Patagonia and the Pacific Northwest: Conservation and Ecology of Temperate Rainforests

Winter Signature
Class Standing
Dylan Fischer

Temperate rainforest ecosystems are some of the most carbon-dense ecosystems on the planet, and are vital in global conservation efforts. Nevertheless, approaches to conservation are diverse around the world, and approaches vary by country in the Americas. The Pacific Northwest and southern Chile contain some of the largest extents of temperate rainforest in the world, yet these ecosystems can also vary dramatically in the northern versus southern hemispheres. This program focuses on ecology and conservation in Pacific Northwest forests and then compares our local ecosystems to Valdivian Rainforests in Patagonian Chile. We will study individual plants and plant communities and their environments (population and community ecology, ecophysiology), general forest ecology, and conservation history (private, local, and federal) in the PNW and in Patagonia. Further, we will place all of this understanding in the context of of climate change and disturbance ecology. 

At the start of the quarter, students will learn about Pacific Northwest forest ecosystems while preparing for a month-long journey to Chile. In Chile, students will be based out of a field station near Puerto Varas, Los Lagos District, at the foot of Calbuco Volcano (learn more on instagram @vallelosulmos). Students will live in a small sustainability-focused community and research center in Chile. At the site, they will study Valdivian rainforest ecology, cultural environmental history, and forest recovery following the 2015 eruption of the volcano. Students will also have the opportunity to explore multiple adjacent ecosystems, conservation centers, and private and National Parks.

Students will learn field and laboratory methods for studying plant community ecology and plant physiology including vegetation sampling methods, methods for measuring plant growth, and plant identification for temperate rainforests in both hemispheres. Students will also have a unique opportunity to participate in monitoring efforts for forest recovery at three elevations near Calbuco Volcano, Chile. Lecture topics will include plant communities, competition and symbiosis, plant growth, plant evolution, forest structure, forest conservation theory and history, and the potential effects of large-scale disturbances, such as climate change, on forest communities. Students will also learn about cultural nuances associated with studying forest ecology and conservation in North America versus Chilean Patagonia. Finally, students will have significant opportunities to gain immersion experience learning applied Spanish abroad (some prior Spanish language study would be helpful, but is not required). 

Multiple early-quarter day trips will be paired with the month-long immersion experience in Chile. Student work will culminate in presentations targeted at comparing ecology and conservation approaches and natural history in temperate rainforests of both hemispheres.  


Signature Required

Students will be required to apply to the program before the end of week 2 of fall quarter. Applications are available on the study abroad page for this offering: Please contact faculty at for more information.”

Course Reference Numbers
Jr - Sr (16): 20078

Academic Details

ecological restoration,Studies or careers in climate change research, forest ecology, ecological forestry, environmental studies, field studies, natural history.



In Person (W)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
SEM 2 C2107 - Seminar