summer session I


Tropical Island Ecosystems: The Human Impact


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:

  • Biodiversity and ecosystem health assessments
  • Rainforest and marine ecology
  • Indigenous tourism and sustainability
  • Tourism impacts on ecosystems and human populations
  • Marine protected areas


On the Tropical Island Ecosystems: The Human Impact program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English.

Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus

SFS 3000 Tourism and Island Systems: Assessment of Sustainable Practices 4 credits

Core Skills

You will gain practical skills in the field such as: habitat and biodiversity assessment, underwater surveying with transects and quadrats, tourism SWOT analysis, basic Spanish language skills, interview methods, and quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis.

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, coffee farms and cloud forests in the Chiriquí Highlands, 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.

A summer with SFS!

Take back-to-back summer sessions and get the hands-on learning and skill-building experiences of an internship, while also going off the beaten path and exploring the world. Each summer session focuses on a different topic, and you’ll have time to travel independently between sessions. Receive a $1,000 discount on your second session (effective for Summer 2020).

Fundamentals of Sustainability Research (Costa Rica Summer II)

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All program components are subject to change.

Life in the Field

The Center, once a beachfront hotel, is nestled among the slender palms of Isla Colón. You’ll take your classes over the warm waters of the Caribbean and amid the surrounding rainforests and reefs. The laid-back tourist hub of Bocas Town is a short taxi ride away, with access to shops, restaurants, and a vibrant culture that is as unique as the mix of people who live here.

  • Dorm living in four-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom on a sheltered dock above the ocean
  • Air-conditioned student lounge and lab
  • Casual al-fresco dining area, and on-site cooking staff
  • Swimming pool, kayaking, and paddleboarding
  • Volleyball, spikeball, and beachfront hammocks