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Lauren Breederland in the field
Lauren Breederland’s field camp experience showed her how much she loves fieldwork and inspired her to make it a part of her future studies and career path.

Where did you attend field camp? 

I attended field camp at the Wheaton College Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

Our field camp became a ‘COVID bubble’ of our own. This meant we avoided high-traffic areas to the best of our ability, and we did not go into town. For the most part, however, we were able to participate in almost all of the normal field camp activities, which I am very thankful for!

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

Receiving the J. David Lowell field camp scholarship meant that I was able to attend field camp without as much of the financial burden that is caused by taking a summer-long course, and paying for field camp instead of spending the summer working to earn money. I am very thankful to have received the field camp scholarship, as it lifted a lot of financial pressure for me and my family.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

Over the course of my summer field camp, I learned so much about what it looks like to conduct field geology, how to use a Brunton compass effectively, how to place myself on a topographic map, and how to create a geologic map by interpreting the rock outcrops in the field area. I also learned how to create a measured section, a weathered section, and cross-sections of roadcuts and outcrops across the Black Hills. From my field camp experience, I learned that I like doing fieldwork! I would like to have a component of fieldwork in my future career. As I am currently applying to graduate schools, I am looking for advisors who incorporate an aspect of fieldwork into their research.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

By attending field camp, I was able to learn field geology in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This was a new state and area for me, so it was a really cool experience! We were also able to go on a week-long field trip to Wyoming where we got to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as Devil’s Tower National Monument on a separate trip. It was such a special and unique experience to have as a class! We got to see so many cool natural features of God’s creation and have fun exploring together as a class!

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

After experiencing field camp myself, I believe that it is very important for geoscience students to experience field camp! My classmates and I were able to learn a lot about what we might want in a future career through our experience.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp is expensive and time-consuming for students to attend over the summer. However, it is extremely important for students to experience a summer field camp during college. In order to make it more affordable to attend field camp, students like me are so thankful when individuals financially support field camp scholarships!

 

Alexandra Banks in a rock formationAs a non-traditional student, receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship allowed Alexandra Banks to participate in field camp, which helped her find her place in geoscience.

Where did you attend field camp?

I attended the Southern Illinois University Geology field camp. We spent a majority of the time learning field mapping in Montana. We also visited various locations throughout Wyoming and Idaho to learn about the geologic processes that formed some of this country’s most beloved parks.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

A field course is commonly required to complete a degree in geology, and it is a really important experience for students. Receiving this scholarship alleviated the financial strain due to not only the cost of the course, but taking six weeks away from work. As a non-traditional student, I am primarily responsible for all of my school and living expenses. This scholarship allowed me to focus on all that I had to gain, rather than how I was going to make it through the summer.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

I learned that the field of geoscience is very diverse. There are many different applications, and I found myself interested in facets that I had never thought much about before. I also learned that I really enjoy working outside. Fieldwork is very challenging, and the hard work makes me feel strong and confident. The physical aspect of many geology jobs is not something that intimidates me. Rather, I look forward to it.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise and in your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Attending field camp allowed me to be able to apply fundamental geologic concepts to real landscapes and features. Field camp is integral to the success of a geology student, because reading about something, and recognizing it in the field are two different things. Field camp provides the opportunity for students to visit very diverse landscapes and learn in 3D. It also helps students orient themselves in the world of geosciences and really find out what interests them the most.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Support is so important because field camp is such a valuable and important part of our education, and is required for most geology degrees. However, it is quite costly and requires time away from work. The scholarship program that I participate in for fall and spring semesters does not extend financial support for the summer. Students should not have to decline opportunities, or avoid programs that require a field course due to financial strain.

 

One of geology’s oldest brands is now owned and operated by a female geologist. Here’s the story of how that came about, in a garage. 

RIVERTON, WY – NOV. 11, 2021 – Lauren Heerschap remembers the day she first learned how to use a Brunton pocket transit. She was 20 years old, at an outcrop of Cambrian sandstone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and it was the first week of an eight-week undergraduate geology field camp. “I argued with my team for over an hour about how to measure strike and dip,” says Heerschap. “The sandstone bed was almost horizontal, and we couldn’t figure out how to do it.”

So began Heerschap’s journey with Brunton compasses, which she subsequently used for field work in Egypt and Taiwan for research, and then throughout the western US during a decade of teaching field methods and field camps. It was year seven or so of teaching field methods when she came up with the idea for a new pocket transit model that solved many of the issues she had experienced as a student. That idea was prototyped into reality by her husband, David Heerschap, in their garage over winter break.

