Geology and Natural History of Hawaii

J Term Course: GEOL 275 Geology and Natural History of Hawaii

Course Overview

The Hawaiian Islands possess several geological and environmental phenomena that are unique on Earth (including the most active and accessible volcano on Earth), thus there are few other places on Earth where this collection of educational experiences can be mimicked, much less replicated. Participants will explore many unique and breathtaking geological, biological, oceanographic and cultural destinations. Through a series of field and reflective assignments, students will compare/contrast the physical characteristics and environments observed on/around each island, paying close attention to the influence of geology on human society and the impact humans have had on the natural world.

Basic Course Information

  • A 24-day field course (19 days of exciting field activities+ 3 days off + 2 travel days) offered every 2-3 years during January Term.
  • Visits 4 islands (Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Hawai’i)
  • Limited to 19 students.
  • Coordinated and co-taught by Dr. David Griffing, along with another GESC faculty member.

Highlighted Activities

  • Examine the geological features of Earth’s most active volcano and perhaps poke a red-hot lava flow!
  • Learn how Hawaiian volcanoes age and evolve.
  • Hike trails along 3,000 foot-tall cliffs, through tropical rainforests, by breathtaking canyons and giant waterfalls…nearly every location has world-class scenery.
  • Snorkel the unique coral reefs of the Central Pacific.
  • View humpback whale mating displays on an unforgettable whale watch.
  • Come face-to-face with rare, exotic and endangered species.
  • Catch the view from the summits of some of Earth’s tallest mountains.
  • See evidence of ancient Polynesian culture at well-preserved archaeological sites.
  • Learn about Hawaii’s unique blend of Polynesian and Pan-Pacific cultures through language, food, art, and dance.

Course Trip Fee

A reasonable student fee covers: 1) roundtrip group airfare from NYC area to Honolulu, 2) all inter-island airfare between the 4 islands visited, 3) all trip lodging, 4) 3 meals daily once in the islands (including a luau), 5) van transportation on each island, 6) all program-related activity fees, and 7) a share of the lodging, meals and transport costs for the faculty (standard for all off-campus J-Terms).

Physical Requirements

All students must be physically capable to participate in lengthy day hikes – often over uneven, muddy trails and rocky surfaces. Other physical activities involve light swimming/snorkeling and boat rides. All participants should expect long days in outdoor settings (in a variety of weather conditions).

Academic Requirements

  1. All students must enroll and successfully complete the 1-credit pre-trip orientation course (GEOL 274) to be offered during the Fall 2015 semester.
  2.  J Term course grades are based on: A) participation and behavior during the trip (5%), B) field notebooks maintained consistently by each student throughout the trip (30%), C) individual oral presentations researched and organized during the pre-trip course (25%), D) two (2) reflective papers written during the course of the trip (each worth 15% – a total of 30%), and E) a small number of short field assignments + a geography quiz (10%).

Sample Trip Itinerary of Activities

Actual activities subject to change due to booking availability, changes or delays in travel, time available, weather conditions, and volcanic conditions. Actual travel dates, flight numbers, departure times, and lodging providers included in later course itinerary, when bookings are complete.

Oahu “The Gathering Place”

  • Day 1: Meet at airport (NYC area) and fly to Honolulu, HI (10.5-11 hours).
  • Day 2: Bernice Bishop Museum & Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial (Honolulu area).
  • Day 3: Hanauma Bay Park reef snorkel. Diamond Head hiking tour. Dinner in Waikiki.
  • Day 4: Reef limestone project at Kaena Point State Park. Pu’u O Mahuka historic site. Sunset Beach/Banzai Pipeline.

Kauai “The Garden Island”

  • Day 5: Fly to Lihue, Kauai. Lunch, provisioning and check in. Poipu beach seals; Mahaulepu limestone (time permitting)
  • Day 6: Napali Coast cliff hike. Ke’e Beach reef snorkel.
  • Day 7: Hike into Waimea Canyon (“Grand Canyon of the Pacific”). NaPali Coast view at Kalalau Overlook
  • Day 8: Full day off (default locale is Kalapaki Beach)

Maui “The Valley Isle”

  • Day 9: Fly to Kahului, Maui. Provisioning and check in. Afternoon off.
  • Day 10: Haleakala volcano southern flank road stops. Haleakala NP Kipahulu – hike to Waimoku Falls.
  • Day 11: Haleakala National Park – Haleakala crater hike from summit (Sliding Sands Trail).
  • Day 12: Pacific Whale Foundation whale watch. Maui Ocean Center (aquarium). McGreggor Point lavas (time permitting).
  • Day 13: Molokini snorkel trip (AM); afternoon off. Evening luau in Lahaina.

Hawai’i “The Big Island” (West Side)

  • Day 14: Fly to Hilo, HI; Drive to Kona area; Optional stops at Kaumana Cave or Mauna Kea summit (time and weather permitting).
  • Day 15: Hualalai volcanics near Pu’u wa’awa’a. Kohala volcanics and hike into Polulu Valley.
  • Day 16: Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Park. Lava flows, lunch and snorkel at Kekaha Kai State Park.
  • Day 17: Full Day off in Kailua-Kona area.
  • Day 18: Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park. Optional hike to Mahana Bay (Green Sand) Beach. Picnic dinner at Punalu’u (Black Sand) Beach.

Hawai’i “The Big Island” (East Side)

  • Day 19: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- Tours of Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory and Jaggar Museum. Crater Rim tour.
  • Day 20: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- Kilauea Iki crater hike/mapping project & upper Chain of Craters Road.
  • Day 21: Lava Tree State Park. Kaimu Beach 1992 lava flows. Hike to active lava flows (if accessible).
  • Day 22: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – lower Chain of Craters Road. Lava viewing boat trip or helicopter tour.
  • Day 23: Akaka Falls. Fly to Honolulu. Depart Honolulu in evening (overnight flight).
  • Day 24: Arrive Newark or JFK in morning. Group disperses for home.