University of Oregon

Tropical Marine Biology / Panama

BEATCH_bannerTropical Marine Biology/Panama

Study Marine Biology in Panama at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

August 31st – September 14th 2019


Contact for Questions

Richard Emlet
Maya Watts

OIMB is excited to offer a course that will focus on the biology of tropical coastal habitats (coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows) and relevant anthropogenic issues on both local and global scales. The course will be offered at the Bocas Research Station (BRS), a facility operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). BRS is located on Isla Colon, a part of an archipelago located along the Caribbean coast of Panama.

Course Details

The Tropical Marine Biology-Panama program is a seven-credit course in Biology with 400-level credit. The program consists of a one-credit course in spring (BI405) and a two-part summer term course (one-credit, 8 week planning the research project and five-credit, two weeks of on-site academic instruction and fieldwork in Panama. OIMB Faculty Richard Emlet and Maya Watts are the instructors for the program.

BI405 Reading (1 credit P/NP) During spring term, students explore primary and secondary literature on the habitats and environmental issues that will be seen in Panama. Students  make presentations on their readings and participate in weekly discussions. Students will be required to develop a bibliography of material useful for their subsequent experience in Panama. Residency at OIMB is not required to participate. Evaluation will be based on completion of the assignments and participation in the discussion. Class meets for one hour each week and will involve video conferencing for students on main campus.

BI488* (1 credit P/NP) During summer term, before departing to Panama, students will undertake a 1 credit effort to plan a research project to be conducted during the two weeks of field studies in Panama.  This pre-departure effort will involve periodic submissions of (and feedback on) planning reports organized around i) project design (questions and hypotheses) and background literature, ii) project experiments, methodology and expected data, and iii) a completed project proposal with a list of materials necessary to conduct the research. This component (equivalent to BI 408) is worth one credit, P/NP, and is included in the program fee. Students do not enroll for it separately. Residency at OIMB is not required.

BI488* Field Course (5 credits) The course in Panama will be a combination of a large number of field trips to a variety of tropical habitats (coral fringing and patch reefs, mangroves, and sea grass meadows), a planned research project with field observations, data collection and analysis, and lectures on habitats and organisms. Students will keep a daily journal of their observations and experiences and will conduct a research project lasting several days over a week long period.  Assessment of student work will focus on completion and quality of journal entries and presentation of research results in the form of an oral presentation and a research poster.

Students cannot sign up for BI488 through Duckweb, but instead are assigned grades and credits (1+5) as part of the GEO study-abroad course (see ).

2019 Field Course Dates: August 31st – September 14th.


Students must be majors in Marine Biology, Biology or Environmental Science, who by the time they leave for Panama have successfully completed at least one term at OIMB, including the BI 451 Invertebrate Zoology course offered in both spring and summer term.

How to Apply

Applications are available at the UO Global Studies web page:

Applications are due by March 15, 2019. Students will be notified of acceptance no later than March 25, 2019.

Program Costs

The program fee, estimated at $3625, includes all UO tuition and fees for the 1 summer credit (BI 408) and the 5 credit two-week Panama course and the full room and board costs while in Panama. International airfare from the US to Panama and personal expenses are an additional cost. The Panama course has funding from the Williams Council for a limited amount of financial aid for students who qualify.  Priorities will be given to students who are Pell Grant eligible and part of the Pathway Oregon program, but any student who qualities for financial aid may also apply for funds to partially offset the cost of this study-abroad course. The UO application for this program has a section for financial aid applications. The UO Study Abroad webpage also has information on scholarships.

Program Logistics

Students will stay in the dorms on the Bocas Research Station campus. Meals will be provided. The station has a 24 hour security system. Course activities will include snorkeling, but not SCUBA. All internal travel is covered by program cost.