Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Previous college-level coursework and/or other significant preparation in environmental studies, ecology, biology, or related fields, as assessed by SIT. There is no language requirement.

Access Virtual Library Guide

The interdisciplinary coursework in the Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation program focuses on the environmental and sociocultural issues affecting the geography, culture, and development of Panama. Students examine the impact of human activity on the environment and the ways in which development and conservation practices can serve both human and environmental interests. Students participate in a variety of research and cultural activities throughout the semester and learn from researchers, professionals, practitioners, and other development and conservation specialists. During the final month of the semester, students leverage their field study experience and research skills to conduct an Independent Study Project (ISP).

The following syllabi are from a recent or upcoming semester of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of unique learning opportunities, actual course content varies from semester to semester. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Human Ecology and Conservation in the Tropics - syllabus (PDF)
(ENVI 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This course studies the relationships, challenges, and conundrums that exist among human use of the natural resource base and its conservation. Students study the roots and causes of deforestation, hunting, mangrove clearing, over fishing, hydroelectric dam building, as well as projects, programs, movements, and initiatives aimed at addressing their social and environmental consequences. Through lectures from academics, researchers, and community leaders, students learn about the challenges local and regional populations face as they seek to conserve their natural resources. Students live with and learn from diverse populations when they engage in rural homestays with subsistence farmers, fisher families, families living in protected areas, and in urban homes.

Comparative Tropical Ecology - syllabus (PDF)
(ENVI 3005 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings and a strong field component. Through academic field study and firsthand experiences, students examine the ecological, international, and socio-cultural factors affecting tropical biodiversity conservation in Panama, home to one of the world’s most diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Collaborators utilized in the delivery of course content include the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the University of Panama, and EARTH University in Costa Rica.

Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 1000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 2000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Emphasis on speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in intensive intermediate or advanced classes, with further language practice in homestays, lectures, and field visits.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics - syllabus (PDF)
(ENVI 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
A course in field research methods in the natural sciences. The main focus is on learning how to collect, analyze, integrate, and report ecological data to further the understanding of complex issues involving terrestrial and marine ecological conservation. Field studies can include designing research projects; writing research proposals; interviewing; surveys; mapping; maintaining a field journal. Specific ecological field study methods can include micro and macro habitat analysis; biotic sampling and analysis; fauna and flora identification; biodiversity monitoring; population analysis; animal behavior; water analysis. Introduction to the Independent Study Project. Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy.

Independent Study Project - syllabus (PDF)
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in cloud forest highlands, coral reefs, lowland forests, mangroves, rural villages, indigenous communities, or other places appropriate to the topic. Sample topic areas: comparative resource use of campesino and indigenous groups; medicinal plant use; community resource management; regeneration of canopy emergents in primary forest; non-timber forest products and local use; sustainable agriculture; agroforestry; ecotourism as a community development alternative.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Panama City

Language Study: Spanish

Prerequisites: Coursework in environmental studies, ecology, or biology.


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

Connect With Us

Connect icons

888.272.7881 (toll-free in US)



Mailing Address:
PO Box 676, 1 Kipling Road
Brattleboro, VT 05302 USA

Contact us by email.