David was also a science educator at the time and had just started a company called Real Science Innovations that offered home-made teaching tools and field equipment for science teachers and students. “Dave took my poorly-sketched ideas and turned them into three functional prototypes in our garage – the idea actually worked!” says Lauren. “For the final prototype, we ran out of aluminum, so Dave made a mini metal foundry and melted down old climbing carabiners for the block that he then milled. He also set up a home anodizing process with electrified acid baths and dyes. If someone had walked into our garage that winter, they would have thought we had gone mad!”

The prototyped model, called the Plane Sight Compass, was successful in doing what was envisioned – namely, simplifying the methods used to measure strike & dip, trend & plunge, bearings & vertical angles. Lauren and David patented the idea, tested it with field camps that summer, then approached Brunton in the Fall of 2014 about licensing the idea. “That was our ‘Shark Tank’ moment, walking into a room to pitch our idea to Brunton’s management,” says Lauren. “We showed them how our model worked compared to existing Brunton transit models, and they could see its benefits. They went for it right away.”

Two years later, the Axis transit was born – renamed and rebranded, with Lauren and Dave involved throughout the product development and rollout phases. The Heerschaps worked the Brunton booth for several geological conferences to help introduce the Axis and support the rest of the product line. They also uprooted from Durango, CO and moved to Lander, WY to be closer to Brunton’s manufacturing facility in Riverton. Their increasing involvement led to a job opportunity and career switch for David when the previous Brunton engineer of 40 years, Hank Iden, was nearing retirement. A few years later, in early 2021, Lauren also officially joined the Brunton team as Pro & International Sales Manager.

And that’s when things got interesting. The Heerschaps were approached by the previous brand management, who presented the opportunity to acquire the Brunton brand and all of its assets. “We had considered it before, but never thought it would be possible,” says David. “The previous owner was looking to sell to the right buyers, and he recognized that in us. You won’t find two people more passionate or knowledgeable about Brunton products than Lauren and me.” Through a fortuitous combination of a favorable offer from the previous brand owner and family investors, they are making the acquisition possible. “This has taken all year … 2021 has been a very long year,” says David.

“We’re honored and excited to be the new caretakers of a brand with a very long and rich heritage, both in Wyoming and in the broader professional and recreational communities,” says Lauren, who is now majority owner and CEO. “I am also proud to make Brunton a woman-owned, family-owned, geologist-owned Wyoming small business for the first time in its 128-year history. I’m pretty sure that combination hasn’t happened yet for Brunton until now.”

Brunton dates back to 1894 when the first pocket transit was invented by the Colorado-based mining engineer, D.W. Brunton. In 1972, a group of Wyoming businessmen brought the brand’s manufacturing headquarters to Riverton where the brand’s compasses, transits, and other outdoor navigation and measurement products have continued to be hand-made ever since. In 1996, the brand was acquired by the Swedish compass manufacturer Silva, followed by Fiskars (Finland) in 2007 and Fenix (Sweden) in 2010. Management was moved to Fenix’s North American headquarters in Colorado but production remained in Riverton. During the past 25 years of foreign ownership and leadership, Brunton’s product line expanded and contracted, often veering far off the original course of navigation-focused products.

Brunton’s new leadership aims to guide the brand back to its core products and values, with the goal of making the world’s best recreational compasses and professional transits. The Brunton brand is known and sold worldwide, especially in the geology community where a pocket transit of any model is simply called “a Brunton”.

“Bringing leadership and production together under one Riverton roof again will dramatically improve everything about our operations, and we’ll have the ability to invest in innovation, quality workmanship, and the people that make it all happen,” says Lauren. Several new full-time management and production positions are being created with the transition, with more jobs planned in the coming years.

“I never imagined I’d be in this position today,” says Lauren. “It’s fun to think back to that first day I tried to use a Brunton – I remember it like it was yesterday. Life takes us in a lot of unexpected directions, to use a cheesy compass metaphor. You can try to chart it out ahead of time, but all you really need is a good compass.”

The Geological Society of America is eager to continue working with Brunton under its new ownership. The company is an organizational partner that supports GSA’s annual meeting through sponsorship and an exhibit hall booth; provides demo fleets of compasses for some of GSA’s fields trips; and delights recipients of the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarships with personalized, engraved compasses. D.W. Brunton created the Pocket Transit Compass just six years after GSA was established; the now-indispensable compass maker and the 133-year-old geological society are a symbiotic pairing. With Brunton’s legacy of excellence in its gold standard instruments, and the Geological Society of America’s legacy of commitment to geoscience research, discovery, and stewardship, the two organizations share like values of steadfastness and distinction. In Lauren, GSA has a true partner with deep connections: she received a GSA graduate student research grant while working on her master’s degree, and participated in a GSA Penrose Conference in Taiwan. She became a student member of GSA in 2002 and has attended, presented, and worked at many GSA annual and section meetings since then.

