Natural History of Antarctica

Type of Travel: 
Program Director(s): 
Departure Date: 
Saturday, January 4, 2020 to Saturday, January 18, 2020
Application Deadline: 
Monday, January 28, 2019

Students will travel to Antarctica through Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. They will spend 12 days on a ship exploring the Weddell Sea, Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands. Throughout the duration of the trip, while on the ship and during daily excursions to the continent, expedition leaders and lecture staff will guide students in viewing wildlife like whales, a huge variety of seabirds, penguins, and seals. Students will explore the icebergs, mountains and waterways of Antarctica's geography.

See program brochure here

Participant Selection
Completion of online application (including one-page essay), an interview with course instructors.

Approval of instructor required. Current ISU undergraduate students only (graduate students may be considered with instructor approval). Preference will be given to College of Agriculture and Life Sciences majors, though others who can articulate a compelling motivation to experience this unique ecosystem will be considered. Completion of or concurrent enrollment in an introductory biology course (e.g., Bio 211-212) is recommended. Participants should be capable of physical activity in cold environments, including travel on board a ship and in small boats, and hiking on snow, ice and rocky surfaces.

Note:  Due to international quarantine restrictions service animals cannot be accommodated on our study abroad programs. For more information, please contact the Iowa State University Student Accessibility Services Office.  

Course Information
You will earn a total of 3 credits for NREM 496 during Fall 2019 semester

  • NREM 496- This course has a pre-departure course component and a travel component.
  • For Pre-departure part of the course, class will meet during the fall semester at a location and time TBD. This course will
    • Set the tone for the program
    • Discuss academic portion 
    • Lay out expectations and procedures 
    • Answer your questions and concerns
    • Cover topics about itinerary, accommodation, meals, safety, health, logistics, travel documents, finances and more.
  • Travel portion of the course will take place in Winter Break.

Students must take both the on campus course and complete the travel component.  

Note:  Due to the season and limited availability of affordable ship berths, travel for this course will happen during the ISU academic semester. This means you will miss classes on campus during the begining few days of the Spring semester. If you are applying for this course, please note that you will be responsible for communicating with your spring semester instructors to inquire whether or not arrangements can be made to make up class work. The CALS Study Abroad office or the program directors can verify your participation in the Antarctica course and the details of the trip, but each instructor is responsible for determining the impact of any absence from class. It is your responsibility to contact the instructor to determine the potential impact on your grade.

Application Process
To be considered in the selection process, applicants should have completed the program application in its entirety before the application deadline of January 18, 2019.

  • Once the selection process is complete, you will be notified about the decision.
  • If you are accepted to the program you will be required to commit or decline participation.
  • Typically you will be given 7 to 10 days with a specific commitment date to finalize your decision.

Once you commit to the program, you are officially a participant in the program and will be responsible for all the program cost outlined in the budget. If you withdraw your participation after committing to a program, you will be responsible for all non-refundable payments that were made on your behalf and these charges will be charged to your U-bill.

Program Fee
$12,000 (includes roundtrip airfare, lodging, CISI health insurance, in-country arrangements)

Other Fees
$105 Study Abroad administrative fee

Program fee and administrative fee will be applied directly to students' Ubill

Out of Pocket Expenses
$325 (meals, personal expenses, i.e., souvenirs, toiletries, cell phone fees, etc., visa (not required for U.S. citizens), vaccines and preventative medicines
$175 Passport and mailing*

*If you are a first time traveler in CALS and need a passport, click here to find out how you can get the cost of your passport reimbursed

There are study abroad scholarships available through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences study abroad office in 0018 Curtiss Hall. Scholarship application details are served to CALS students in the learning content section of the study abroad program application. Application deadline for Fall term scholarship applications is May 1, 2019

Other Scholarship Resources

Your department or the department offering this study abroad program may also have study abroad scholarships. Please contact the respective departments to find out more information about the department wide scholarships.

Tentative Itinerary (2016 Program Itinerary)

