Conduct Earth science fieldwork in the spectacular setting of the Nepal Himalaya.
Conduct field research and gain experience with a variety of field observational methods.
You will learn to “read” rocks and use maps and remote sensing images to better understand past and present Earth processes. You’ll experience structural geology, map and cross-section construction, and field identification of rock types, sedimentary structures, and river terraces.
Travel across central Nepal and up the Kali Gandaki Valley on structural geology and field mapping exercises.
Your geological trek will take you from the rain-soaked region south of the mountains, through the deepest gorge in the world, between two of the tallest mountains in the world, and to the arid edge of the Tibetan Plateau to the north.
Examine how societal decisions affect geohazard risks and analyze steps for risk reduction that align with sustainable development practices.
The active tectonics of Asia mean a high earthquake risk for Himalayan societies. The steep mountain slopes and intense rainfall events make landslides a regular hazard. These combined with weak architectural choices have caused major structural damage in Nepal. You’ll learn about hazards assessment, engineering geology, hydropower development, and road building. You’ll also consider the hazards of flooding and climate change and consider steps to lessen their effects.
Study how immense mountain ranges form and continuously transform.
The same processes that brought ocean sediments to the top of the highest mountains millions of years ago continue today. You will explore the specifics of this perpetual transformation
Engage with Nepali faculty, professionals, students, and residents.
Throughout the program, you will interact with Nepali faculty, professionals, students, and residents. You will have an opportunity to practice language skills and learn local manners, customs, and traditions in a way not usually possible as a tourist. All the courses are co-taught with Nepali instructors. Geology students from Nepal’s national university, Tribhuvan University, will be full participants in the field portion of the program if academic schedules allow. Students usually become very close with their fellow geology students from both Nepal and elsewhere.
Witness a broad range of Earth processes and rock types while traversing the Himalayan range.
Consider how geological processes affect and are affected by human settlements.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
At least two upper division (above the 100-level) geoscience, earth science-oriented environmental science, or physical geography courses.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Geoscience field research and observational methods
- Identifying a broad range of Earth processes and rock types
- How mountain ranges form and continually transform
- The hazards and benefits of living in a dynamic natural environment
- How societal decisions affect the geohazard risks faced by humans
- Steps for risk reduction that align with sustainable development
Coursework covers traditional geoscience field skill development (geologic history deduction, structural geology, stratigraphy, and mapping) and geohazard analysis and solutions in the context of Nepali society. Students develop Earth science field skills as applied to understanding both the geological history and ongoing interactions between humans and Earth systems in the Himalaya. When the academic calendar allows, a carefully selected cohort of geology students from Nepal’s premier university—Tribhuvan University—participates in the Field Science Methods course and the Geohazards in the Himalaya course as classmates. This unique opportunity to engage in geoscience studies in the Himalaya with Nepali students deepens program learning on every level.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Geohazards in the Himalaya – syllabus
- (GEOL3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course focuses on environmental geohazards as a perspective through which to study the interactions between human and Earth systems in the Himalaya. The rugged terrain of an active mountain range limits habitation and travel but also contributes to diverse and multifaceted societies within a concentrated region. The sediments and soils that come from the mountains provide rich agricultural lands; but settlements are precariously balanced on steep slopes or beside rushing rivers and are subject to geohazards such as landslides, floods, and earthquakes. Furthermore, the climate system is rapidly changing due to practices of industrialized nations, leading to additional challenges. You investigate how Earth systems affect and influence society and how human decisions and actions bear consequences on the environment and determine societal risk in the face of geohazards. Particular emphasis is given to the study of low cost and technologically simple solutions that dovetail with other sustainable development practices.
- Earth Science Field Methods – syllabus
- (GEOL3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this course, you develop geoscience field skills within the setting of Earth’s highest mountain range. Field observations underpin many Earth and environmental science disciplines. In a grand traverse of the Himalayas along the Kali Gandaki gorge, you learn to reconstruct the geologic past and interpret ongoing Earth processes in strict observance of scientific ethics. This course and itinerary incorporate most of the major Himalayan rock formations and climatic zones, giving you broad experience with different types of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks as well as structural and geomorphic features. In this process of constructing and justifying a plausible geologic history through cross sections and maps, you learn how to synthesize a wide range of observations to better understand our planet’s dynamic processes.
