FALL 2021 PROGRAM UPDATE: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the program itinerary and details that you find outlined on this page may shift to accommodate enhanced safety measures, park closures, and thoughtful community interaction. This may include but is not limited to the field sites visited, guest lectures, community visits, and other program activities. We will communicate pre-program changes with students and are available to answer any specific questions regarding this program. You can read more about how SFS is addressing COVID-19 on our programs here.
Patagonia is a land of fire and ice. Here, massive glaciers and active volcanoes form a wild landscape unlike any other. Spend a semester amid the spectacular peaks, glaciers, and fjords of Patagonia, where the trails of national parks like Torres del Paine become your classroom. Embark on expeditions throughout the diverse ecosystems and communities of this iconic region to study climate change impacts, glacial and aquatic dynamics, alpine ecology, and conservation.
Hike through the dramatic landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park, and take an expedition to neighboring Argentina and the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier
Explore the dramatic shifting landscapes, from sub-polar, broadleaf evergreen forests growing alongside glaciers to broad open plains where flightless rheas and guanacos roam
Journey to northern Patagonia’s lakes region, home to the lush Valdivian temperate rainforests, the active Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes, and endangered blue whales
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.
Cait was raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Cait joined the SFS team in 2017 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Sociology and Education. During the fall of her junior year, she studied in Florence, Italy. In the heart of Tuscany, she discovered her passion for learning and experiencing through education abroad. Throughout her career, Cait has facilitated a Faculty-Lead Program throughout Ireland and Scotland, served as an International Coordinator for a higher education first year abroad program, and has served in SFS Admissions advising and preparing students for their adventures to the field. Cait loves to share her passion for education abroad with every student she serves, and believes international education is an important part of any student’s undergraduate experience. Cait can’t wait to prepare you for your SFS experience!
Itinerary varies from term to term and is subject to change. Program activities take place 6 days a week with one day free. Dates for weekends away and mid-semester break are subject to change and will be provided prior to the start of the program. Note: The Chile semester program schedule is unique compared to other programs; the timing on many lectures, field exercises, and trips is mirrored/reversed between Fall and Spring semesters due to restrictions around winter weather. This sample itinerary represents an example Spring semester program.
Week 1: ¡Bienvenidos a Chile! Move into dorms, meet roommates, and attend program orientation. Start classes with introductory field lectures around Puerto Natales.
Week 2: Lectures on Patagonian climate and natural history, stream systems, geology, alpine ecology, and environmental politics. Full day excursion to Torres del Paine National Park, and field lecture/exploring in Puerto Natales, with photo essay assignment.
Week 3: Intro to volcanoes and human-environment interactions, including agriculture and ranching. Visit local estancia and explore Pali Aike (craters, lake, cave). Exotic species census activity.
Week 4: Extended expedition to Los Lagos – the northern lakes region, with visits to active Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes. Field lectures on volcanoes, protected areas management and ecology, and a comparison of northern and southern Patagonia.
Week 5: Northern expedition continues. Explore Chiloe Island, home to penguin colonies and the coastal city of Castro. Visit with a local family to learn about island livelihoods. Lectures on coastal ecology, glacial dynamics, and conservation models. Return to the SFS Center.
Week 6: Field quizzes and midterm exam. Lecture on race, gender, and class in Patagonian tourism. 3-day trip to El Calafate in Argentina to see Perito Merino glacier. Mid-semester break begins – 6 days of independent student travel.
Week 7: Mid-semester break ends; return to the SFS Center. Field lectures on biogeochemical systems, freshwater ecosystems, and environmental governance.
Week 8: Aquatic field exercise at Laguna Sofia, with lectures on paleolakes and macroinvertebrates. Explore Cueva del Milodon, a cave monument containing giant ground sloth bones. Visit local estancia. Lectures on sea level rise and natural disasters, Indigenous land rights, and social movements. Introduction to Directed Research (DR) project topics.
Week 9: Multi-day hiking trip in Torres del Paine, staying in hostels and shelters, to explore Paine Grande, the highest summit in the Cordillera Paine range. Visit a glacier and a local estancia. Return to the SFS Center. Lectures on climate reconstruction and historical climate change. Discuss DR project groups.
Week 10:Travel to the island of Tierra del Fuego and see a king penguin colony, and explore the city of Punta Arenas. Lectures on climate change, ecosystem services, water governance, and Indigenous politics. Field quizzes and exams. DR discussion on data collection methods and ethics.
Week 11: Explore the historical importance of Punta Arenas and surroundings. Hike to the historical San Isidro lighthouse, the southernmost manned lighthouse on continental South America, and explore the coastal forests of broadleaf evergreen coigües and canelos. Learn about the Kaweskar and Yaghan navigator cultures of the area. Write DR project proposals.
