Introduction to Psychology in Extreme Environments

Explore the psychology of individuals and groups in extremes

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Presenting Sponsor

It was more than 100 years ago that Scott and Shackleton’s endeavours in Antarctica marked the end of the golden age of exploration. In the intervening years, humans have achieved more than was ever thought possible; summiting the World’s highest mountain, stepping onto the surface of moon and diving to the ocean floor. It is true that adventure and exploration in the 21st century has never been more accessible, exciting or interesting. The World over, people continue to complete first ascents, break records of extreme endurance, and complete all manner of professional and personal challenge in hostile, dangerous and demanding environments. Over the past 4 years, I have spent countless hours interviewing and examining the psychology of renowned explorers such as Ben Saunders, Felicity Aston and Aldo Kane, as well as lesser-known but equally impressive adventurers pushing their own limits and completing incredible feats in desert, jungle, polar and mountain environments. For the first time, you are able to learn from these insights and discover the science behind the people and personalities in extremes, the changes that take place during exposure to severe stress, and what happens to adventurers and explorers upon their return home.

If you are thinking about joining an expedition and testing your own limits, this course is an absolute must. Investing in equipment, training and logistics are paramount, but failing to consider the human and psychological element of exploration is like preparing yourself to fail. If you want to make the most out of your experience and learn how to perform well and stay healthy in demanding environments, then join us for this introduction to psychology in extremis.


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 cover the main areas of psychology in extreme settings. The programme is broken into 6 parts. During the course, you will learn about:

1. The history of psychology in extremes

2. Types of stressors faced in extreme settings, from the South Pole to the International Space Station

3. The people and personalities who have the 'Right Stuff'

4. Changes in emotion and decision-making during extreme endeavours

5. The importance of group dynamics and how to compose an effective team

6. What happens when you get home; the post-expedition blues and stress-related growth

If you want to know a bit more about the programme, feel free to have a look at the course handbook here.

All of the content is based on scientific research that has been translated for a general audience and those with an interest in extreme and expedition psychology. No prior experience of extreme environments or research background needed!


6 modules

20 lectures

8 practical activities

6 quizzes

1 applied action plan (with written feedback)

By the end of the course;

1. You will have an awareness of historical and present day thinking about psychology in extremes

2. You will have completed practical activities to examine your own psychology and understand how those techniques might be applied to assess other individuals and groups in extreme settings

3. You will have received feedback on a written action plan designed to help you put something you learnt into practice

4. You will be ready for taking more advanced classes in specific areas of extreme environment psychology - including topics related to polar, space, or military, defence and security environments

The first 20 places have now been taken and those receiving a Shackleton base layer have been contacted.


As a thank you for your commitment, the first 20 people to sign up to the course will receive a merino wool base layer (RRP £75) courtesy of our presenting sponsor, The Shackleton Company.

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
  Applied action plan
Available in days
days after you enroll


"Anyway, thanks again for the awesome course and allowing me to try to talk about some things. I'm even more pumped for the next trip so I can put things into practice!" Katey D, Zoologist, Experienced in Remote Fieldwork, Comms. Director for Tulsi Foundation.

"I’d like to thank you for a well thought out, well presented learning experience that I feel will be of great value to my future expeditions and to my day to day activities as a professional diver." Phil Short, Director. Dark Water Exploration Ltd.

"I like the style you present in the modules. It provides great information and its helping me with some aspects of psychology in relation to expedition/austere environments. Its outside my comfort zone, and that is great for me!" Jeremy W

"Thanks Nathan for a really interesting course. Well paced, structured, and great content." Kam K

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.

Get started now!