experiencing the Patagonian Summer
Christina was fortunate to serve as a teaching assistant for Wildlands Studies’ Patagonia Ecosystems Project during the austral summer. With a fellow instructor and seventeen university students from the United States and Canada, the group criss-crossed the Los Lagos Region of Southern Chile studying ecology and conservation in the threatened southern temperate rain forest where rain means rain to the tune of 7000mm per year. The majority of the time was spent in the backcountry surrounded by the Cordillera de los Andes (Andes Mountains), old-growth forests, glaciers and glacially carved valleys, volcanoes, wild rivers, fjords, incredible starry nights, and the rugged coastline of Chiloe island.
This project offers students a chance to experience field research, appreciate the ecological and climatological threats facing southern Chile, study conservation strategies employed by public and private entities whilst pushing their physical limits to explore isolated and seemingly untrammeled lands effected by activity on the Ring of fire, human settlement and resource development. Throughout the six weeks, students cultivated an appreciation for this rough-hewn landscape and dynamic and complex ecosystem. Academically, students experience a form of learning where information is not just taught audibly or visually, but is designed to be observed in ambient surroundings. The course is also a great call to adventure and self-reflection; time as a class in the wild quietly coaches stoicism and resilience and mandates disconnection from the comforts of modern life.