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People, Environment, and Climate Change in Patagonia and Antarctica

Discover how vulnerable ecosystems are impacted by human activity and climate change in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica.

At a Glance




3 semesters Spanish, Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Sep 3 – Dec 16

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries

Chile, Antarctica

Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment


Why study climate change in Patagonia?

Experience the unique environments and biodiversity of Southern Patagonia and Antarctica and examine the conservation challenges posed by the impacts of climate change and human behavior. From your home base in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, you’ll discover the economic and environmental importance of this region. Learn how to apply scientific research tools and methods as you examine how climate change affects the region’s marine biodiversity.

Through site visits to the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego National Park, northern Tierra del Fuego, including Chile, you’ll see southern Patagonia’s biodiversity, ecology, and conservation issues firsthand. You will also learn about scientific research methods and environmental monitoring systems as well as the complexities of managing shared natural resources.

With the knowledge and content learned during the program, you will explore the last pristine region of the world on a 10-day expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula with guided landings and zodiac cruises.


  • Discover the environmental characteristics of southern Patagonia and Antarctica.
  • Examine the region’s unique biodiversity, ecology, and conservation issues.
  • Explore the world’s last pristine region on an Antarctic Peninsula expedition.
  • Apply scientific tools and methods to climate change and biodiversity research.


Previous college-level coursework or background in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields. Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or the equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

program map


Antarctic Peninsula

On a 10-day expedition to Antarctica, learn about the region’s environment and the impacts of climate change while exploring amazing scenery. Here, in the last pristine region of the world, you will experience a wilderness of snow, ice, mountains, and waterways and an incredible variety of wildlife. You will travel aboard the 90-passenger, polar vessel Ushuaia with Antarpply Expeditions, an IAATO member company. The highly experienced expedition team will guide on-shore excursions and help you identify wildlife.

Puerto Almanza & Estancia-Harberton

On a one-night trip to the Beagle Channel’s east coast, you will visit Puerto Almanza, a settlement of fishermen and artisanal and gastronomic producers; and the first ranch established in Tierra del Fuego. You’ll learn about and dig a peatbog, visit the Acatushún museum, which houses a collection of cetacean bones and other sea birds and mammals, and explore Isla Martillo’s Magellan and Papua penguin colony.

Cabo San Pablo, Río Grande & Por venir, Chile

Explore northern Tierra del Fuego (Chile and Argentina) on a four-night excursion. In Cabo San Pablo you will explore different landscapes and coastal environments and their relationship to tourist activities, including a rural tourism enterprise on a sheep farm. Then, explore Rio Grande’s coastline, including wetlands and cliffs, and discover its importance for migratory American shorebirds. Finally, visit and explore the commune of Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, in search of a King Penguins colony, stromatolites, and the most ancient archaeological site in the island. Engage in outreach activities, learn about conservation projects and environmental education, and speak with people who help preserve this region.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Demonstrate familiarity with key conceptual tools and skills for field research in climate change, ecology, conservation and society. 
  • Describe the recent geological history, biodiversity, and ecosystems of southern Patagonia and Antarctica with a focus on impacts of climate change on these environments. 
  • Analyze the complexities of environmental conflicts at different levels (local, national and international) from ecological, political, and social perspectives. 
  • Interpret geologic and ecological patterns, as well as main concerns for species in southern Patagonia and Antarctica. 
  • Articulate a sound research project and conduct ethical research with relevant methodologies. 
  • Synthesize the learning on the program in research papers in Spanish in collaboration with local networks in southern Patagonia. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Climate change’s impact on biodiversity and maritime routes
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  • Marine resource and biodiverstiy
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  • Geological and biogeographical events of the region
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  • Climate change, human activity, and natural resource management
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  • Conservation efforts in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica
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  • Human-environment relations from a historical perspective

Socio-Ecological Dynamics and Conservation in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica

Socio-Ecological Dynamics and Conservation in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica – syllabus
(ENVI3000 / 3 credits)

This course focuses on the relationships of humankind with their environment and natural resources in southern Patagonia and Antarctica. Based in the southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, students learn about the physical, biological, and ecological characteristics of this region. The course challenges students to understand human beings as part of the ecosystem and the subsequent socio-ecological dynamics and to problematize different perspectives on resources from indigenous perspectives to those of missionaries and early explorers to the region. Students are exposed to the ecological and conservation issues associated with the use of marine resources in both artisanal and industrial contexts in Patagonia, learn of the complex nature of resource use and management in Tierra del Fuego, and examine community perspectives on climate change. In this course students learn about conservation of the marine ecosystem and examine environmental policies and current environmental education efforts in the region in order to gain a better understanding of what is required for effective environmental stewardship in Patagonia, Antarctica, and the world. Coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Climate Change and Marine Biology in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica

