FOP Origin Myth

What is “Friends of the Pleistocene?”

“A Pleistocene Field Conference”

“A non-organization”

The Friends of the Pleistocene (FOP) was conceived in 1934 as the outgrowth of an informal field trip organized by Richard Foster Flint (later of Yale University) and several of his colleagues to examine field evidence of late Pleistocene glacial lakes in Connecticut and New Hampshire. The actual birth of the FOP was somewhat evolutionary, with Flint, the acknowledged “father of the Friends” taking the leadership role in putting together annual field trips in the mid and late 1930’s. During this time the number of Friends grew and by 1939 the Friends of the Pleistocene was firmly established.

Flint, reputed to distain administrative bureaucracy, was proud of the fact that the FOP had no by-laws, no officers, and no formal membership. Instead, those attending the annual FOP field trip constituted the membership. Selection of the leader(s) for the next year’s trip and any other business of the non-organization was conducted on the last evening of the annual field trip, usually around a campfire, with the trip leader presiding. The leader, in addition to planning and leading the trip, was responsible for production of a field trip guidebook. This non-organization structure of the FOP has endured to the present.

After a hiatus during WW II, the FOP continued to grow and expand geographically. In 1950 a Midwest group was formed, and in 1952 a Rocky Mountain cell, followed by South Central, Southeastern, and Pacific cells in the 1960’s and a Pacific Northwest cell in 1995. The FOP has even gone international with the formation of a New Zealand Friends in 2003. An Alaska cell of the FOP was spawned as the outgrowth of an Alaska Quaternary Center (UAF) field trip during the Labor Day weekend in 2004. The first Alaska Cell FOP trip took place in 2005.

The informal structure of the FOP, and it’s open invitation to anyone interested in Quaternary science has fostered wide ranging dialogue “on the outcrop” of many facets of Quaternary research. Often the trips revolve around work in progress. Passionate debate and open inquire have become hallmarks of the field trips. Leading a FOP trip can be a challenging undertaking, with bright young students and “old pros” of Quaternary sciences critically examining the scientific issues in the field. The debate that characterizes many FOP trips has led to significant advancements in the science. But, in spite of the passion of participants with opposing views, in the end, all involved leave the field as Friends.

written by Dr. Gary Carver cggeol at