- Geology Field Study Project – syllabus
- (GEOL3060 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Field study allows students to grapple with the complexity of a single topic in more depth. You maintain a journal of interests and research ideas during the first portions of the program. As the field study portion of the program approaches, each student or team of students will meet with an advisor to refine ideas to a focused research question that addresses aspects of either or both of the preceding field courses. After writing a brief proposal that articulates a viable research design, you carry out independent field research for ten days. The final days of the program will be spent reporting on projects and will include final debriefing sessions in Kathmandu.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
You will spend approximately six weeks—the majority of the program—conducting Earth science fieldwork in the High Himalaya and Middle Hills regions of central and western Nepal.
The program’s major excursion is a traverse along the Kali Gandaki River gorge. You’ll travel to the west of Kathmandu, through a varied portion of the Middle Hills of Nepal (south of the Himalayan peaks), then spend around two-and-a-half weeks trekking in the Kali Gandaki gorge.
The Kali Gandaki is an ancient river that dates from before the development of the Himalaya more than 50 million years ago. It cuts between two of the highest peaks in the world—Annapurna and Dhaulagiri—creating one of the deepest gorges on Earth. On the journey up the gorge, you’ll develop classic geoscience field skills through analysis of the geologic history of the region as “read” in the exposed rocks.
During the southward return, the emphasis will switch to human-Earth interactions and geohazards. While in the Kali Gandaki, you will meet Nepali residents who are ethnically Tibetan and have retained their Tibetan culture.
After the Kali Gandaki trek, you’ll spend time in the Middle Hills region, including in the famous city of Pokhara on the banks of Lake Fewa, where you will conduct geohazard analyses and learn about engineering geology and other risk reduction. The Middle Hills region is home to a diverse range of ethnic groups and Nepali subcultures.
You will return to Kathmandu briefly before your field study project, in which you will spend 10–12 days on individual or small-group field study in the Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the Middle Hills region. Final presentations and program wrap-up are in Kathmandu.
Program in a minute-ish
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Beth Pratt-Sitaula, PhD, Academic Director
Beth received her PhD in geosciences from the University of California Santa Barbara (2005) and was a faculty member and Earth science education specialist. Beth has worked in geoscience and education in Nepal since 2000. Her research has focused on the intersection of plate tectonic movements from below and climate forcing from above, and the resulting river, hill slope, and glacial processes on the surface. Since 2008, she has worked with Tribhuvan University faculty to install and maintain a GPS station network in central Nepal to help monitor Earth-surface movements. She led summer programs for MS students and science teachers to study watershed issues in the Annapurna region of Nepal. One of her passions is helping people understand geohazards and how societies can combine sustainable development with risk reduction. She has co-led programs for Pacific Northwest educators to increase their understanding of earthquake/tsunami hazards and mitigation strategies and has taught Himalayan geology and earthquake risk reduction in Kathmandu. The Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program, which Beth directs, received the Western States Seismic Policy Council’s 2016 National Award in Excellence for Educational Outreach to Schools. She is a speaker in the EarthScope Speaker Series for the 2017–18 academic year. Beth lives in Colorado but travels frequently to Nepal.
Ananta Prasad Gajurel, PhD, Academic Advisor
Ananta has lectured at Tribhuvan University for more than 20 years and has assisted with field geoscience courses for Nepali and international students. He has a PhD in sedimentology and geochemistry from Université Joseph Fourier in France and was a Fulbright Scholar at Cornell University in 2012–13. His research interests include using sedimentology and geochemistry to better understand climate history and past depositional environments. He is active in GPS/GNSS research of ground surface movement and geohazards education and mitigation.
Ranjan Kumar Dahal, PhD
Ranjan is an engineering geologist specializing in geohazard reduction. He received his PhD in geotechnical engineering from Kagawa University, Japan in 2009, when he also received the best engineering research award. He has researched landslides, debris flows, earthquake hazards, engineering geology, geomorphology, landslide simulation, disaster management, disaster education, foundation analysis, and engineering geology of roads and dams. He is passionate about innovation to increase sustainable development. He authored the most comprehensive report on the Seti River debris flow disaster of 2012 and Geology for Technical Students. Ranjan teaches at Tribhuvan University’s Kirtipur campus. In 2012–13, he was a visiting scholar at Kagawa University in Japan.
In addition to SIT faculty, program lecturers and resources—including field study project advisors—come from Tribhuvan University, Nepal’s national university, and other in-country institutions such as:
- National Society for Earthquake Technology
- International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
- The Mountain Institute
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Earth Science Field Methods
- Geohazards in the Himalaya
- All educational excursions associated with the Geohazards in the Himalaya course and the Earth Science Field Methods course
- Field Study Project (with an appropriate stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $1,925
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Kathmandu), on all excursions, and during the evaluation period.
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad directly or through an appropriate stipend.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Visa Expenses: $300
Books & Supplies: $ 50
International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.