Discover how vulnerable ecosystems are impacted by human activity and climate change in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica.
Learn about the environmental characteristics of Southern Patagonia and Antarctica from your home base in Ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world.
Deepen your knowledge and understanding of the economic and geopolitical importance of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
See Southern Patagonia's unique biodiversity, ecology, and conservation issues on site visits to Tierra del Fuego National Park, the Beagle Channel, Puerto Williams, Estancia Harberton (the first European settlement in Tierra del Fuego), and Rio Grande.
Through classes with professors, researchers, managers, educators, conservationists and entrepreneurs students will become familiar with and learn about the local and regional environmental challenges.
Explore the last pristine region of the world on a 10-day expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula including guided landings.
Led by professional guides and researchers from the Ushuaia-based research centers, you will consider the influence of sea ice and glaciers in the Antarctic biota and learn how that relates to climate regulation.
Learn how to apply scientific research tools and methods as you examine how the marine biodiversity of Southern Patagonia and Antarctica is impacted by climate change.
Thoughtfully investigate the topic of climate change with scientists, conservationists, guides, and other stakeholders through lectures and activities with the Observatory for Climate Change and research stations.
Improve your Spanish by practicing in class, on excursions, with your homestay family, and while designing your own research project or joining an ongoing project for an internship.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Climate | Environment
Previous college-level coursework and/or significant preparation in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields, as assessed by SIT. Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or the equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The impact of climate change on the biodiversity of Southern Patagonia and Antarctica
- Features of the geological, evolutionary, and biogeographical events that have occurred in the region
- The impact of climate change on the maritime communications routes and marine biology in the region
- The influence of Antarctica’s icescape and how it pertains to climate change
- The historical, political, and social assumptions made over time in relation to Patagonia and the Antarctic Sea
- Conservation over the past decades in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica
- Decision making in relation to marine resources at different levels (local, national, and international)
- The role of climate change in relation to human activity and natural resource conservation
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.
- Socio-Ecological Dynamics and Conservation in Southern Patagonia and Antarctica – syllabus
- (ENVI3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- 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 – syllabus
- (ENVI3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- 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 Natural Sciences I – syllabus
- (SPAN2003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for Natural Sciences II – syllabus
- (SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for Natural Sciences III – syllabus
- (SPAN3003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for Natural Sciences IV – syllabus
- (SPAN3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- 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 – syllabus
- (ENVI3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- 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.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Internship and Seminar – syllabus
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- 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.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- 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.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
The ten-day expedition from Ushuaia to Antarctica is a unique opportunity to learn about the region’s environment and the impacts of climate change while exploring amazing scenery. You will visit the last pristine region of the world and experience a wilderness of snow, ice, mountains, waterways, and an incredibly wide variety of wildlife. You will travel aboard the 90-passenger, ice-strengthened polar vessel Ushuaia with Antarpply Expeditions, an IAATO member company. The ship’s highly experienced expedition team will guide you on shore excursions and help with the identification of wildlife at research stations and penguin colonies. You will have many opportunities to observe different species of whales, seals, penguins, and seabirds. On board the ship, you will participate in lectures and reflection sessions.
The Beagle Channel and Puerto Williams, Chile
During a three-day excursion, you will sail through the Beagle Channel Islands and learn about the physical conditions and dynamics of the marine environment in the Beagle Channel, including the impact of currents, fjords, and glaciers. You will study trends and systems established for their monitoring and management, applying scientific research tools such as remote systems (GIS, images, remote sensing), mobile platforms (boats), and probes sampling and monitoring the marine environment. While sailing through the northern arm of the Beagle Channel, you will observe the influence of glaciers in coastal environments and Yendegaia Bay (part of the Yendegaia National Park managed by The Conservation Land Trust).
This excursion includes a visit to Puerto Williams, Chile, located within the Cabo de Hornos Biosphere Reserve. Here, you will deepen your knowledge of the Beagle Channel’s coastal marine environment and natural history. You will observe different landscapes and learn about the Yagan people, their oral tradition, and their link with the sea at the Martín Gusinde Museum and Omora Ethnobotanical Park. You will also study the particularities of the fishing practices and management of the spider crab in the Chilean Beagle Channel by visiting a fishery and Puerto Toro, a village where fishermen settle during the fishing season. During this excursion, you will develop an understanding of the complexity of managing the same resource shared between two countries.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
See the emblematic Tierra del Fuego National Park created in 1960, part of a network of nature reserves in the southern tip of the continent. During this excursion, you will learn about its creation, its administration, and its importance in the conservation of biodiversity. Learn about research and conservation projects here and observe the effects of invasive species such as beavers and river algae.