Week 12: Finalize DR logistics, prep for field work. Begin data collection in the field.
Week 13: DR data collection continues.
Week 14: Wrap up DR data collection and begin data analysis: organize, analyze, and write up your results in a scientific paper.
Week 15: Create a DR presentation and poster based on your research findings. Present to students, staff, and community members. Re-entry exercises and dorm cleanup. Closing activities. Head 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.
Major academic themes include:
Climate change impacts and resilience
Glacial and freshwater dynamics
Geology and volcanic activity
Endangered species protection
Coastal and alpine ecology
Conservation strategy and practice
National park visitation and protected areas management
On the Wild Patagonia: Fire and Ice program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.
Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus.
SFS 2001 Language, Culture, and Society of Chile (2 credits)
This course provides two integrated modules: Spanish language instruction, and Patagonian society and culture. The language module offers listening, oral, and written practice of Spanish to increase students’ communication and comprehension skills. The sociocultural module is designed to help students gain experience in the culture and therefore become more adept at working effectively in their community-based Directed Research efforts. Both modules emphasize the understanding of, and direct interaction with, the local communities with which the Center works. This exposure to culture and language is reviewed and processed through lectures, field exercises, community outreach, and classroom discussion.
SFS 3081 Political and Social Dimensions of Conservation (4 credits)
This course explores the decision-making apparatus within Chile as well as Argentina and delves into the complexity of why humans decide to conserve or not; which places/things we choose to conserve or not, what is the cost (in human capital, economic capital, and to ecosystem services) when we choose to conserve or not, and who ultimately are the power brokers of the conservation movement in Patagonia (corporations, government entities, NGOs, foreigners, etc.). And by extension, how do the Chilean conservation management objectives and operations map onto the broader world stage. This is a very transformative time in Chilean conservation management. The ministries are under re-organization; those that hold political influence now may not be the ones in office next year. Many media outlets such as CNN, the New York Times, and The Economist have had recent profiles on the influence of foreign private entities largely shaping the conservation scene in Chile. This course will allow stimulating debate and exploration and send students home with an unprecedented insight.
SFS 3601 Earth Systems and Climate Science (4 credits)
This course focuses on the physical nature of the landscape and the geologic / seismic complexity of a region firmly situated along the ‘ring of fire’. We will learn about active volcanoes and the resiliency of habitats, ecosystems, and people that must constantly adapt to things like ash fall and earthquakes. We will also examine both alpine and sea-level glaciers and the Andes range that is still growing. The focus will be the science of climate change, understanding the dynamics of the Quaternary Period (the time when periodic pulses of warm and cold started to dominate earth systems; eg, the ice ages) and the Anthropocene (the period where humans have begun to influence earth systems). It is the Chilean Patagonia region that is hyper-susceptible to changes in climate. Unpredictable rain/snow fall, glacial melt, temperature shifts, fires and droughts, etc. wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems and vulnerable farming and ranching operations, and cause strain to human psyches and ways of life. Chile is where climate change can be observed and measured in palpable ways.
This course focuses on the biodiversity and fragile habitats that stake claim in Patagonia looking at a mix of coastal ecology, alpine ecology, and exposed terrestrial ecology. We will examine the ecology and evolution of faunal species such as Guanaco, the Magellenic and King penguins, and the flightless Rhea, most of them endemic to the region. We will also look at fish, both endemic and introduced, and other invasive species such as the beaver. Though flora is not particularly diverse here (save for the lichens and bryophytes) the floral structural complexity is fascinating. The course is constructed so the lens of climate shifts and perturbations will be central to discussions and observations.
This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.
You will gain practical skills in the field such as: terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity assessments, GIS, water quality assessments, biodiversity survey techniques, species ID and population monitoring, natural resource valuation, landscape and soils analysis, research design and implementation, quantitative/qualitative data collection and analysis, scientific writing and communication, basic Spanish language skills.
You will visit different ecosystems and communities, which may include glaciers and ice fields, fjords, coastal villages and port cities, glacial lakes and rivers, Valdivian temperate forests, sub-polar broadleaf evergreen forests, pampa grasslands, protected areas surrounding the Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes, penguin colonies, the culturally unique island of Chiloé, and popular national parks.
In the Directed Research course, each student completes a field research project under the mentorship of a faculty member – beginning with data collection and analysis and concluding with a research paper and presentation. Project subject areas span ecology, natural resource management, conservation science, environmental ethics, and socioeconomics.
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 on the icons below to learn more about our Center in Chile.