Studying Geosciences in Paris: A Multidimensional Lens

Since my first year at Hamilton, I have enjoyed my Geoscience and French classes. For a while, I considered the two subjects to be fairly unrelated subjects because while I hope to have a future in the environmental field, I had been pursuing French out of a purely personal interest.

Once I added the French major in fall of 2016, I started getting a lot of questions from family and friends asking me what I would do with two very different concentrations. I did not realize that they could be linked until I met with my Geoscience thesis advisor, Cynthia Domack, at the end of the fall semester. She knew I would be participating in the Hamilton in France program in Paris during the spring semester of 2017, and she proposed I make a guidebook to the paleontology of Paris as a thesis project for me to pursue during my senior year.

I was initially daunted by this task, since I had expected to focus on cultural and linguistic immersion during the semester. However, while abroad I found peculiar signs that Paris was, in fact, a unique location to be a geologist.

For one, I was shocked to find that the building stones used in older parts of the city were calcaire, or limestone from a nearby quarry that contains invertebrate fossils from when Paris was subterranean. During my Paris Architecture class, while my classmates were inspecting the archways or old walls of the Marais, a nearly untouched old quarter of the city now known for its trendy shopping areas, I would be looking around for small fossils in the porous rock.

In addition, the collection of specimens in the Gallery of Paleontology at the Museum of Natural History located in the historic Jardin des Plantes is world-class. Even after visiting twice (free with my university ID), I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t imagine an abroad experience without urban geology like Paris has, and I can’t imagine trying to complete a Geoscience concentration without this multi-dimensional lens that I now have.

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