Carolyn Kovacs, M.S.


Lecturer in Tropical Coastal Ecology


M.S. in Marine Sciences
Savannah State University (GA, USA)

B.S. in Biology
College of William and Mary (VA, USA)


SFS 3790 Tropical Coastal Ecology
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 4910 Directed Research
(The School for Field Studies)

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Faculty Profile

Born in south Florida, I grew up on the beach and quickly developed a love of the ocean and marine life. Despite an eventual move to central Virginia my interest continued and I eventually attended graduate school to obtain my Master of Science in the Marine Sciences. There my research focused on interactions between bottlenose dolphins and the shrimp trawl fishery in Savannah, Georgia and the consequent implications on their social structure and management of the population. Since then my research interests have grown to include all forms of human-wildlife interactions, from the direct effects of human intervention on animal behavior to the indirect effects of increased human population on coral reef ecosystems. Here in Bocas del Toro I have been focusing on the effects of growing tourism on the population of cushion sea stars Oreaster reticulatus at a popular beach known as Playa Estrella. In addition, I have begun investigating the pilings of buildings as artificial reefs and their role in the changing coastal ecosystem of Bocas del Toro.

While in graduate school I also began my career as an educator thanks to the NSF GK-12 Fellowship, spending two days a week working in a middle school science classroom and creating lesson plans based on my research. After completing my degree I spent a year teaching marine biology at Savannah State University before climbing on board a sailboat to join the study-abroad-at-sea program Sea|mester as a marine science instructor. Over the course of four years I circumnavigated the world and visited over 40 countries while teaching marine biology and oceanography to undergraduate students. After two years I also became the Program Manager and was directly involved in the planning and implementation of each voyage. I greatly enjoyed traveling, but I also was longing to feel a better sense of connection and understanding of the places I visited. I chose to join the TIBS faculty in Bocas del Toro because I knew that SFS not only attracts enthusiastic and motivated students, but that it also works to build genuine connections amongst the students, faculty, and local community. I am passionate about both the educational and personal growth sides of immersive study abroad programs and am excited to be part of the SFS-TIBS program in Panama.

Areas of Expertise

  • Marine mammals
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Animal behavior
  • Effects of tourism on coastal populations


Kovacs, C.J., R.M. Perrtree, and T.C. Cox. (2017) Social differentiation in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that engage in human-related foraging behaviors. PLOS ONE 12(2): e0170151.
Perrtree, R.M, C.J. Kovacs, and T.C. Cox. (2014) Standardization and application of metrics to quantify human-interaction behaviors by the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops spp.). Marine Mammal Science 30(4):1320-1334.
Kovacs, C.J. and T.C. Cox. (2014) Quantification of interactions between common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and a commercial shrimp trawler. Aquatic Mammals 40(1): 81-94.
Kovacs, C.J., M.C. Curran, and T.C. Cox. (2013) Where’s that dolphin? Using sightings of bottlenose dolphins to study spatial patterns. The Science Teacher 80(9): 24-29.
Kovacs, C.J., M.C. Curran, and T.C. Cox. (2013) Using mathematics to conduct social analyses of bottlenose dolphins in the classroom. Science Scope: 36(8): 52-60.
Kovacs, C.J., Daskin, J.H., Patterson, H, and Carmichael, R.H. (2010) Crassostrea virginica shells record local variation in wastewater inputs to a coastal estuary. Aquatic Biology 9: 77-84.
Carmichael, R.H. and Kovacs, C.J. (2010) Comment on Watanabe et al. (2009). Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 314-315.


Social differentiation in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that engage in human interaction behaviors near Savannah, GA. (2013) Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium. University of North Florida, FL.
Rate of interactions between bottlenose dolphins and shrimp trawlers varies with trawler activity. (2012) Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium. Nova Southeastern University, FL
Interactions between bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and shrimp trawlers in Savannah, Georgia. (2011) Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium. Coastal Carolina University, SC.
Interactions between bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and shrimp trawlers in Savannah, Georgia. (2011) Florida Student Chapter of the Society of Marine Mammalogy. University of Florida, FL.