-mail: Registration information is available online at

Cornell University
Prof. Suzanne Kay and graduate teaching assistant

University of Buenos Aires
Prof. Victor A. Ramos and graduate teaching assistant (s).
Dr. Daniel Perez
Prof. Graciela Vujovich

Schedule for previous years (Schedule for 2015 will be similar) - Includes travel - students can extend the beginning or end of the trip for personal time to tour. Course officially begins and ends in Buenos Aires.  The example schedule below is from previous years.  The exercises will be the same but the some of the dates may change.

July 4 - Leave US - almost all flights leave at night
July 5 - Arrival, tour Buenos Aires, night at INGEIS/UBA. 
July 6 - Lectures on regional geology and structural geology review, make
topographic profiles for cross section.  Group dinner in Buenos Aires
July 7 - Stroebel lecture at the
University of Buenos Aires, bus to San Juan
July 8 - Arrive at Ponderosa site, introduction to
Precordillera, look at Cerro Blanco Miocene volcanic center.
July 9 - Map and cross section of La Laja fault, scarp of 1944
July 10 & 11 – Map deformed metamorphic Precambrian rocks - Pie de Palo
July 12 - Map of Precordillera Triangle Zone region and other features on
TM satellite base.
July 13 to 15 - Geologic map on topographic base and construction of 
cross-section across central Precordillera along Rio San Juan from Punta Negra
to Pacheco. Paleozoic to Tertiary sedimentary rocks.
July 16 & 17 - Map of Quebrada Albarracín region on air photo, thrust
faults, folds, ignimbrites.
July 18 - Silurian Mélange, pizza and free evening in city of San
July 19 - Transit to Calingasta Valley and Barreal with stops, geologic map
of western part of Rio San Juan region on topographic base.  Move into
cabins in Barreal.
July 20 - Triassic sequences in western Precordillera, .
July 21 - Map on air photo base at Rincon Blanco -  inverted Triassic
July 22 to 24:  (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Map on air photo base in
western Precordillera  near km 114, Rio San Juan.
July 25 - Office day to work on maps and other assignments with short
morning trip to Hoyada Verde to see Gondwana glacial features.
July 26 -Geology of Frontal Andean Cordillera, El Horcajo Permo-Triassic
ignimbrite section, Tertiary foreland basin sediments, and thrust
July 27 - Geology of western Precordillera structures, Cortaderas
ophiolite, Darwin's trees, Triassic basalts.
July 28 - Uspallata to Las Cuevas, geology of the principal Andean
Cordillera, Triassic plutons, Mesozoic and Tertiary volcanic and sedimentary
rocks, glacial features, Aconcagua fold and thrust belt.
July 29 - Final quiz in morning, afternoon bus to Mendoza and free time in
Mendoza city, night  bus to Buenos Aires.
July 30 - Arrive Buenos Aires in morning, course ends, finish assignments,
final dinner with Argentine students, night at INGEIS.
July 31 - All field exercises must be turned in, can spend night at INGEIS.
Course officially ends.

Air fare:
Cornell requires students to buy their own airline tickets.  Traveling in groups of two or three is encouraged.  

Equipment and Living Conditions:

Housing in Buenos Aires is at INGEIS, the geochemical institute at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). Space is limited so some students will have to use sleeping bags. The facility is spartan, but is clean, includes a kitchen, and is well located relative to the UBA geology department and transportation to downtown Buenos Aires. A commercial bus will be rented for transportation to San Juan Province for the field exercises.  Regular bus service will be used to return to Buenos Aires at the end of the course. In San Juan, we will camp out and cook for the first part of the course, and then move to rustic cabins for the second part. You will need a sleeping bag, a tent if you have one (we have some), and equipment for the weather conditions and field work. Also a good pair of boots, a day pack, a geological hammer, a GPS is desirable – not required, dishes.

Sanitary Conditions: Argentina is a first world country in terms of health and sanitation. No special precautions are needed against disease. The same common sense practices used in the US for drinking water and food will be followed.