For more information about Brunton, visit www.brunton.com.

Lauren Heerschap using a Brunton AxisLauren and David Heerschap visiting Hawaiiproduction of Brunton Transit Captions (left to right): Lauren Heerschap using her invention, the Axis; Lauren and David Heerschap visiting Hawaii; and production of transits in Riverton, Wyoming.

Emma Palko in the field

Emma Palko’s field camp experience helped her gain confidence in her essential geology skills and honed her ideas about her future career.

Where did you attend field camp? 

The field camp I attended was centered on the Dubois, Wyoming area, within the Wind River Basin. Portions of the camp were also spent exploring the Yellowstone magmatic region, as well as the Sawtooth Mountains in Montana.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

My experience of field camp this summer was mostly unaffected by COVID-19. Because the vaccines were available, every student and instructor were vaccinated prior to the trip. We then minimized contact with other people outside of our group, which prevented us from contracting the virus.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

Receiving this field camp scholarship meant that I was able to have much more financial confidence moving into graduate school this fall. The field camp I attended was very expensive and not covered by my merit scholarships during the semesters. I am so grateful to have received support for field camp, as it has allowed me to make a seamless transition into graduate school without taking out any student loans.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

This course was certainly the best way to solidify the knowledge that I have accumulated during my coursework as a geology major thus far. The course not only drew upon specific geological concepts, but taught creative and critical thinking skills that will be required to overcome difficult problems in graduate school and in my future career. Being able to formulate and execute an efficient field mapping plan during the independent portions of the course allowed me to sharpen my critical thinking skills. I was also able to hone my rock identification and descriptive skills that I learned in previous courses.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

During my first semester of graduate school, I have been able to be a teaching assistant for the field course for undergraduate students. I feel confident enough in my field geology skills that I am able to give instruction and tips to other students. I feel that I would not have that confidence if I had not attended field camp.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

I feel that field camp is an essential part of any geology degree, as it combines the knowledge from core courses and focuses on the application of that knowledge. I feel that field camp is the best way to fully immerse oneself in the difficulties that come with being a field geologist. Not only does field camp test your intellectual skills, but it tests your social and emotional skills as well. Being able to tolerate and get along with the same people for several weeks straight is a test in social maturity. Furthermore, the living conditions are not always the most favorable, contributing to additional stress. Enduring difficult fieldwork every day, coupled with social and emotional stress builds important skills for geology students. These skills build compassion and empathy, both extremely important for successful lives and careers beyond college.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

While field camp may be an expensive program to run and participate in, it provides invaluable geological and life-skill experiences to everyone who is able to attend. I can say without a doubt that I am a better geologist for having attended. I also learned additional skills for how to manage stress and discomfort while completing necessary tasks. This experience is something that I believe every geology student should have, as it has changed my outlook on my career moving forward.

 

Cissy Ming in the fieldIn spite of ongoing precautions due to COVID, Cissy Ming’s field camp at Penn State University rounded out her geoscience studies and helped her gain experience in some of the new technologies that geoscientists use to study the Earth.

Where did you attend field camp?

I attended field camp at Penn State University. Over the duration of field camp, I lived in State College.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

Due to ongoing university rules, the course was mostly delivered online with several field trips around State College. The lessons focused more on software skills than teaching field geology techniques. Unfortunately, we were not able to travel to the usual field camp destinations in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Social distancing regulations also limited the field locations we could visit in-person because the department needed to transport the class on two coach buses.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

The cost of tuition alone was nearly $6,000, which would have eliminated nearly all of my personal savings. Going into graduate school, I hoped to maintain my savings as an emergency fund and source of money to pay the costs of living before I received my first paycheck. Neither of my parents are employed and I have a younger brother who is approaching college age, so I did not have substantial family resources to fund field camp. The generosity of GSA donors made it possible for me to fully engage with the field camp experience without worrying about my financial situation. Given that I was chosen to receive the scholarship out of a large applicant pool, I feel honored that the selection committee believed in my potential as a geoscientist and recognized my academic efforts.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

I learned about some of the ways that geoscientists use new technologies to study the Earth. Prior to college, I perceived geologists as doing nearly all of their work in the field and regularly embarking on outdoor adventures in rugged terrain. In terms of personal development, I learned that I could still gain a lot from an experience that did not fit all my initial expectations.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

The short turnaround times for assignments pushed me to focus and optimize my schedule so I could keep up with the workload. I also had the opportunity to visit sites that were new to me and learn from faculty who I never interacted with prior to field camp. I gained geologic mapping and remote sensing interpretation skills not covered elsewhere in Penn State’s geosciences curriculum.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Field camp rounds out the experience of upper level geosciences majors, offering unique opportunities to apply their classroom learning in novel contexts. No amount of lecturing can replace the benefits of an intensive, applications-based course.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Despite the importance of field experience for aspiring geoscientists, field camp is often a substantial financial burden. Ideally, lack of money should not stop students from realizing their educational goals.