Climate Change and Marine Biology in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica – syllabus
(ENVI3005 / 3 credits)

This course focuses on the various ways in which Southern Patagonia and Antarctica’s biodiversity, more specifically their marine biology, are impacted by climate change. In this course, students examine the natural and dynamic components of the Beagle Channel, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica and study the coastal and marine biology of the region. The course includes site visits to a range of ecological sites chosen to represent Southern Patagonia and Antarctica’s exceptionally unique biodiversity. Through the lens of climate change, students are exposed to how the region’s biodiversity reflects geological, evolutionary, and biogeographical events to achieve greater understanding of the impact of climate change and other environmental dynamics. Coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Spanish for the Natural Sciences

Spanish for the Natural Sciences I – syllabus
(SPAN2003 / 3 credits)

Spanish for the Natural Sciences II – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits)

Spanish for the Natural Sciences III – syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits)

Spanish for the Natural Sciences IV – syllabus
(SPAN3503 / 3 credits)

In this course, students build their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They practice reading scientific literature as they learn the formal terms and local expressions needed to discuss environmental and conservation issues, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings related to the program themes. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in classes according to their language level and receive further language practice in homestays and on field visits.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 3 credits)

The Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course is an introduction to field research and research methods in climate change, ecology, and conservation. The course prepares students to study and practice research effectively in a nontraditional and cross-cultural environment. Course content emphasizes understanding the human environment context as fundamental to knowing ecosystems, climate change, and people through fieldwork. The course introduces both ecological and anthropological field study techniques through the integration of field observation, activities, and interviews. Students gain familiarity with record keeping, scientific analysis, interpretation, and presentation based on primary sources. Through excursions and field assignments, the course introduces and critically employs scientific and social scientific methods appropriate to the program theme and for feasible and ethical research.

Independent Study Project or Internship

Choose one of the following two courses.

Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This course consists of a seminar and four weeks of an internship with a local community organization, research group, business, or international NGO. The aim of an internship is to enable students to gain valuable professional experience and enhance their skills in an international environment. If you choose the internship option, you will complete work assigned to you by the organization and investigate crucial and diverse problems the organization faces and work to find solutions to them. Each institution will allocate a mentor who will guide your work so that your internship is relevant to the mission and vision of the organization and to the context and needs of the country.

Sample internships:

  • Researching, writing, and editing outreach materials for a local scientific journal/magazine
  • Managing biological databases in a research group
  • Assisting with fieldwork and photo identification of marine mammals
  • Participating in an ongoing research project within Tierra del Fuego


Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project (ISP) offers students the opportunity to undertake significant, specific, and individualized independent field study in which they most directly apply the concepts and skills of experience-based learning articulated and learned in all program components, including homestay, language study, educational excursions, and the courses on Environmental Research Methods and Ethics, climate change, ecology, and conservation. Although the last four weeks of the program are set aside for the major effort on the ISP, considerable planning and preparation begins shortly after orientation week. The Environmental Research Methods and Ethics sessions on concepts and rationale, methods and techniques, and evaluation of field study are designed to facilitate the student’s engagement with independent study on a specific aspect that pertains to the student’s academic interests or personal inclination. The actual fieldwork for the ISP begins with the ISP preparation sessions and individual conferences to identify appropriate contacts and resources.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Protected-area management
  • Environmental impact of tourism
  • Climate change impacts on traditional lifestyles
  • Environmental education programs in the Beagle channel
  • Decision making in relation to marine resources
  • The economic and geopolitical importance of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica
  • Fisheries and climate change
  • Coastal and marine tourism
  • The Antarctic Treaty
  • Human impact on natural resources
  • The impact of climate change on maritime communications routes

Browse this program’s independent study projects / undergraduate research.



Live with a local family for approximately eight weeks over the course of the semester and experience the vibrancy of the southernmost city in the world. The capital of Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia is surrounded by striking landscapes — the Andes mountains in the north and the Beagle channel in the south. Here, you will develop your Spanish skills through daily practice and gain valuable exposure to Argentine traditions and cultures. Most host families are middle class and live in apartments or small houses across the city.

Excursion & Orientation Accommodations

Shared cabins on a polar vessel, hostels, or small hotels

Faculty & Staff

Argentina: People, Environment, and Climate Change in Patagonia and Antarctica

María Gowland, PhD bio link
María Gowland, PhD
Academic Director
Lida Pimper, PhD bio link
Lida Pimper, PhD
Academic Coordinator
Violeta Compan bio link
Violeta Compan
Program Assistant

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