Winter 2025

New Zealand is an amazing place to study geology. Plate tectonic processes are active and happen in real time. The country also has a rich Gondwana heritage. This program will travel throughout the North and South Islands while visiting a range of settings, from mountains and glaciers to terraced coastal plains and sea cliffs.

Message from Faculty Directors

Sarah Titus

New Zealand is perhaps the most geologically fascinating place on the planet, and one of the most beautiful.  Earth’s “newest continent”, New Zealand sits astride a complex and active plate boundary. On this program, we spend all of our time out of doors, tackling complex geological problems, with days dictated by weather and tides. We’ll study fossilized Gondwanan forests, active modern volcanoes, and ancient twisted and tortured strata that bear testament to the tectonic forces still active beneath our feet. There are also excursions as we travel around the North and South Islands, which may include: a famous day hike called the Tongariro Crossing, a visit to Hobbiton, Maori historical and cultural sites, a tubing trip through a glowworm cave, and snorkeling with dolphins in the wild (if they choose to swim with us). We will be joined throughout by local geologists, who share with us their insights and expertise, as well as their enthusiasm for studying geology in this amazing place.

Clint Cowan portrait

The first half of the program is on the North Island (with Clint), where students hone their skills of observations and solve a range of small geologic puzzles, which when stitched together, reveal larger-scale phenomena that are the stuff of textbooks. The second half of the program is on the South Island (with Sarah), where students take these new skills and apply them to mapping and tectonic reconstructions. Here, we spend time in an alpine region near Arthur’s Pass, Queenstown, glaciers, and a major plate boundary fault along the west coast, and conclude in Kaikoura. A great deal of territory is covered in ten weeks, so days are packed and we re-locate every five days or so; a five-day midterm break helps to recharge our batteries as we transition between the North and South halves of the program. Please reach out if you have any questions. We look forward to reading your applications!

Sarah Titus and Clint Cowan, Professors of Geology


Learning Goals

  • To learn field techniques, including observing, recording, mapping and measuring geological features and phenomena
  • To interpret and synthesize complex geological histories across a variety of temporal and spatial scales
  • To experience how other cultures view earth science issues broadly
  • To garner understanding and insight into a dynamic geological system (New Zealand) through sustained study and investigation


Any 100 level, and a minimum of one 200-level, geology course or consent of instructor.

Applicants should have a strong desire to explore a new country and to understand many different aspects of its geologic history. The program seeks students with the ability to get along well with classmates while living and working closely together in an intense environment of learning geology, including experiencing the (dis)comforts of outdoor fieldwork under a wide range of climatic conditions. Applicants should be prepared for long field days, evening data compilation and discussions, vigorous hiking, communal dining, and rain.

Course of Study

18 Credits

GEOL 285: Geology in New Zealand: North Island (6 Credits)

In this course, participants will study modern and ancient geologic systems in the North Island with a view to understanding the tectonic, volcanic, and sedimentary history of New Zealand. The course will include projects in a wide range of geological settings.
Instructor: Clint Cowan

GEOL 286: Geology in New Zealand: Topics in North Island Geology (2 Credits) S/CR/NC

This course is tied to the North Island half of the program. Readings and discussions will cover a broad range of topics appropriate to North Island geology.
Instructor: Clint Cowan

GEOL 287: Geology in New Zealand: South Island (6 Credits)

In this course, students will study the tectonic evolution of the South Island. Participants will work in small teams to hone their field observation skills, make structural measurements, and develop their mapping skills in several field sites across the South Island. Visits to additional field sites such as glaciers, fjords, and the Alpine fault are possible.
Instructor: Sarah Titus

GEOL 288: Geology in New Zealand: Topics in South Island Geology (2 Credits) S/CR/NC

This course is tied to the South Island half of the program. Readings and discussions will cover a broad range of topics appropriate to South Island geology.
Instructor: Sarah Titus

GEOL 289: Geology in New Zealand: Basic Field Drawing  (2 Credits) S/CR/NC

Formal and informal instruction and opportunity to improve field drawing skills. This course will include an independent field drawing assignment during midterm break in New Zealand.
Instructors: Clint Cowan & Sarah Titus

Program Features


Students will experience rustic communal living – field stations, urban youth hostels – in iconic New Zealand landscapes. In most places, they will cook in groups.


Most days are spent outdoors studying and mapping outcrops in small teams. The program includes additional group excursions to notable sites.

We hone our field sketching skills.
Students work in teams to solve geologic puzzles.
Outdoor lunches taste the best.
Students clamber up a rocky slope to visit an outcrop beneath a cloudless New Zealand sky.
Students emerge from the ocean after snorkeling with dolphins near Kaikoura, South Island.
Sunrise on Mt. Cheeseman. Flock Hill, New Zealand
Harmonicas and other instruments are encouraged We have a program guitar already in New Zealand
Hiking and spectacular views are common on our program.
While we cook many meals together, sometimes we eat in restaurants.
Students work in teams to solve geologic puzzles.
Walking through the mangrove to get to the outcrop at Aurere Beach.
Local experts like Lorna Strachan, sedimentologist, help teach on our program.