Sunday, December 4
5:50 am Depart Des Moines on Delta Airlines DL#1952 for Atlanta.
9:01 Arrive Atlanta.
11:07 Depart Atlanta on DL#2173 for Miami.
1:32 pm Arrive Miami.
5:40 Depart on Aerolineas Airlines AR#1305 for Buenos Aires EZE International
(Meals aloft)
Monday, December 5
4:40 am Arrive Buenos Aires International Airport. (EZE).
Check in for your flight to Ushuaia (also from EZE airport).
9:10 Aerolineas Argentinas AR #1880 departs for Ushuaia.
12:45 pm Arrive Ushuaia.
Transfer to Ushuaia town.
Check in your Hostel (1 night).
Afternoon for rest and leisure to explore Ushuaia.
Dinner. (D)
Tuesday, December 6
Take a packed lunch with you.
8:00 am Depart on a day excursion into Tierra del Fuego National Park, with a local naturalist/guide.
Late afternoon return to Ushuaia.
Dinner. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, December 7
This morning for museum visits, exploration and last minute shopping in Ushuaia.
Lunch on your own.
3:45 pm Transfer to the ship, M/V Ortelius.
4:00 Board the ship. Meet your expedition leaders and lecture staff.
6:00 Ship departs for the famous Beagle Channel and scenic MacKinlay Pass.
Dinner on board the ship. (B,D)
Thursday-Friday, December 8-9
Breakfast on board ship.
Albatross and Cape Petrels accompany us 600 miles south across the Drake Passage toward Antarctica. It is named after the renowned explorer, Sir Frances Drake, who sailed these waters in 1578. The lecture staff will begin a series of presentations to prepare you for the adventures ahead.
Lunch on board.
There is an open bridge policy so you can join the ship’s officers on the bridge and learn about navigation, and watch for whales and seabirds. On Day 5, we will cross the Antarctic Convergence, the biological barrier where cold polar waters dive beneath the warmer oceans to the north. It marks the northern limit of many Antarctic seabirds. We may see Wandering Albatrosses, Grey Headed Albatrosses, Cape Petrels, Southern Fulmars, and other seabirds. The first sightings of icebergs and snow-capped mountains indicate that we have reached the South Shetland Islands, a group of twenty islands and islets first sighted in February 1819 by Capt. William Smith of the brig Williams. With favorable conditions in the Drake Passage, our lecturers and naturalists will accompany you ashore as you experience your first encounter with the penguins and seals. (B,L,D)
Saturday-Tuesday, December 10-13
We will sail directly to “High Antarctica,” passing the Melchior islands and the Schollaert Channel between Brabant and Anvers Island. On Cuverville, a small precipitous island, nestled between the mountain of the Antarctic Peninsula and Danco Island, we will find a large colony of Gentoo Penguins and breeding pairs of Brown Skuas. If we land on Danco Island, we can observe Gentoo Penguins and possibly Weddell and Crabeater Seals. In Neko Harbor, we will have the opportunity to set foot on the Antarctic Continent in a magnificent landscape of huge glaciers and enjoy the landscape during zodiac cruises.
When sailing to Paradise Bay, with its myriad of icebergs and glaciated alpine mountains, we will have the opportunity for a zodiac cruise in the inner parts of this amazing waterway. In this area, we have good changes to see Humpback Whales and Minke Whales. After sailing through the Neumayer Channel, we hope to get the chance to visit the old British research station, museum and post office at Port Lockroy on Goudier Island. Close to Port
Lockroy, we may also be able to land at Jougla Point with Gentoo Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags. We will sail through the spectacular Lemaire channel to Pleneau and Petermann Island where we can find Adelie Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags. In this area, there are good chances to
encounter Humpback Whales and Minke Whales. Further south we may visit the Ukranian Vernadsky Station, where we will receive a warm
welcome from the station crew. Sailing north through Neumayer Channel, we will arrive at the Melchior Islands with a very beautiful landscape with icebergs, where we may encounter Leopard Seals, Crabeater Seals, and whales. Throughout out voyage, we will be surrounded by the fantastic glacial landscapes and mountains of Antarctica, and its seas, rich with wildlife. The Antarctic Peninsula’s remarkable history will also provide you with a type of excitement often only associated with the early explorers. You will have plenty of time to explore its amazing scenery, a pristine wilderness of
snow, ice, mountains and waterways and a wide variety of wildlife. Apart from Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins and other seabirds, you are likely to encounter Weddell, crabeater, and leopard seals, as well as Minke whales, Humpbacks, and orcas at close range. DAYS 11/12 RETURN VOYAGE TO USHUAIA (DRAKE PASSAGE)
Wednesday-Thursday, December 14-15
Our lecture program will continue as we return across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia. We will again be followed by a great number of seabirds. This is a wonderful time to catch up on your notes about the trip. (B,L,D)
Friday, December 16
Breakfast on board the ship.
Please be certain to settle all ship board accounts before disembarking this morning.
Arrive in Ushuaia, and transfer into town.
Morning at leisure for shopping, coffee, or personal interests.
Early lunch in town on your own.
12 Noon Meet opposite the Albatross Hotel for the transfer to the airport.
Check in for AR#1853.
2:05 pm Flight departs for Buenos Aires (EZE) International Airport.
5:33 Arrive Buenos Aires.
9:00 Check in for AR#1302 for Miami (same airport).
11:15 AR#1302 departs for Miami. (B, D aloft)
Saturday,  December 17
6:25 am Arrive Miami.
Go through customs and immigration.
11:30 Depart on DL#566 for Atlanta.
1:32 pm Arrive Atlanta.
2:54 Depart on DL#1532 for Des Moines.
4:14 Arrive Des Moines.
PLEASE NOTE: This schedule is a guide only and is subject to change due to local
circumstances or changes in flight schedules. Your Expedition Leader will keep you informed.
The Captain has the final word during the voyage. The exact route and program will vary to
take best advantage of local weather and ice conditions and opportunities to view wildlife. A
Daily Program will be issued on board. Flexibility is the key to success.