Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

Panama
Semester
15 Weeks
18 Credits
Spring 2024
Jan 30 - May 10
In the Field
Fall 2024
Sep 6 - Dec 17
Filling Fast
Spring 2025
Jan 27 - May 9
Open
Program Costs
  • Tuition$22,000
  • Room & Board$5,000
  • Total$27,000
Application Deadlines
Spring 2024
November 1, 2023
Fall 2024
November 1, 2024
Spring 2025
May 1, 2024
Semester Program

Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

Bocas del Toro Archipelago,
Panama

Spend a semester in the dynamic community of Bocas del Toro, where everything – from the thriving underwater ecosystems to the rich green rainforests – seems more alive. Study the impacts of tourism and development on the island system’s unique habitats, evaluate local environmental policies, and apply the principles of sustainability and conservation to your research project.

  • Enjoy the Caribbean Sea as your backyard – work, study, snorkel, and live at our island campus. 
  • Visit the Caribbean Coral Restoration Center to learn the methods used in creating artificial reefs; snorkel nearby artificial reefs and coral nurseries to observe restoration work firsthand. 
  • Sample medicinal plants and hand-ground cacao on visits to various chocolate farms as part of a semester-long exploration of the intricacies of contemporary and Indigenous tourism.
  • Travel extensively around the islands of Bocas del Toro – above and below the water -encountering mangroves, rainforests, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and agroforestry fincas.
  • Conduct a comprehensive field research project: Develop a research question, collect and analyze data, write a collaborative paper, and present your findings.

Academics

This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. Each program combines theory learned during classroom sessions with field-based applications. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Panama.

Major academic themes include:

  • Climate change impacts
  • Rainforest and marine ecology
  • Indigenous tourism and sustainability
  • Marine protected areas
  • Conservation and natural resource management
  • Ecosystem health assessments
  • Tourism impacts on ecosystems and human populations

Courses

On the Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.

Click on the
to view a description and download the syllabus.
SFS 2070
Cultural Competence in Conservation (Language and Culture)
2 credits
SFS 2070

Cultural Competence in Conservation (Language and Culture)

2 credits

This course contains two distinct but integrated modules. The Spanish language module offers listening, oral, and written practice of the Spanish language at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency. Students engage in oral and written grammar and vocabulary exercises, and develop Spanish language skills and tools required for their research projects. The Society and Culture of Panama module helps students to develop a more refined understanding of Panamanian culture and the various communities with which we work. Students participate in lectures, field exercises, and other activities—all of which teach them strategies and skills for working with people in a community-based research context and help them to assist with community extension projects.

View Syllabus
SFS 3020
Environmental Governance, Development, and Conservation
4 credits
SFS 3020

Environmental Governance, Development, and Conservation

4 credits

This course examines environmental policy and socioeconomic values through the lens of tourism development in Bocas del Toro, Panama (Bocas). After discussing environmental and social challenges historically connected with international tourism development, we will then explore the ideological thrust towards sustainable tourism, as well as critique this concept – always asking: “what are we sustaining and for whom?”

View Syllabus
SFS 3740
Forest Ecology and Resource Management
4 credits
SFS 3740

Forest Ecology and Resource Management

4 credits

The Tropical Forest Ecology and Resource Management course in the Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (TIBS) program introduces students to concepts and tools to study and manage tropical forest ecosystems. The course covers basic principles about the factors driving biodiversity patterns, with a focus on tropical systems, explores symbiotic relationships among species within the rain forest and provides insights into the importance of neotropical forests worldwide. Thus, as part of this course we will conduct activities focused on learning about how to assess changes in biodiversity, learn about ecological processes such as forest dynamics and soil productivity, and ecosystem services.

View Syllabus
SFS 3790
Tropical Coastal Ecology
4 credits
SFS 3790

Tropical Coastal Ecology

4 credits

Tropical Coastal Ecology (TCE) is a course that provides fundamental knowledge necessary to understand the main ecological processes and interactions in a fragile marine island ecosystem.

Basic ecological principles are paired with field observation and measurement to understand the interdependencies of species, populations, communities and ecosystems in the coastal and marine environment, and with particular attention to the management of resources and environments. Our studies will focus on the shallow marine and coastal environments of Bocas del Toro with an emphasis on coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats.

We will study the biology, ecology and behavior of key species, including those that form habitats and those that are important resources to the people of Bocas del Toro through fisheries and tourism. Finally, we will consider the impact of anthropogenic disturbance and global climate change to the island ecosystem and organisms living there, as well as discuss possible management solutions

View Syllabus
SFS 4910
Directed Research – Panama
4 credits
SFS 4910

Directed Research – Panama

4 credits

This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.

View Syllabus

Core Skills

You will gain practical skills in the field such as: species identification, habitat and biodiversity assessment, experience using underwater surveying with transects and quadrats, basic Spanish language skills, wildlife population monitoring techniques, tourism impact assessment methods, research design and implementation, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, and research presentation.

Field Sites

You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include coral reefs, tropical rainforests, coastal forests and beaches, Indigenous Ngöbe communities, island ecosystems, the Caribbean Coral Restoration Center, Panama City and the Panama Canal, mangrove forests and seagrass meadows, marine protected areas, banana farms and other agricultural operations, riverine ecosystems, and the vibrant small-town community of Bocas.


Other Panama Programs

Semester

Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

15 Weeks
18 Credits
Spring 2024
Jan 30 - May 10
In the Field
Fall 2024
Sep 6 - Dec 17
Filling Fast
Spring 2025
Jan 27 - May 9
Open

More Information

Program Costs
  • Tuition$22,000
  • Room & Board$5,000
  • Total$27,000
Summer Session 1

Tropical Island Ecosystems: The Human Impact

4 Weeks
4 Credits
Summer 2024
Jun 3 - Jul 2
Closed

More Information

Program Costs
  • Tuition$5,200
  • Room & Board$1,650
  • Total$6,850

Back to
Panama
Back to Center

Our Centers