Weather: July is winter in Argentina. The San Juan region has a climate like the Mojave around Las Vegas, Nevada. Daytime temperatures should range from a low in the forties to a high in the low seventies. Night temperatures could be near freezing some nights. Temperatures will be colder in the Main Cordillera the last few days. We will staying in cabins at this point. You will need an adequate sleeping bag and sensible field clothes. There will be no big snow falls or blizzards, it's not Ithaca, New York.

Documents: A valid passport is needed. No visas are required for US or Canadian citizens.  Other international students are responsible for their own tourist visas.

Money: Transportation, lodging and most meals are included. When in Buenos Aires, in transit on the bus, or in San Juan, you will be eating out. Bring adequate money for a few days in restaurants and souvenirs, etc. Prices in San Juan are like Ithaca and cheaper. Prices in Buenos Aires are like or less than those in major cities (e.g., Boston, New York) in the US or cheaper. The unit of currency is the peso.


The Cornell/University of Buenos Aires summer field course has evolved from almost two decades of research collaboration between Cornell and Argentine geologists and geophysicists. The rationale is simple: why not include undergraduates in an international experience in a region of some of the most spectacular geology in the world? And so, centered around the Precordillera range in San Juan Province, Argentina, Professors Suzanne Kay (Cornell) and Victor Ramos (University of Buenos Aires) now run a combined field course. The combined course started in 1996 and has evolved since.  Here is what has happened in the past. Early in July, students from Cornell and other universities board a 10-hour flights south (no jet lag!) to Buenos Aires, where they meet their University of Buenos Aires counterparts, attend orientation lectures, and have a day to see Buenos Aires. An overnight bus trip to the west with the Argentine students puts them on site for the first field mapping exercises in the deeply incised and wonderfully exposed folded and faulted rocks along the Rio San Juan in the Precordillera range on the eastern side of the Andes. Among the geological riches of the field region, the students examine and map sections of Precambrian ophiolitic rocks thrust over platform sedimentary rocks, Paleozoic rocks deformed in a spectacular Miocene fold and thrust belt, violently erupted Miocene volcanic units, and the fault scarp marking the site of the devastating 1944 San Juan earthquake. The first part of the field session culminates with an asado (one of many Argentine cookouts) with the Argentine students. The rest of the course for the American and part of the Argentine student group continues with additional mapping projects and a trip to the Main Cordillera that ends beneath the Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas.

A laboratory of Eastern and Western North American geology and tectonics


The Precordillera and Pie de Palo Ranges and surrounding area have geologic characteristics suggesting that this region constitutes a terrane that rifted away from southeastern North America (Laurentia) in Late Precambrian-Cambrian times and collided with South America (Gondwana) in the Ordovician.

- The PIE DE PALO RANGE is largely composed of high-grade Grenville-age Precambrian metamorphic rocks with affinities to those of Grenville basement in the Eastern US.- The PRECORDILLERA RANGE has a Cambrian sequence identical to that of eastern North America. The Ordovician through Devonian sequences are lithologically and environmentally similar to those of the Appalachians and have been deformed in Ordovician and Devonian deformational events.- Late Paleozoic-Early Mesozoic Precordillera sequences have a Gondwana-southern hemisphere flavor.


The Tertiary evolution of the Precordillera Range and surrounding region is dominated by a tectonic style related to a shallowly dipping subducting oceanic plate. The modern tectonic setting of this region of the Central Andes is the modern analogue for understanding the Laramide Ranges of the Rocky Mountains and Colorado-Wyoming fold-thrust belt.

- The PIE DE PALO RANGE is a block-style uplift that is the analogue for the Big Horn, Laramide, Medicine Bow, Uinta, Rocky Mountain and other Ranges of the western US. The Pie de Palo Range has been uplifted in the last 2 to 3 Ma. This is a region of active tectonics. In addition, it house the world's best preserved Proterozoic ophiolite which apparently formed in a Lau Basin western Pacific arc/backarc basin complex.
- The PRECORDILLERA FOLD-THRUST belt is the analogue for the Colorado-Wyoming fold-thrust belt. The range is bordered by an impressive Tertiary foreland basin that is still actively forming.
- Volcanic rocks of Miocene age cut the Precordillera fold-thrust belt.

Textbook examples of geologic processes and features are numerous in the region; this is just a sampling of the incredible geology of the Precordillera Region.