Twenty-five first-year students from the Institute of Earth Systems recently participated in their first overseas field trip as part of a study-unit titled “Dynamics of the Earth: Earth's Living Systems”, which introduces students to the functioning of the ecological systems that underpin the survival of all life on Earth. The students, who are reading for the Institute’s B.Sc. (Hons) in Earth Systems, explored the various ecosystems of Sicily’s Etna region during the two-day trip which took place on 11 and 12 March.
On the first day, the group of students, accompanied by four staff members from the Institute, travelled by cable car and all-wheel drive Unimog vehicles to the summit of Mount Etna at around 3,000 metres above sea level, where they were able to view both historic lava flows and the active Southeast craters. This summit excursion included a briefing on Europe’s largest and most active volcano, and was followed by a visit to the inactive Monti Silvestri craters at an altitude of 1,900 metres.
The next day focused on studying the geomorphology and biodiversity of the Etna region, including the Alcantara Gorge formed by runoff from Mount Etna and the Nebrodi Mountains, and the Bosco di Malabotta nature reserve situated between the Peloritani and Nebrodi mountains. This nature reserve is considered to have exceptional ecological value with trees such as maples, hazels, chestnuts and centuries-old oaks, as well as undergrowth consisting of peonies, hawthorn, Spanish broom and dog roses.
A selection of photos taken during the trip can be viewed on the Institute’s Facebook page.
Field trips, carried out both locally and abroad, are an integral part of the course programme of the B.Sc. (Hons) in Earth Systems, since experiencing new and diverse environments is considered to be key to students' development of an appreciation of the ways in which the various Earth systems function and link together.