Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

Educational Excursions

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Engage in seven weeks of field study in one of the world’s most ecologically diverse countries.

A close-up of the highly endangered resplendent quetzal in the Chiriquí Highlands of Western Panama. Photo courtesy of SIT alumna Racquel Figueroa.

Students on the SIT Panama program engage in field study in diverse regions throughout the country and also visit EARTH University in Costa Rica. Field highlights, some of which are explained in more detail below, include:

  • Learning at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Toro and Barro Colorado Island
  • A bird ecology course at an Audubon Society “world’s top 10” birding site
  • A terrestrial ecology course at a UNESCO Biosphere World Heritage Site
  • A coastal ecology course at the Gulf of Chiriqui Marine National Park
  • A sustainable agriculture excursion at EARTH University in Costa Rica, the foremost sustainable agricultural college in the hemisphere
  • Visits to an organic agroforestry chocolate farm and an industrial banana plantation
  • Learning mammal behavioral traits at a monkey rehabilitation center

Students studying gallery forests at El Cope National Park

Bocas del Toro
One of the highlights of the program occurs during a two-week excursion to the Bocas del Toro archipelago in western Panama. Students gain a deep appreciation for Panama’s extensive biodiversity and a richer understanding of conservation-related issues within the region through encounters with the zoological wonders that abound on this sparsely populated island chain.

Bocas del Toro provides the nesting ground for four endangered species of sea turtles and for the red-billed tropicbird, one of more than 350 bird species found within the region. Over the course of the visit, students encounter a cross-section of the area’s diverse wildlife, including sloths, dolphins, monkeys, caimans, poison dart frogs, and numerous tropical fish. Students also go snorkeling in the archipelago as part of their field study coursework.

The extraordinary province of Chiriquí possesses a great diversity of flora and fauna, making it one of Panama’s primary locations for ecological study and research. The Chiriquí province is home to three of the seven protected areas that make up the UNESCO La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, the only one of its kind in Central America and one of only two in Mesoamerica. Here students will travel to the cloud forest highlands, fishing communities, and beaches on the Pacific coast and visit inland indigenous communities.

During their stay in Chiriquí, students will:

  • Learn about industrial and organic agriculture in the cloud forest highlands
  • Discuss land management in the buffer zones of National Parks
  • Learn about marine biology of fisheries in the Gulf of Chiriquí Marine National Park
  • Learn about scientific approaches to studying mammal behavior at the Alouatta Monkey Rehabilitation Center

Central Provinces
One of Panama’s undiscovered treasures, the central provinces are home to diverse populations who engage in unique resource use practices and traditions. Students have the chance to explore striking natural riches in the form of stunning mountain ranges and pristine gallery forests. In the central provinces, small landholders and terratenientes come together to form a diverse mosaic of landscapes and land and coastal resource use practices.

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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