Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies


This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. 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:

  • Marine protected areas
  • Ecology of marine and terrestrial species
  • Rainforest biodiversity
  • Tourism impacts on ecosystems and human populations
  • Ecosystem health assessment
  • Community livelihoods and agriculture
  • Conservation and natural resource management


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 each course to view a description and download the syllabus

SFS 2070 Language, Culture, and Society of Panama 2 credits
SFS 3020 Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values 4 credits
SFS 3740 Principles of Resource Management 4 credits
SFS 3790 Tropical Coastal Ecology 4 credits
SFS 4910 Directed Research 4 credits

Core Skills

You will gain practical skills in the field such as: species identification, habitat and biodiversity assessment, research design and implementation, insect and amphibian trapping for population monitoring, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, tourism impact assessment methods, research presentation, and Spanish language skills.

Field Sites

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

Directed Research

In the Directed Research course, each student completes a field research project under the mentorship of a faculty member – beginning with data collection and analysis and concluding with a research paper and presentation. Project subject areas span ecology, natural resource management, conservation science, environmental ethics, and socioeconomics.

Learn More
All program components are subject to change.