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



Feb 22 ‎– Jun 6

On Site Component

Feb 22 ‎– Jun 6

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries

Chile, Antarctica

Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Climate & Environment Icon


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 southern-most 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 Tierra del Fuego National Park, the Beagle Channel, and Puerto Williams, 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.

Later, you’ll explore the last pristine region of the world on a 10-day expedition of the Antarctic Peninsula with guided landings. You’ll work with scientists and researchers to consider the influence of sea ice and glaciers in the Antarctic biota and learn how that relates to climate regulation.


  • Discover Southern Patagonia’s and Antarctica’s environmental characteristics.
  • 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.


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.

The Beagle Channel and Puerto Williams, Chile

Sail through the Beagle Channel Islands on a three-day excursion to learn about its physical conditions and marine environment. You will study scientific research tools and systems for monitoring and managing the area and observe glacier’s effects on coastal environments. You will also visit Puerto Williams, Chile, in the Cabo de Hornos Biosphere reserve to learn about the area’s natural history, the Yagán people, fishing and crabbing practices, and the complexities of managing a shared resource between two countries.

Puerto Almanza-Harberton

On a one-night trip to the Beagle Channel’s east coast, you’ll visit Puerto Almanza, a settlement of fishermen and artisanal and gastronomic producers. You’ll view some of their projects and conduct interviews, visit the Acatushún museum with its sample of birds and marine mammals, and explore Isla Martillo’s Magellan and Papua penguin colony. You will also learn about Tierra del Fuego’s history, the first Anglican missionaries’ arrival on Fueguino Archipelago, the Yagán town, and current nature tourism ventures.

Cabo San Pablo & Río Grande

Explore northern Tierra del Fuego’s Atlantic coast on a two-night excursion. First, visit Cabo San Pablo to explore different landscapes and coastal environments and their relationship with tourist activities, including a rural tourism enterprise on a sheep farm. Next, explore Rio Grande’s wetlands and discover their importance for migratory American shorebirds.
You will also learn about conservation projects, scientific dissemination, and environmental education and speak with people who help preserve these lands.

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.



This program’s coursework teaches students about the relationships between human activity, climate change, the environment, and biodiversity in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica. Seminars conducted in Spanish focus on the physical, biological, and ecological characteristics of this region as well as the ways in which climate change affects its biodiversity. This program also prepares students to effectively conduct field research in climate change, ecology, and conservation in a nontraditional and cross-cultural environment. During the final month of the semester, students complete either an Independent Study Project or an internship.

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.

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
  • Marine resource decisions at local, national, and international levels
  • Geological, evolutionary, and biogeographical events of the region
  • Climate change, human activity, and natural resource management
  • Conservation efforts in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica
  • Relationship between Antarctica’s icescape and climate change

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 southern most 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, and some subjects may be introduced in English.

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 studies 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 with some subjects introduced in English.

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 the 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.

Two Course Options

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 organization, 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 and writing outreach materials for a national park
  • Creating educational resources on climate change for a local school
  • Assisting a local nonprofit with marine conservation campaigns
  • Participating in an ongoing research project within Tierra del Fuego National Park


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 Canal
  • 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 Martial mountain range 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 in the city.

Other 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
Academic Director
Lida Pimper, PhD
Academic Coordinator

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & 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.

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