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TROPICAL ISLAND BIODIVERSITY STUDIES,
- Terms: Fall, Spring
- Credits: 18 semester-hour credits
- Prerequisites: One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science; 18 years of age
- Application Deadline: Rolling admissions. Early applications encouraged
- Financial Aid: All accepted students can apply for need-based scholarships, grants, and loans
The curriculum of the program focuses on defining key island systems, both natural and human, and how they interface. Our research in Bocas del Toro has already revealed patterns and processes at the nexus of biodiversity, conservation, and human welfare that merit ongoing study. Through field observations and research, students identify and understand the pressures, both direct and indirect, on the environment and social systems.
Students gain an understanding of the interdependence of the livelihood strategies of island residents, population structure of key species, and habitat arrangements and conditions. Equipped with foundational knowledge, students then apply sustainability principles to define potential management strategies.
- Explore lowland evergreen rainforests, and experience the diversity of plants and animals, such as insects, birds, monkeys, sloths, plants, and several species of poison dart frogs, including the emblematic strawberry poison dart frog
- Snorkeling to identify species such as sea stars, corals, jellyfish, coral reef fish, stingrays, and sea turtles, as well as to research human impacts on coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other marine habitats
- Visit indigenous communities and learn about livelihood strategies as well as the challenges of adapting to a rapidly changing economic environment
- Interview and interact with local stakeholders including government agencies, nonprofits, and educational and business leaders to understand the complex implications of management on ecosystems
Through Directed Research (DR)—as opposed to basic, applied, or independent research—students conduct research on a specific topic that is part of the SFS Center’s long-term strategic research plan, which has been developed in partnership with local community stakeholders and clients.
The course, taught by resident SFS faculty, provides students with the opportunity to apply the scientific process in a mentored field research project that addresses a local environmental issue. Through the DR project, students contribute to a growing body of scientific research that informs local conservation and resource management decisions.