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GPS program tracks UGA students' journey across U.S.

Jul. 18, 2011

Writer: Beth Gavrilles, bethgav@uga.edu

Contact: John Kominoski, jkominoski@gmail.com

For more than 20 years, the University of Georgia Interdisciplinary Field Program has allowed undergraduate students to learn geology, ecology and anthropology in a coast-to-coast outdoor classroom. This year, the students are sharing their progress by using SPOT, an online GPS tracking tool, which charts their route in real time. To view their journey, log into http://bit.ly/kkZ7FM.

The challenging eight-week course began on Sapelo Island, where the students were introduced to the basics of anthropology, ecology and geology at the UGA Marine Institute. From there, the students and instructors traveled by van across the country, visiting some of the nation's most spectacular national parks and monuments—including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, and Yosemite—along the way.

"Of course, the GPS tracker is fun, because it enables students' families and anyone interested in the program to follow our path, but it's also a really useful tool," said John Kominoski, postdoctoral associate at the Odum School of Ecology and the program's lead ecology instructor. "It facilitates contact with some of the field professionals we work with. We go a lot of places with no cell phone coverage, so knowing our exact coordinates makes it possible for them to meet up with us in the field."

The course is taught by a rotating team of instructors, and the tracking tool also is proving helpful to them in coordinating and planning. Kominoski, who has taught in the IFP for five years, said he has been able to offer advice about specific sites from Athens to co-instructor Caralyn Zehnder, assistant professor of biology and environmental science at Georgia College and State University, based on his experience of the route.

The IFP is sponsored by the UGA Honors program and administered through the Department of Geology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and is open to students from other colleges and universities. This year's participants are from UGA as well as Georgia College and State University. Besides Kominoski and Zehnder, faculty include Paul Schroeder, associate head of the department of geology, IFP director and lead geology instructor; Julie Cox, research professional in the UGA department of geology; Doug Dvoracek, research scientist at the UGA Institute for Applied Isotope Studies; David Wenner, retired UGA associate professor of geology; and Max White, professor of anthropology at Piedmont College.

For more information about the IFP, see http://www.gly.uga.edu/ifp/index.php. For information about applying for the program, see http://www.gly.uga.edu/ifp/index.php?n=APPLY.APPLYONLINE.

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