The Third Autumn University Education in Geoparks and Protected Areas

The Third Autumn University (training session III) of the European H2020 GEOPARK Project took place from 7 to 10 November 2017 in Paris. The objective of this one-week training is to strengthen the educational programme and capacity building (students and professionals) in geoparks related subjects by taking into account local features and issues as a systemic approach (heritage, education, territory, geology, tourism, etc.).

Chaired by Professor Yves Girault from National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris, this third training session questions the links between geoparks and geotourism development with special focus on education.

On the whole of the five days we welcomed on average 30 participants including 6 doctoral students, about fifteen students of master museology, professionals and researchers. The first day was devoted to presentations by research professors from a wide variety of  backgrounds: Prof. Theresa G. Coble. (College of Education, University of Missouri – St. Louis), Prof. Dongying Wei. (Associate professor of School of Geography, Beijing Normal University), Prof. Jose Luis Palacio-Prieto (Senior Researcher at the Institute of Geography, UNAM, Mexique), Dr. Luis Alcala (Director of the Teruel-Dinópolis Paleontological Foundation, Spain), Hugues de Varine (Former Director of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and international consultant in local development and community action); François Mairesse (Professor of museology and cultural economics at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Paris III) and President of the International Committee for Museology of ICOM (ICOFOM)). With their diverse speeches, the Autumn University tries to specify the evolution of heritage development practices in geoparks and protected sites, while setting a theoretical framework that takes into account the cultural, sociological and economic aspects.

A fieldwork was designed on the Day 2 for two geological walks within the city of Paris to explore the urban geological heritage. Walkers are invited to learn the cohabitation between the walls of two stories, that of human and of Earth. For our Autumn University, we selected two walks: one at the business district of la Défense in the west of Paris, guided by Prof. François Baudin from University of Pierre Marie Curie; and the other in the fifth arrondisment at the centre of Paris, guided by Grégoire Egoroff from MNHN. This two geological walks are part of geo-tour collection co-published by the Geological Society of France and the National Museum of Natural History1. The objective of this collection is to reveal the history of a city (Paris in our case) via the description of the origins and the uses of the stones for the buildings, the monuments and the cobblestones of the alleys. Completing the description step by step of the itinerary, in the guide of anecdotes and details show the walker the city in a new light.

During the third day we proposed theoretical presentations on the teaching of geology, in the context of field trips. Denise Orange Ravachol (professor from University of Lille 3) proposed some benchmarks to think the geological acculturation of students by analyzing some difficulties that may encounter learners who carry out work in the field. In doing so, she opened perspectives on the interests of different «terrains» to which the teachers refer, including Geoparks. Her lecture was extended by the presentation of François Dessart (PhD candidate from University of Lyon), who analysed how a mediator on geological sites tells geological stories by reconstructing the events that are at the origin of the landscapes in geopark. He showed how this «problematizing» approach could construct geological history not as a fixed chronology of past geological phenomena, but as an articulated and questioned set of necessary and contingent events. Cindy Lebat (PhD candidate from Sorbonne Nouvelle University – Paris 3) showed us how reception of people with disabilities within protected areas are rooted in a more global developments in the consideration and treatment of disability in our contemporary societies. She also pointed out the large deficit of facilities within geoparks. Yi Du & Catalina Gonzalez-Tejada (PhD candidates from National Museum of National History) introduced the audience to the ambivalent reception of “geotourism” within the geopark community. They showed an interesting prism, through which conceptions of geotourism by different actors (managers, scientists) reveal divergent views of heritage status and interpretation within the territories concerned. Last speaker of the section, Yanique Ekobevet Allogo (PhD candidate from Aix Marseille University) formulated the hypothesis that territories labeled Unesco-Geopark emerge a new form of symbolic violence. She illustrated her hypothesis by presenting the characteristics of this new form of symbolic violence in Dignes Geopark (France) and M’Goun Geopark (Morocco). Joan Poch Serra (professor of Autonomous University of Barcelona) presented the Intensive Course on Geoparks (Lesvos Island, Greece). This section were complemented by two presentations by geoparks professionals. Guillem Puras (project coordinator of Tremp-Montsec Geopark project) presented the basics of the educational program of this aspiring geopark, which is focused on deploying a general agreed leitmotiv: «The last dinosaurs of Europe». Finally Jean Luc Desbois (president of the French National Committee of UNESCO Global Geoparks, director of the Regional Natural Park and UNESCO Global Geopark Bauges Massif) explored various approaches of territory education, from classical education to experiential awareness based on initiatives carried out within French Geoparks.

The fourth day of Autumn University was focused on the case study of Zat Valley in Morocco. Prof. Francisco José Martínez Fernández from Autonomous University of Barcelona presented the sampling strategy of the High Atlas crystalline basement along the Zat Valley. A detailed sampling has been made of the pre-Mesozoic basement crystalline rocks collected along a transect following the Zat Valley. Their sampling has been carried out in three different campaigns during 2016 and 2017 which have supplied a total of 43 samples. Prof. Joan Poch Serra overviewed the geology and geological sites in the Zat Valley as a preliminary studies focused on Geoparks model requirements. These sites help explain the geological relevance of the area, its geological history and the relationship of the geological heritage with the biological and cultural heritage. Dr. Mercè Llugany spoke of the surveys carried out by their team on flora and plant community dynamics with a characterization and proposal for conservation and management. Roser Maneja from ICTA-UAB presented some preliminary results of their study on Biodiversity, environmental services, socio-ecological heritage and pedagogical information in the Zat Valley. Their team has focused on four high-value ecosystems that are unique to the region, highly diverse and vulnerable. (1) The north-facing cliffs at the base of Jbel Meldsen (2) The aquatic flora of Iffard-n-Yaggour and small seasonally-flooded lagoons in the Yaggour Plateau and headwaters of Zat (planned); (3) The halophyte communities of 3 salt extraction operations; and (4) the highly degraded and vulnerable vestigial stands of the declining and threatened endemism of high elevations, Juniperus thurifera subsp. Atlantica Morocco. Prof. Ouidad Tebbaa and Abdeljalil Lokrifa from Cadi Ayyad University focused on the vulnerability and local development in Zat Valley. Prof. Said Boujrouf shared the study that his laboratory conducted on how local population perceived the Yagour Plateau in Zat Valley. And the PhD candidate of Cadi Ayyad Univeristy Ayoub El Ouarti talked about the the heritage dinamics, tourism and social mutations in the pastoral territories of Yagour and Oukaimden.


¹ This collection is directed by Patrick de Wever, Professor at the National Museum of Natural History and a member of the GEOPARK program.

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