This course is designed to build advanced understanding of tropical ecosystems and offer direct practical experience in ecological field research. The course follows an experiential learning model whereby content presented through lecture is paired with field activities to reinforce concepts and ideas.
- Comprehension of tropical marine ecology
- Identification of Caribbean taxa
- Proficiency in field techniques
- Introduction to scientific diving
- Analysis of data
- Scientific reading, writing, and criticism
- The development, implementation, analysis, and presentation of an independent research project
The first week of the course introduces fundamental concepts and methods through lecture and exercises. Mornings involve lecture and discussion of scientific papers while afternoons are spent in the water, practicing identification and field techniques. Some activities are conducted in the laboratory with collected samples (e.g. observation of plankton or identification of marine invertebrates using skeletal features). The next two weeks are dedicated to the course capstone: a project where each student designs and conducts a rigorous field experiment to answer a scientific question of their choice. At the end of the course, students give an oral presentation of their research at a course symposium and write a scientific manuscript.
Location: The field course will take place at Boca del Drago on the NW corner of Isla Colon, an island in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in the western Caribbean region of Panama. Spanish is the official language but English is widespread and the US dollar is used as currency.
NOTE: All students will spend considerable time in the water, however diving is not a requirement and students who are not SCUBA-certified are encouraged to participate in the course as snorkelers. All students must provide their own mask, fins and snorkel; certified divers must bring proof of dive certification and diving insurance from the Divers Alert Network (DAN) and all of their own diving equipment. TCC provides only dive weights and tanks.
Prerequisites: This course is designed for undergraduate students who are interested in gaining familiarity with tropical marine ecosystems and research experience, but it may also be appropriate for graduate students seeking field experience or individuals not enrolled in an academic program who have a strong interest in marine ecology.
Tuition: TBA. The tuition fee for the CRE course includes all room and board during the three weeks of the course, as well as boat use and field expenses. Please note that airfare is not included. Students must make their own travel arrangements, but are welcome to contact the instructors for suggestions.
Course Credit: Up to four units of credit will be granted for this course. Credit must be arranged by the student through their academic advisor and/or university. Contact the instructors for more details.
Student References: Please contact the instructors for previous student references.
Readings: The course readings will come from the primary scientific literature. It is advised that students bring identification guides to assist in learning the local reef taxa. We recommend the box set listed below:
- Humann, P., & Deloach, N. (2013). The Reef Set: Reef Fish, Reef Creature and Reef Coral. Jacksonville: New World.