SIT Study Abroad Logo


Geoscience in the Himalaya

Undertake Earth science fieldwork in the spectacular setting of the Nepal Himalaya, one of the most active mountain ranges in the world.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Courses taught in



Jun 2 – Jul 21

Program Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment


Why study abroad in Nepal?

Tucked between China and India, Nepal is dominated by the Himalaya, known for many of Earth’s highest peaks and deepest gorges. Learn to “read” rocks and dive deep into geology to understand past and present Earth processes. Your geological trek will take you from the rain-soaked region south of the mountains, between two peaks higher than 8,000 meters, and to the arid edge of the Tibetan Plateau to the north. The active tectonics of Asia mean a high earthquake risk for many Himalayan communities. The steep mountain slopes and intense rainfall make landslides another hazard. These, combined with weak architectural choices, have led to major structural damage in Nepal. Learn about hazard assessment, risk reduction, and engineering geology, as well as climate change and hydropower. Engage with Nepali faculty and geology students from Nepal’s Tribhuvan University, who will also participate in the field portion of the program, subject to academic schedules. Students often become close with their fellow geology students from Nepal during the experience.


  • Take a geologic trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal.
  • Study a broad range of Earth processes and rock types
  • Conduct research with expert faculty and professionals.
  • Experience the hazards and benefits of living in a dynamic natural environment.


At least two upper division (above the 100-level) geoscience, earth science-oriented environmental science, or physical geography courses.

program map


Himalayan Traverse

Spend about two-and-a-half weeks trekking in the Annapurna region, where the primary rivers date from before the development of the Himalaya more than 50 million years ago, creating some of the deepest gorges on Earth. You’ll develop classic geoscience field skills through analysis of the geologic history of the region as you “read” the exposed rocks. During the southward return, the emphasis turns to human-Earth interactions and geohazards. View the same area with a different lens—that of the ongoing interconnections between society and Earth processes. We travel through a variety of ethnic/cultural communities, from more Hindu-dominated in the south to Tibetan Buddhist high mountain peoples.

Middle Hills

After the Kali Gandaki excursion, spend time in the Middle Hills region, including in the famous city of Pokhara on the banks of Lake Fewa. 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.


Kathmandu Valley

Return to Kathmandu briefly before embarking on a field study project, which will entail 10-11 days on individual or small-group field study in the central part of Nepal. Final presentations and program wrap-up take place in Kathmandu.

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:

  • Identify geologic features such as mineralogy, rock types, rock textures, faults, folds, fossils, and sedimentary structures and explain the associated geologic setting or processes.
  • Make measurements of geologic parameters such as rock bedding, foliation, and stratigraphy and sketch and discuss geometric relationships.
  • Synthesize a suite of geological observations and interpretations to develop a geological history that includes sedimentary environment and tectonic evolution.
  • Identify landforms such as river terraces, landslides, debris flows, flood plains, and moraines—in the field and via remote sensing.
  • Conduct a field-based landslide and/or earthquake hazard analysis to develop mitigation or avoidance strategies.
  • Assess the challenges and opportunities related to topics such as hydropower, climate change, and water resource management.
  • Synthesize the learning acquired on the program in a written report and oral presentation.

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

  • How mountain ranges form and continually transform
  • bullet list icon
  • Geoscience field research and observational methods
  • bullet list icon
  • How societal decisions affect geohazards faced by humans
  • bullet list icon
  • Aligning risk reduction with sustainable development
  • bullet list icon
  • Conducting and communicating about geoscience research

Earth Science Field Methods

Earth Science Field Methods – syllabus
(GEOL3500 / 3 credits)

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 from south to north of the mountains in the Annapurna region, students learn to reconstruct the geologic past and interpret ongoing Earth processes. This course and itinerary incorporate most of the major Himalayan rock formations and climatic zones, offering broad experience with different types of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks as well as structural and sedimentary features. In constructing and justifying a plausible geologic history through cross sections and maps, students learn to synthesize a wide range of observations to better understand our planet’s dynamic processes.

Geohazards in the Himalaya

Geohazards in the Himalaya – syllabus
(GEOL3000 / 3 credits)

This field 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. Students do field investigations into 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 given to the study of low-cost and technologically simple solutions that dovetail with other sustainable development practices. Students also learn ethical human subjects review procedures for work involving people.

Geology Field Study Project

Geology Field Study Project – syllabus
(GEOL3060 / 3 credits)

Field study allows students to grapple with the complexity of a single topic in more depth. You will 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 pair 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 about 10 days. The final days of the program will be spent analyzing and communicating project findings and will include final debriefing sessions in Kathmandu.




Your accommodations will include guesthouses, small hostels (called tea houses), and possibly dormitory-style housing. During your time in Kathmandu, you will stay in a small tourist hotel near the SIT program office in the city’s Boudha neighborhood. Instead of a typical stationary homestay, Nepali geoscience students fully participate in the field portion of the program, giving you a chance to travel and work together as peers.

Faculty & Staff

Nepal: Geoscience in the Himalaya

Durga Khatiwada, MSc bio link
Durga Khatiwada, MSc
Academic Director
Bishal Nath Upreti, PhD bio link
Bishal Nath Upreti, PhD
Senior Teaching Faculty
Mike Murphy, PhD bio link
Mike Murphy, PhD
Teaching Faculty
Ananta Prasad Gajurel, PhD bio link
Ananta Prasad Gajurel, PhD
Teaching Faculty
Zoe Levitt bio link
Zoe Levitt
Program Coordinator
Bhairab Sitaula bio link
Bhairab Sitaula
Excursion Coordinator

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to ensuring that international education is within reach for all students. We believe in the transformative power of immersive, intercultural experiences and are dedicated to supporting students in their educational journey.

    See Full Breakdown

    A critical step in preparing for your study abroad program is planning how you will maintain your health and wellbeing. Please review the following information carefully and contact [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

    View Information