Why Iceland?

rlbras.jpgProfessor Rafael L. Bras
Some 40 freshmen, 15 upperclassmen teaching fellows and the faculty and staff associated with MIT’s Terrascope program are in Iceland for Spring Break (March 24-28) to study fisheries, the topic of study this year for this first-year program that focuses on learning about the Earth as a complex dynamical system. Iceland offers a perfect case study of a country with a large fishing industry and a culture with strong historical ties to that industry. An added attraction is Iceland’s geology and unique dependence on renewable energy.

Terrascope’s annual fieldtrip, although voluntary, is an integral element of the program. Over the past five years, destinations have included the Amazon rainforest, Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast of Chile, and New Orleans during the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Students began the program last fall by analyzing the problem of global depletion of fishing stock and devising policies to solve it (course 12.000, Solving Complex problems). During the spring term, they’re enrolled in “Communicating Complex Environmental Issues: Designing and Building Interactive Museum Exhibits” (1.016). In this class they conceptualize, design and build a series of interactive museum exhibits. Their “museum” will be open to the public on the MIT campus in the Vannevar Bush Lobby (building 13) beginning May 12; it will remain open for several weeks. The Iceland trip will serve as a primary source of information for their exhibits. Several of the students enrolled in Terrascope Radio will use the trip to interview Icelanders and write and produce their own radio program that will be aired on MIT’s FM radio station.

The 2007-2008 Terrascope program and the Iceland trip are headed by Professor Rafael Bras of the Departments of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences.

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