Alina Hernandez in the fieldAlina Hernandez’s field camp with South Dakota School of Mines was a welcome experience after being isolated for over a year. The assignments helped Alina more fully understand the geology she learned in the classroom. She now feels revitalized and inspired as she starts her last semester at San Diego State University.

Where did you attend field camp? 

I attended my field camp with South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City, South Dakota. The camp visited various locations within the Black Hills uplift region.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

Receiving this scholarship made it possible for me to attend this program, covering a good portion of my tuition that included my stay at the dorms and meal plan at the school.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

This experience helped me fully understand concepts by being able to see examples up close. Being assigned weekly projects with a partner helped us to become more independent when it came to taking data and locating ourselves on topographic maps. We then interpreted our data into clean geologic maps and cross sections, and wrote papers that helped really tie everything together. It was a lot of work, but I learned so much and made many friends from all over the country.

I felt burned out this last year and often wondered if this field was able to make space for people like me, first-generation college students who just took an introduction to geology course and ran with it. Now I feel revitalized and inspired going into my last semester at San Diego State University. I’m so grateful for what this scholarship has provided me: not only a geology field experience, but with 30 other geology students who motivated me into believing that I was doing the right thing and was exactly where I needed to be.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Field camp provided me with many hours of hands-on learning and data collecting that I had not yet been able to receive, given my university’s in-person lab restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Field camp is extremely important for geoscience students who wish to fully understand concepts they learn in their lectures.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Individuals who support field camp opportunities for students not only help students fully achieve their academic potential, but also create motivating environments for networking.

 

Thanks to GSAF donors, every year students receive support to attend field camp through the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Program. Many students say that their field experiences bring to life the geology they studied in the classroom. However, the cost of field camp is often prohibitive and added expenses, such as equipment, leave many feeling that field camp is out of reach for them.

That’s where GSA members can make a meaningful difference. On Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving back, we kick off our efforts to provide field camp support for students with a $10,000 match. Challenging fellow GSA members, a generous donor will match one-to-one, up to $10,000, every gift made to the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Program between Giving Tuesday, 30 November, and New Year’s Eve, 31 December.

Help a student by making a gift on Giving Tuesday and keep an eye on your email, GSA’s social media, and this page for stories of impact as well as other ways you can be involved. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting stories from several of the 2021 recipients of the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship. You can find the first story from Jessica Patrick below. Check back weekly on Thursdays for a new story through December.

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Jessica PatrickJessica Patrick’s field camp through Miami University was a defining experience. She found great value in being required to apply everything she had learned over the previous four years in the classroom. She now feels confident in her ability to do field geology and learned that she wants her future career to include fieldwork. In short, field camp helped confirm she was in the right field of study.

Where did you attend field camp? 

I had an amazing time at Miami University’s Field Camp/Station. During the course of five weeks, two of which I spent under the stars (camping), I traveled to Yellowstone National Park, Montana/Wyoming; Quake Lake, Montana; Sun Canyon, Montana; and areas surrounding Dubois, Wyoming.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

I had originally planned on taking field camp during the summer of 2020, but it was cancelled and moved online for graduating seniors only (I was a junior). This past summer (2021) I was lucky enough to be able to take the course in person. The start of field camp was pushed back to allow everyone time to get vaccinated, which also changed the itinerary. Other than that, COVID-19 did not have a big impact on my experience due in part to the numerous precautions my professors implemented.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

I am honored to have received the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship. Thanks to the scholarship my financial burden of attending field camp was greatly lessened.  The initial cost of field camp (~$6,000) plus my inability to work during the course would have taken a great financial toll on me. I was able to focus each day on the task at hand instead of worrying about my financial situation.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

After field camp, I now feel confident in my ability to map. I am now able to look at a regional or outcrop scale rock formation, thoroughly describe it, and make inferences about its tectonic evolution and how the different rock structures came to be. I can also map geologic areas, draw cross-sections, and take strike and dip. I developed better listening, communication, teamwork, time management, and visualization skills. In a professional sense, I became a more independent thinker and learner, which can be applied to all jobs. I have confidence in my newfound skill set and believe field camp has prepared me to become a well-rounded geologist who is capable of completing fieldwork at the graduate level (currently I am an M.S. student at Auburn University). Overall, field camp taught me that I am more capable than I thought.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

