Posted: October 9, 2018

Classes at the SFS Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (TIBS) are very different than typical college classes, and we spend a lot of time in the field learning in hands-on ways. Out of all the amazing places we’ve visited so far, these are five of my favorites:

 
Cayo Zapatillas 2
 

 
An island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago that is in the Marine Protected Area, Zapatillas is advertised as a white sand, tropical paradise, and is a major tourist destination. We spent a full day on the island, snorkeling for our marine ecology class and learning about coral diseases and ecosystem health, walking through the rainforest and learning about different plants’ adaptions to tropical life, and exploring the beach and relaxing in the water. It was really cool to learn about the Marine Protected Area while we were visiting one.

 
Popa II
 

 
Another island in the archipelago, Popa II is home to various Indigenous communities. For our Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values class, we went to the island to experience the typical tourist attractions the community offers. Getting to interact with the local community and hear about their traditions and the impacts of tourism on their livelihoods was something I wasn’t expecting to be able to do at TIBS.

 
Old Bank, Bastimentos
 

 
A predominantly Afro-Antillean community in the archipelago, we went to Old Bank to interview people for our Culture class. We got to drink from coconuts, drink fresh lemongrass tea, and taste cacao fruits while learning about what it means to be Bocatoreño and the effects of NGOs on the community.

 
Man-O-War Cave
 

 
A beautiful snorkeling site, we spent an afternoon conducting invertebrate abundancy and static fish surveys at Man-o-war Caye. Once we’d finished our data collection, we had some free time to swim around and explore the reef, getting to see all the different species we’d previously learned how to identify in class.

 
Isla Solarte
 

Photo courtesy of Anna Chah

 
A nearby island in the archipelago, we went to Isla Solarte for our Principles of Resource Management class to conduct a poison dart frog population study. We spent time catching, and then documenting the size and sex, of red poison dart frogs on the island to add to data from other islands. Learning how to catch and ID the frogs was a lot of fun, and getting to explore the rainforest after was great, too.

 
→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Panama