With June comes the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, a significant period of the year for both ecology and society. Join SFS Chile in the rugged landscape of Southern Patagonia, at 51 °S latitude, for a deeply interdisciplinary exploration of how ecology and society intertwine to usher in the new season. Travel to the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park to study how terrestrial and freshwater plants and animals have adapted to meet this yearly challenge in the land of glaciers. Celebrate the indigenous New Year on the night of the Winter Solstice and learn how lifeways adapt to the extreme southern environment. Take time to explore the various facets of winter at the southern end of the Americas.
Spend three days in Torres del Paine National Park, where you’ll see guanacos, flightless ñandús, and traverse the broadleaf evergreen forests of coigue and canelo trees near the ice wall of the Grey Glacier.
Program Costs & Financial Aid
SFS provides a comprehensive study abroad experience during a 6-day/week program schedule. SFS delivers the highest level of support and an unparalleled academic experience.
All students are welcome to apply for our need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans.
Pell Grant Match
SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.
Many SFS students receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.
Itinerary varies from term to term and is subject to change. Program activities take place 6 days a week with one day free.
Week 1: Welcome to Southern Patagonia! Start with a city tour of Punta Arenas and icebreaking activities along the Strait of Magellan. Travel to Puerto Natales and move into the SFS Center. Discuss Southern Patagonia from physical, ecological, and cultural lenses and how climate change is affecting each. Discuss the major land use of Southern Patagonia – Estancia ranches – and their socioecology. Visit a working estancia to learn how the seasons drive and guide the operations of the property.
Week 2: Terrestrial ecology and social connections: Learn about the evolutionary responses to winter by Southern Patagonian plants and animals, including the impacts of snow on ecology and plant and animal adaptations to freezing and desiccation. Explore the expected climate change impacts to the ecology. Explore types of landscape conservation and the impacts of different forms on local populations. Embark on an excursion to world-famous Torres del Paine National Park to observe guanacos and the flightless ñandús, travel through the broadleaf evergreen forests, and examine how the extreme seasonality of tourism affects the operations of the park.
Week 3: Indigenous lifeways: Learn about how the indigenous Kawesqar and Aonikenk historically lived in Southern Patagonia. Lean how the colonial takeover of Patagonia in the 19th Century radically changed the lifeways of indigenous peoples. Meet with local Kawesqar to discuss current livelihoods and challenges in practicing their traditions from estancias, exclusionary conservation frameworks, climate change, and extractive industries. Celebrate We tripantu, the Mapuche new year, on the night of the Winter Solstice.
Week 4: Aquatic ecology and socio-ecology: Examine how ice affects life underwater, how glacial dynamics affect rivers in wintertime, and how aquatic organisms survive. Discuss water ecosystem services and the value of Patagonia for world water, especially glaciers, while exploring the myriad expected impacts from climate change. Travel to the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers and the mouth of the glacier-fed Serrano River. Center cleanup and travel to Punta Arenas for the final days of the program. Day trip to Reserva Nacional Magallanes to discuss the impacts of water resources and the impacts of history and development. Final exam, course-closing, and returning home.
This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Chile. Read more about the SFS program model.
Conservation challenges posed by climate change and resource extraction
On the Patagonian Winter program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English.
Check back soon for the course description and syllabus.
The Patagonian winter is a defining aspect of the ecological and social systems of the region. This course will examine the different ways that winter affects human and non-human systems. This course brings you to the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park in the stillness of winter to observe the camelid guanacos and flightless ñandús as they get ready for the approaching winter. The shortening days drive changes in the ranching practices in the estancias in the area as they move their livestock to winter pastures. The approaching Winter Solstice also connects indigenous communities as they make ready for the coming New Year. Finally, the winter brings the season when glaciers would normally be recovering their mass. However, climate change is creating changes in all of these interactions. This course covers past adaptations to historic winter climates, from plant and animal community distributions and the human settlement patterns driven by climate conditions for the maintenance of communities.
You will be challenged to examine the natural phenomenon of the Winter Solstice through various lenses – physical, social, and ecological – within the context of Southern Patagonia. This interdisciplinary approach will teach you a variety of skills, including interdisciplinary system-thinking around conservation, key informant interviewing, aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling in freezing glacial rivers, and landscape observation of rugged Patagonian steppes, forests, wetlands, and rivers.
You will visit locations and meet people that will help provide context to explore the implications and impacts of the coming of winter and the longest night of the year. This includes visiting Patagonian ranches (estancias) in the hills and forests of Southern Patagonia, hiking through the forests, along the rivers, and up to glaciers in Torres del Paine National Park, and learning from Kawesqar and Mapuche-Williche people living in the region.
Surrounded by the jagged peaks of Cerro Benítez and the deep blue waters of the Señoret Channel lies the port city of Puerto Natales – the gateway to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. Located in the heart of this bustling tourist hub is the Center for Climate Studies, your home base for expeditions throughout the region.
Up to 6-person, dorm-style rooms with shared bathrooms
Classroom and student lounge
Kitchen and dining room, and on-site cooking staff
Just a few blocks from the town square, shops, and cafes of Puerto Natales
Short walk to the Señoret Channel, a scenic fjord with views of the Andes
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