Center for Climate Studies


In Chilean Patagonia, towering pinnacles clash with rivers of ice, and life persists in the face of challenging seasonal extremes. Penguins, foxes, sea lions, and guanaco are just a few of the region’s hardy wildlife. Situated in the Ring of Fire, Patagonia’s stunning, snow-covered volcanic range presents an unmatched opportunity to study complex geological and seismic processes.

The fragile ecosystems of southern Chile and Argentina are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – unpredictable storms, glacial melt, shifting temperatures, fires, and droughts. Our research in Patagonia examines ecology and geologic systems, the motivations and trade-offs of conservation decisions in the region, and species found nowhere else on the planet.



Wild Patagonia: Fire and Ice

Spend a semester amid the soaring peaks, massive glaciers, and narrow fjords of Patagonia, where the trails of national parks like Torres del Paine become your classroom for research and field work. Embark on expeditions to the southernmost tip of South America and the volcanic lakes region of northern Patagonia to study climate change impacts, diverse ecosystems, and conservation in one of the world’s most iconic regions.
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Fall 2020

Sep 7 - Dec 18


Spring 2021

Jan 25 - May 7


Fall 2021

Sep 6 - Dec 17


winter session

Foundations of Patagonian Ecology

Spend your winter break studying the biodiversity and fragile habitats of southern Chile. The trails of national parks like Torres del Paine and the expansive Patagonian steppe become your classroom as you explore the region from high-alpine forests to glaciers to the lower-elevation steppe. You’ll practice animal observation and census techniques on species like the guanaco, Andean condor, and elusive puma, and explore how nature adapts in extreme conditions.
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03 Weeks
03 Credits
Winter 2021

Dec 28 - Jan 15


Life In The Field

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.

  • Dorm living with 2 to 4-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom and student lounge
  • Kitchen and dining room, and on-site cooking staff
  • Nearby hiking trail and running routes
  • Steps away from the town square, shops, and cafes of Puerto Natales
  • Short walk to the Señoret Channel, a scenic fjord with views of the Andes
Click here to read stories and tips from students, staff, and faculty on our blog

The wind owns Patagonia. Everything here knows it. The rocks weather, the ice sculpts, the forests stunt, and the animals adapt or die. The people of Patagonia battle the constant force with fortitude and heart. Existing at the bottom of the world certainly isn’t easy. Our research won’t be easy either. But that’s why we need to be here.

Mark Seifert, Ph.D.
SFS Dean of Academic Programs


The research agenda at the SFS Center for Climate Studies mirrors the goals of the Chilean government’s 2017 national plan on climate change. This plan identifies four themes for action: adaptation, mitigation, means of implementation, and climate change management on the regional and communal levels. Students will work with community members, NGOs, and local landholders to measure and observe vulnerable ecosystems as Patagonian climatic conditions continue to change.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Climate change impacts and resilience
  • Conservation policy
  • Glacial dynamics
  • Ecological succession
  • Aquaculture and aquatic ecology
  • Coastal and alpine ecology
  • Protected areas management

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In Chile, we will be investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Land Use Change
Tourism Impacts
Natural Resource & Water Management
Sustainable Livelihoods
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The Local Community

SFS is new to the Puerto Natales area in Southern Patagonia but will quickly become an active part of the community. During the program, students participate in volunteer projects including environmental awareness in local schools, attend area festivals, assist in local conservation initiatives, and play sports with the locals. SFS research data will be made available to the local communities and the Chilean government.