On this one-night trip, you will visit the east coast of the Beagle Channel. Get to know the crab route and visit Puerto Almanza, a settlement of fishermen and artisanal and gastronomic producers. You will have the opportunity to visit some of these projects and conduct interviews. You will also see the Acatushún museum with its sample of birds and marine mammals from the south of the continent, a legacy of the contemporary naturalist Natalie P. Goodall and the work of her foundation.
One of the highlights of this trip is the Magellan and Papua penguin colony on Isla Martillo. You will also learn about the founding and history Tierra del Fuego with the arrival of the first Anglican missionaries to the Fueguino Archipelago, the Yagán town, and current tourism ventures in line with the natural environment.
Cabo San Pablo & Río Grande
On this two-night excursion, you will travel to the north of the large island of Tierra del Fuego and explore the Atlantic coast of the island. First, you will visit Cabo San Pablo, where you will explore different landscapes and coastal environments and their relationship with tourist and recreational activities. You will also visit a sheep farm that has a rural tourism enterprise and discuss environmental impacts of economic activities in the region.
In the second part of the trip, you will visit the city of Rio Grande to explore the wetlands declared as RAMSAR sites. There, you will discover the wetlands’ importance for the migratory shorebirds of the American continent. You will learn about different conservation projects, scientific dissemination, and environmental education and the people who work to preserve these lands. You will also have the opportunity to interview and find inspiration from these conservationists.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
María Gowland, PhD, Academic Director
Born and raised in Ushuaia, María holds a PhD in biological sciences from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). She studied for her PhD in the Patagonian city of Puerto Madryn, Patagonia, and returned to Ushuaia to carry out the research for her dissertation in fishery and the reproductive biology of the Beagle Channel crab. María has been a member of the Marine Crustaceans Laboratory of the Austral Center for Scientific Research since 2010. She has extensive fieldwork experience in marine and coastal areas and has been a scientific guide on an expedition to Antarctica.
During her dissertation research, María formed close connections with the Tierra del Fuego fishing sector. This allowed her to observe and reflect on the different realities that often cause cross socio-environmental conflict. María is currently working on a research project that includes the perspectives, knowledge, and needs of the fishing sector and other stakeholders in a fundamental partnership for real success in natural resource management.
Since 2012, María has been a math and science professor at the National University of Tierra de Fuego and supervised students in field and laboratory internships. In addition to her academic work, María enjoys pottery, dance, and cycling. Her academic interests and personal connections with Ushuaia communities and the surrounding areas intersect perfectly for this program.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
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, the city 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 Argentinian traditions and cultures. Most host families are middle-class and live in apartments or small houses in the city.
Other accommodations include shared cabins on a polar vessel, hostels, or small hotels.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
You can choose to spend the last four weeks of the program focused on an internship or an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research on a selected topic of interest to you. The ISP can be conducted throughout Southern Patagonia based upon requests from local activists, NGOs, and communities. You should plan on completing an ISP that is rooted in the biological, ecological, and/or environmental sciences.
You will receive guidance from the program’s academic director and a project advisor who may be a professor from a local university, a researcher, or an expert from another organization.
Sample research topics include:
- 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
The internship on this program may be completed with a local organization, social movement, university, research organization, or NGO. 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.
The organizations that partner with the program are well known in the fields of marine conservation, climate change, and environmental issues. They have agreed to host interns because they know that SIT students, who bring an external point of view, can contribute to a better understanding of the internal and social issues that affect the organization.
Topics and placements may vary according to the availability of each institution. 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
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:
- Marine biology
- Climate change
- Socio-ecological dynamics
- Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in Spanish
- All educational excursions to locations such as the Antarctic Peninsula, Tierra del Fuego National Park, the Beagle Channel, Puerto Williams, and Rio Grande, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $7,500
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 (Ushuaia), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Airfare to Program Site
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.
Books & Supplies: $ 70
International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.
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.
In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.