Spend a semester amid the soaring peaks, massive glaciers, and narrow fjords of Patagonia, where the trails of Torres del Paine National Park 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.
Multi-day hiking trip in Torres del Paine with exploration of a glacier, local estancia, and Paine Grande, the highest summit in the Cordillera Paine range.
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. 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.
Check back soon for the Chile program itinerary!
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.
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
Click on the icons below to learn more about our Center in Chile.