Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

Study tropical ecology in one of the world’s most ecologically diverse countries

offered by SIT Study Abroad

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Please visit our website for more information. Explore Panama’s extraordinary biodiversity and the effects of human interactions with the environment. A four-week homestay in Panama City where students take intensive Spanish courses and begin the Comparative Tropical Ecology, Human Ecology and Conservation in the Tropics, and Research Methods and Ethics courses. A seven-week period in which students conduct field studies throughout Panama and part of Costa Rica A four-week Independent Study Project (ISP) period in which students focus on original research of their own choosing (see below as well as the coursework page for more information on the ISP) Each phase of the program exposes students to different ecosystems as well as perspectives on conservation and development through interactions with a variety of stakeholders — from banana plantation workers and members of forest-dwelling communities to experts on environmental policy and evolutionary theory. Live in Panama’s vibrant capital and largest city. During their homestay in Panama City, students participate in field excursions and attend lectures by local professors and professionals on a variety of subjects related to development and conservation, such as community forestry and the environmental impacts of current political and social events. Students are also immersed in Spanish language study through intensive language classes and daily interaction with their host families. This three-week period helps students become acclimated to Panamanian culture and introduces them to the relevant issues of development and conservation in the tropics. Improve your field study techniques through hands-on fieldwork at world-renowned research institutions. Along the Caribbean coast, students study marine ecology at the Smithsonian Institute’s Bocas del Toro Research Station, the premier research station located on Colon Island. While on excursion in Costa Rica, students study sustainable agriculture and sustainable technology innovation at the renowned EARTH University in Guapiles de Limon.  The program’s research methods course teaches students how to collect, analyze, and report ecological data necessary to further understanding of terrestrial and marine ecological conservation. Field study methods include biotic sampling and analysis, fauna and flora identification, population analysis, and animal behavior. Complete an independent research project on a relevant topic of your choosing. Students spend the final part of the semester focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP provides students with an opportunity to critically examine a specific topic related to environment and conservation in Panama. Typically, the ISP can be conducted in cloud forest highlands, coral reefs, lowland forests, mangroves, rural villages, indigenous communities, or other places appropriate to the topic. Students receive guidance from the program’s academic director and a project advisor who may be a professor from a local university, a researcher from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, or an expert from another organization. Some student ISPs have gained the attention and interest of local NGOs, conservation experts, and government officials. Sample topic areas include: Community resource management Regeneration of canopy emergents in primary forests Sustainable fisheries Coral reef organisms Mangrove health Sustainable agriculture Agroforestry Ecotourism for resource conservation Ethnobotany


  • Environmental Studies
  • Ecology
  • Biology (General)
  • Marine Biology
  • Marine Science
  • Environmental Management Systems / Policy
  • Natural Resources
  • Development Studies
  • Sustainable Development


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