Baja California and Baja California Sur are the Mexican states which make up the geologically & biologically diverse and culturally rich Baja Peninsula. The Peninsula is primarily Sonoran Desert with an extensive coastline. This part of the Sonoran desert has high biological diversity. Gigantic cacti, bizarre succulents, and verdant thornscrub forests drape brilliant rock formations! It is incredibly beautiful with high mountains, tablelands, mesas, arroyos, plains and a remarkable coastline with rich marine ecosystems.
Our course emphasizes the geologic and biologic attributes of the Baja Peninsula but acknowledges the societal context for conservation of these resources. During our study tour we learn through hands-on field activities including backpacking excursions into the deep Sonoran Desert and the Sea of Cortez coastal zone. We will also explore the near shore environments of both the Pacific and Sea of Cortez by small boat in seas frequented by a variety of marine fauna including whales and sea lions!
Indigenous, Spanish and later Mexican cultures have locally impacted the landscape through farming, ranching, industry and tourism. Mexicans have and are eager to consider new ways in which their livelihoods can be consistent with preserving cultural dignity, developing economic alternatives and maintaining/restoring ecological integrity. We explore the ethical dimensions of the Baja Peninsula's environmental policy challenges. In order to understand the challenges and opportunities for protected areas we take a multi-sectoral approach by learning with government, non-government, residential, business and educational stakeholders in the Baja Peninsula's communities. We will also explore literary and artistic interpretations of the Baja Peninsula.
Our three week course involves extensive car camping and day hiking as well as several multi-night backpacks in different geologic and biologic regions of the Baja peninsula. We rendezvous in San Diego and then immediately proceed to the spectacular Baja Peninsula.Only 12 students are admitted to the course.
(This may change due to expedition, climate and road conditions):
San Diego, Tijuana, Ensenada, Ejido Erindera, Coastal Sage Scrub Biome, Pacific Coast, Sierra Juarez, Catavina, Area de Proteccion de Flora y Fauna Valle do los Cirios, Sonoran Desert Biome, Bahia de los Angelos, Bahia de las Animas, Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Sea of Cortez, San Ignacio. There will be two three-day study backpacks.
Upon completion of this course, a student should be able to:
1. describe the physical geographic features of the Baja Peninsula.
2. understand the tectonic, structural and geomorphic features of the Baja Peninsula
3. be able to field identify the major rock types of the Baja Peninsula.
4. identify the ecological zones of the Baja Peninsula.
5. apply principles of field biology to identify common flora and fauna.
6. describe common biotic interactions in the Sonoran desert
7. describe the impacts of farming, mariculture, ranching, fishing and ecotourism on the geology and biology of the Baja Peninsula.
8. describe the legal status of Baja Peninsula protected areas, different categories of protected areas and its effects on people and biological diversity.
9. co-design and co-implement a Participatory Action Research project (with geological and biological components) serving the interests of the local community.