Academic Content

September – December 2023
Holetown, Barbados

The Barbados Field Study Semester focuses on issues of sustainability in Barbados by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to understand the goals, circumstances, challenges and opportunities of people living on the island, and to engage with local stakeholders in pursuit toward sustainable outcomes.

The objectives of the program are:
(a) to train the students to be more effective environmental decision-makers,
(b) to equip the students with background, concepts, and skills necessary for addressing issues of environmental changes and sustainable development,
(c) to develop strategies for sustainable use of social and environmental resources, and
(d) to engage in a research project to propose solutions to local environmental issues.


The program is open to undergraduate students in U2 and U3 of study in all faculties.

A CGPA of 3.0 and higher, or permission of the program director.


Students stay for 13 weeks at McGill's Bellairs Research Institute, Holetown, Barbados. Dates are from Sept. 3rd to Dec 2nd, 2023.


The BFSS consists of three 3-credits courses (GEOG 340, ATOC 341 and BIOL 343) and a 6-credit research project (FSCI 444).

GEOG 340 (3 credits) - Sustainability in the Caribbean

Module 1 – The goal of this module is to introduce students to the local environmental, social, historical, political, and economic context of Barbados and the Caribbean. It also provides general context about the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and why those nations are particularly vulnerable to global environmental challenges. Specific topics include (1) Canada and the Caribbean – history and current, and (2) Interactions between the socio-economic and biophysical environments, the complex nature of these interactions, and their impacts on global environmental issues, with a focus on the Caribbean.

Module 2 – In this module, students get familiar with methods used to evaluate and identify development goals, using the 17 SDGs of the United Nations. Particular focus is on the leadership role played by Barbados for the entire Caribbean region since the early 1990’s. Specific topics are (1) The science of sustainability: data collection, analysis, evaluation criteria, (2) The United Nations SDGs and Barbados leadership, and (3) The Small Islands Development States Action Plan.


ATOC 341 (3 credits) – Climate and Weather in the Caribbean

Module 1 – This module introduces students to the climate system, ongoing global warming and future projections based on observations and Earth System Models. We cover the radiative balance of the Earth, the large-scale circulation pattern and mode of variability of the atmosphere, the ocean and the cryosphere (e.g. El-Nino — Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation). Robust impacts of climate change include a rise in the global mean temperature, sea level rise, melting of land and sea-ice, increased droughts and drying of subtropical regions.

Module 2 – The second module addresses specific aspects of climate variability in the tropics, the local climate dynamics, wind and rainfall regimes, as well as extreme weather events in the region.


BIOL 343 (3 credits) – Biodiversity in the Caribbean

Module 1 – This module summarizes current knowledge on global biodiversity, including ongoing biodiversity change, introduces metrics used to quantify the ecological integrity of ecosystems, and illustrates the importance of tracking these metrics through time. Case studies from terrestrial and oceanic biotas in the Caribbean illustrate these concepts.

Module 2 – In this module, students learn how the study of terrestrial island floras and faunas contributed significantly to our understanding of the mechanisms and patterns of evolution, and how environmental changes have impacted such evolution throughout Earth History.

FSCI 444 (6 credits) – Barbados Research Project

Co-supervision by a McGill Faculty and a local partner; students work in groups. At the onset of the program, several research project topics, supervisors, and local collaborators will be presented to students. Students will form groups of three (or two to four) and choose one of these research projects. Students write a short research proposal, establish contact with their host local partner and prepare a business case describing the plan of action, methodology, timeline, etc. Students work on their research project one day a week for the first 7 weeks of the program. The full-time research work is conducted over the last 6 weeks of the program and students meet at least once weekly (remotely) with the McGill faculty supervising the project. Friday afternoons are devoted to class activities during which students present their progress to the rest of the class and obtain feedback from their peers. Check-ins are done with the Program Assistant at least once a week, or more frequently if needed. The range of potential research topics is vast, as long as it relates to the field of sustainability and is meaningful to Barbados.



***Note that B.Sc. students - only - may qualify for the B.Sc. Global designation. Verify the eligibility and application process.

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