For five weeks, all I did was hike, map, interpret data, eat, and sleep. I had never had the opportunity before field camp to simply focus only on the current task at hand with no distractions. I learned an immense amount during this time and will forever cherish my time spent in the field. From this experience, I can say with certainty that I want my future career to incorporate some aspect of fieldwork.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Field camp is extremely important for a geoscience student because it is a course that forces the student to apply what they learned in the classroom in the field. Sitting in a lecture and hearing about geology is completely different from seeing it in person. It’s the course that helped me solidify that I want to be a geologist.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp was my next step in order to obtain my academic and professional goals, but financially is a very steep price for a college student to pay. By supporting individuals at field camp, one is supporting the next generation of geoscientists that will help shape the future as we know it.

 

 GSA Foundation Board Chair Jeff Oslund teaching a Tai Chi session to Science Policy Fellow Morgan Disbrow-Monz at the GSA Foundation booth, GSA Connects 2021

“Between climbing routes at Little Stony Man Cliffs in Shenandoah, I picked up an unusual rock. A group of students suddenly swarmed the area, and since I heard their professor talking about the 570-million-year-old greenstone lava flows, I asked if they could tell me about this rock. When I learned they had just attended the Southeastern Section Meeting of GSA, I knew the job I had flown to Boulder, Colorado, to interview for the week prior was meant to be,” says the GSA Foundation’s Debbie Marcinkowski.

As an experienced fundraiser who has also seen some of Earth’s great geologic wonders while climbing, volunteering, and working around the world, joining the GSA Foundation (GSAF) nine years ago was the perfect fit for Debbie. Long under the spell of alluring mountain ranges, her appreciation for geology grows with her years at GSAF: whether hearing about your work and experiences at the Foundation booth, writing the stories of student grant recipients, or learning about geoscience career paths through discussions with industry partners, her work is rich and rewarding.

In April, GSAF’s Board of Trustees announced Debbie’s promotion to the newly created position of executive director. Her initial role in corporate partnerships was a shared position between GSAF and GSA. With a master’s degree in nonprofit management, she brought experience in funding, communications, and partner relations for global health, environmental conservation, and arts/education organizations. Strategic planning, collaboration to maximize funding opportunities, and relationship development with a wide range of people were key to her previous roles. Her work has always been in funding: from sponsors, campaigns, and advertising at a renowned arts center in the Washington, D.C., area to global partnerships for a Geneva-based organization that brought together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, private philanthropists, and corporate donors. One of her most interesting research and writing projects was a proposal to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi that helped secure US$33M matched by another US$33M from the Gates Foundation to fund vaccines for children across Afghanistan.

Debbie’s energy for fundraising—mixed in with some adventure—drives her individual as well as professional endeavors. She was a founding climbing team member and expedition leader for a nonprofit raising funds for cancer studies at a leading research university. Ascending the headwall of a peak in the Andes, curiosity about the strong odor of sulfur rising from the active volcano’s snow-capped crater gave her the final push to summit—and even greater marvel of the underlying geology. Her experience in strategy- and awareness-building earned her a spot on a Himalayan expedition through the Everest region funded by National Geographic, with two of their explorers studying glacial lake outburst flood hazards, while creating a plan to reach the international mountaineering and adventure travel industries regarding environmental stewardship. Debbie’s passion for conveying compelling messages that inspired funds to help build orphanages in Tibet (and far-from-standard funding practices to get the cash into the region) now helps communicate the significant impact of donations that encourage students to pursue the geosciences.

During the challenging past year, Debbie was inspired by the Foundation’s committed donors who leapt to assist student members, while maintaining their regular support of GSA programs. She is thrilled to continue working with you in her expanded role, with a vision for GSAF to make a leap, as you did, in its support of GSA’s priorities. As the world around us shifts, so do philanthropic movements. “Much of mountaineering is about a positive mindset; the same applies to effective funding work that is gratifying to donors and organizations alike. We will continue to seek creative avenues to encourage and provide funding while communicating how vital your support is—both to those who will fill future roles in the geosciences and to our professional members in their ongoing scientific discovery, communication, and application of geoscience knowledge.”
CotopaxiMarcinkowski at Cotopaxi
Caption: Marcinkowski at the 5897 m (19,348 ft) summit of Cotopaxi, Ecuador, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes and few equatorial glaciers.

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