Tropical Biology Course in Panama

Imagen de Mónica Ivelisse Feliú-Mójer

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Study Abroad Opportunity 

Organismal Biology and Ecology 

ASU’s School of Life Sciences will offer an opportunity to earn academic credit while experiencing the wonder of the tropical rainforest. Tropical Biology in Panama is a four-credit Bio 494 course set at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Gamboa, Panama. This course, taught by Professor Jon Harrison and Dr. Kaitlin Baudier, fully immerses students in a field environment. The course combines standard lectures, day and night hikes through jungle forests and streams, and excursions to natural history and cultural highlights including the Soberanía National Park, Barro Colorado STRI research station, the Galeta Point Marine station on the Carribean, an indigenous Embera village only accessible by dugout canoe, Panama Canal’s Miraflores locks, and the colonial Old Quarter of Panama City. There are no tests. Grades are based on active engagement, and your effort and skill in developing your own research project in tropical biology. Based on your observations during initial explorations, with iterative help from your instructors, you will design a study to test a hypothesis. Then, you’ll collect the data, analyze it statistically (with help from the instructors if necessary) and present your results in oral and written form. This is a unique opportunity to combine learning of experimental design and field techniques as well as theoretical and practical aspects of ecology, physiology, biodiversity and behavior. 

We stay in bunkhouse dormitories in the STRI-managed schoolhouse. From the schoolhouse porch you will likely see toucans, flocks of parrots, agoutis, and ships passing along the Panama canal. On our hikes, we regularly encounter howler monkeys, Geoffrey’s tamarins, sloths, coatimundis, many species of hummingbirds, tungara frogs, poison arrow frogs, crocodiles, basilisk lizards, marching leaf-cutter and army ants, termite mounds in trees, heliconid butterflies, millipedes that secrete cyanide, 200 foot Ceiba trees, giant ficus trees with buttress roots taller than you, and Cecropia trees that serve as apartments for stinging Azteca ants. We come home to hearty Panamanian-style meals prepared by our local cook. Student projects are diverse, asking questions ranging from patterns of biodiversity to mechanisms of behavior. Students have authored scientific publications based on their research in this course. 

The course runs June 4-21, 2018. The course fee of $4,140 covers tuition, room and board, health insurance, and all excursions. There is an additional $50 fee if you are not currently an ASU student. You can sign up with a $50 deposit at studyabroad.asu.edu/?go=TropicalBiology. The deadline for signup is March 1, but sign up early to apply for scholarships at studyabroad.asu.edu/?go=finance. Contact Jon Harrison (j.harrison@asu.edu) or Kaitlin Baudier (kbaudier@asu.edu) for further details. 

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