Advances in Psychology in Extreme Environments

Explore new developments in the psychology of extremes

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Sign up now open: Course material will be available online from the beginning of September

Humans continue to push the exploration envelope, venturing to new frontiers in unexplored cave systems, surveying hadal depths in uncharted parts of the ocean and extending high altitude endurance records in the most remote and far-flung regions on Earth. In the coming decades it is possible that this envelope will be pushed further still, as we launch a crewed mission to Mars, and, in the process, take a monumental step to becoming a truly space-faring and interplanetary species. During such pioneering endeavours, psychology plays a critical role: how a person thinks, feels and behaves can influence the success of a mission or expedition and the survival and safety of those involved.

Over many years, scientists have profiled and described the traits and characteristics of the human extremophiles, adventurers and explorers who choose to venture to extreme, risky and uncertain realms. Efforts have been made to pinpoint the right psychological stuff for extreme environments, typical physical and emotional reactions to severe stress, group dynamics in small self-reliant teams and what it is like to transition from isolated and austere settings back to life at home (we discuss many of these factors in our Introduction to Psychology in Extreme Environments course).

Despite the work already done, as we enter a new phase of human exploration a lot remains to be learnt. International researchers continue to dedicate much of their time to studying the psychology of people in extreme, unusual and high-risk settings. New knowledge is being generated on what to look for in selection, how to track and support expeditioners' mental health and methods and countermeasures that can be used to maintain performance and coping under extreme stress. In this new course, I document these scientific developments and share the key discoveries and applications emanating from this exciting psychological research.

If you are participating in or organising expeditions, or simply intrigued by the prospect of adventure and exploration and want to know more about how people cope in extreme settings, this course is for you. Content is firmly based around the idea of advances: by participating, you will be on the scientific frontier of psychology in extreme environments. Together, we will delve further into the topic area than ever before, leaving you with a detailed insight and understanding of the psychology of life and survival in extremes.

Though drawing on the most recent scientific research, course content remains firmly within practical territory. There is no pre-requisite to taking part (the Introductory course will provide a foundation but is not necessary) just an inquiring and adventurous mind and a passion to explore. I hope this has perked your interest and look forward to treading scientific terra incognita with you and, together, exploring the next chapter of psychology in extremis.


Sign up now open: Course material will be available online from the beginning of September

The Course

Note: There is no time limit to complete the course, this is a self-paced and self-directed online course to fit around your own schedule. You can sign-up at any time.

Together, we will explore new advances in psychology in extreme settings. The programme is broken into 6 parts. During the course, you will learn about:

1. The human factor: person-centred perspectives on risk identification and mitigation

2. Mental health in extremes: what it is and what to look out for

3. Methods for maintaining performance and coping under extreme stress

4. Risk taking and who takes risks in high risk settings

5. Leadership and survival in extreme situations

6. Recovery and readiness to go again

No prior experience of extreme environments or research background needed!


6 modules

18 dedicated lectures

9 guided practical activities

6 quizzes

1 tailored Q & A

By the end of the course you will:

1. Be aware of key contemporary psychological theories relevant to coping, performance and health in extreme settings

2. Understand where recent developments have taken place and how these advances build on what we already know about the psychology of performance and health in extremes

3. Have applied course content to a number of guided practical activities

4. Know where to find underpinning research to further your own learning

5. Be ready to use some of the content in your own extreme endeavours


As a thank you for your commitment, the first 15 people to sign up to the course will receive a complimentary freeze-dried expedition meal courtesy of our sponsor, Firepot Food. In addition, the first 30 sign ups will be entered into a prize draw to win a Fortuna Ultra-Lite down-filled vest (RRP £325 - available in grey or black subject to availability) kindly supplied by our long-standing partner, Shackleton Clothing.

Your Instructor

Dr Nathan Smith
Dr Nathan Smith

After completing my undergraduate (BSc Sport and Exercise Science) and postgraduate (PhD Sport and Exercise Psychology) degrees at the University of Birmingham (UK) I joined the University of Northampton as a Lecturer in Sport Psychology. Whilst at Northampton, I began a programme of research on the psychology of performance and health in extreme environments. This led to a role as a Senior Research Scientist within the UK Ministry of Defence conducting work with personnel operating in a range of challenging and hostile conditions. I now continue this work at the University of Manchester, where I am leading a number of projects related to performance and health in expedition, military and space contexts. I have published numerous scientific papers, book chapters and reports on the psychology of extreme environments. I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, an Associate of the Alpine Club, and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School. I am also the co-founder, with my colleague Professor Emma Barrett, of the Behaviour in Extreme and Adventurous Settings Research Network.

Course Curriculum

  Introduction and welcome
Available in days
days after you enroll

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

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