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.

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The interdisciplinary coursework in the Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation program focuses on the environmental and sociocultural issues affecting the ecology, 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.

Comparative Tropical Ecology - syllabus (PDF)
(ENVI 3005 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Through a comparative approach, students learn about the characteristics and dynamics of distinct yet interdependent tropical eco¬systems. Students conduct field exercises in tropical cloud forests, rainforests, lowland dry forests, coral reefs, sea grass beds, and coastal mangroves. Students are introduced to tropical flora and fauna, rainforest biodiversity, ecological resilience, and similar topics.

Human Ecology and Conservation in the Tropics - syllabus (PDF)
(ENVI 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This interdisciplinary seminar, conducted in Spanish and English, includes both lectures and a strong field component. Students explore the relationships between human use of natural resources and natural resource conservation efforts. Topics studied include the challenges faced by internationally protected areas and national parks, the relationship between poverty and the environment, community forestry, indigenous cultures and conservation, industrial and sustainable agriculture, and the harvest and conservation of marine resources. As a part of their study, students learn from diverse populations when they engage in rural homestays with subsistence farmers, fisher families, families living in protected areas, and in urban homes.

Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences I - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 1000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences II - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 2000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences III - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences IV - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Intensive Language Study: Spanish for the Natural Sciences V - syllabus (PDF)
(SPAN 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this course, students build their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They practice reading scientific literature as they learn the formal terms and local expressions needed to discuss ecological issues, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings related to the program themes. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in classes according to their language level and receive further language practice in the homestays, through tutoring programs with Panamanian college students, and on field visits.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics - syllabus (PDF)
(ENVI 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This course focuses on learning how to collect and systematize ecological data to further understand issues involving biodiversity con¬servation. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of ecological research methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to ecological/conservation issues and are guided through the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program’s themes.

Independent Study Project - syllabus (PDF)
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
The Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s the¬matic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Depending on student interest, research can be conducted in cloud forest highlands, coral reefs, lowland forests, mangroves, rural villages, indigenous communities, or other approved sites within Panama. Sample topic areas: 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.

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)

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