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EES Field Camp Is Back with New Director Dr. Claudio Berti

After a one-year hiatus, Lehigh’s Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) Field Camp is back with students studying the earth and its natural resources. Dr. Claudio Berti is the camp’s new director and professor of practice in the EES department. The field camp director position is funded for three years due to a generous $309,000 grant awarded by Chevron.

Operating for 39 years since 1975, the annual outdoor expedition was put on hold after the 2013 trip due to lack of faculty resources. The camp will now continue to offer an intensive field training and discovery experience for aspiring geoscientists and environmental scientists in the natural laboratory of the Rocky Mountains.

“We are very excited that Chevron is supporting Lehigh’s program for the development of new leaders in the earth sciences,” said Berti. “This is a voyage of discovery for students who for the first time take a long field trip and start seeing their country in a completely different way.”

This summer, Berti will accompany 29 students for a five-week expedition through the Northern Rockies to geologically rich locations including the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone National Park, the Tetons, the Bighorn Basin, and the Beartooth Mountains. EES professors Dr. David Anastasio, Dr. Frank Pazzaglia, and Interim Camp Director Dr. Stephen Peters will also be camp instructors.

Berti, who was assistant professor of geological sciences at the University of Delaware, has a history with Lehigh’s EES department and is enthusiastically returning to the university to fulfill his new roles.

“The department is excited to have Dr. Berti back at Lehigh,” said Anastasio, EES department chair. “His expertise in the field, coupled with his knowledge of our program and past contributions, will elevate our students’ experiences in the classroom, lab, and in the field.”

Berti came to Earth and Environmental Sciences as a post-doctoral scholar studying active tectonics in 2008 when he attended his first Lehigh field camp. He went on to become a research scientist in the EES department and a field camp instructor from 2009 to 2011 before becoming co-field camp director with Pazzaglia.

Excited to return to South Mountain, Berti said, “Lehigh’s EES department offers a very stimulating environment for research and scientific discussion.”

Noting that students who study in the field come back with a sense of accomplishment, he said, “The field camp is a capstone experience where you can put into practice many of the basics that you have studied during your undergraduate degree. It allows you to experience in first person what you normally just read in textbooks. You can test yourself of what you know and experience that in the field.”

As professor of practice, Berti will teach one course each semester and oversee the introductory non-major laboratory course that provides basic scientific training to 200 Lehigh students annually.

The Strength and Breadth of Lehigh’s Field Camp
Lehigh’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Field Camp has educated more than 2,000 students not only from Lehigh University, but from many top colleges and universities across the country. The curriculum is designed to meet the field camp requirements of most undergraduate geological science B.S. degrees, but it also provides elements of environmental sciences, including hydrology, terrestrial ecology, and sustainability.

Eighty applicants from 39 higher education institutions applied for the 29 student openings for the 2015 camp. Five Lehigh students were accepted and received a camp scholarship funded by EES department alumni including retired Chevron geophysicist Tony Imhof ’69 and donors to the Vic Johnson Field Camp Scholarship Fund.

Throughout the camp’s history, many Lehigh students have received scholarships from alumni support. Berti explains that EES alumni are very generous to the program because the field camp experience fostered their own career aspirations as students.

“We receive letters of past students from 15 to 20 years ago with great memories of the camp,” he said.

Department alumni Mark ’77 ’79G and Kristen ’79 Koelmel have been long-time benefactors of the EES department. Because of their generosity, a group of Lehigh students attended a departmental field trip to the Canadian Rockies last summer. Two of those students, Kaylee Kraft ’16 and Taylor Cummins ’15, are also attending the 2015 camp.