Field course in coral reef ecology (Panama) ~

8 de marzo de 2015

Field course in coral reef ecology (Panama)


COURSE LOCATION: Bocas del Toro Biological Station, Boca del Drago, Isla
Colon, Republic of Panama.  The biological station is located on a hill
facing the Caribbean Sea.  Coral reef, sea grass and mangrove ecosystems lie
out in front of the station and lowland tropical rain forests lie directly
behind.  This juxtaposition of the two most biologically diverse ecosystems
provides tremendous opportunities for education and research.  See:  for details.

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Alfred Beulig, Institute for Tropical Ecology and
Conservation, and New College of Florida, 5800 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota, FL
34243, email:  Specialties: Behavior of fish, reef
morphology, hydrodynamics, reef symbioses, reef trophic dynamics, behavioral
ecology of reef organisms.

NOTE: Diving certification is not necessary to enroll in this course, but is
recommended. For SCUBA-certified (PADI, NAUI, or SSI certified) students who
will be diving, there is a $100 Lab Fee with this course which covers dive
tank air fill costs.  Students with SCUBA certification are expected to
bring their own BC, regulators, mask/fins/snorkel and proof of

This course is designed to provide the student with a sound foundation in
ecological concepts, techniques and experimental design in field research as
applied to coral reef ecosystems. The material covered is equivalent to a
university upper level course in coral reef field ecology.  The course will
begin with a global ecosystem perspective and then will progressively narrow
to assess the way in which local reefs are influenced by both global and
local phenomena. We will focus in depth on Caribbean reefs using the reef at
Bocas del Toro as an example. We will provide a brief introduction to plate
tectonics as a basis for understanding the production of substrate for reefs
and their distribution in the biosphere.  In this context we will discuss
several theories of the origins of reefs and characterize a general reef
community. The major reef biota that inform the character of reefs will be
discussed in terms of their anatomy, physiology, ecological requirements,
roles on the reef and overall impact. We will examine and discuss some
controversial formulations of community structure such as the role of
competition, stochastic vs deterministic models in reef organization,
diversity/stability relationships and trophic dynamics. Sampling methodology
will be discussed with regard to the peculiar demands of the reef setting
and we will examine several experimental designs and sampling schemes with
regard to their strengths and weaknesses as well as their theoretical bases.

FORMAL LECTURES:  Lectures will present topics that provide a background for
the fieldwork in an interactive discussion format. Topics are selected to
permit students to develop an awareness of the objectives of research on
coral reefs as well as an appreciation of current theoretical and practical
issues in ecology.

FIELD WORK BRIEFINGS:  Prior to departing for the reef site, dive teams will
be formed and the objectives for the day will be outlined and discussed.
Assignments will be made to the dive teams and coordinated.

READINGS:  Assignments relating to lecture topics will be made from the
texts and supplementary research articles provided in the library as well as
journal articles.

Garrison, Tom. Oceanography Latest Ed., Wadsworth, New York.
Humann, Paul. Reef Coral Identification, New World, Jacksonville, FL.
Humann, Paul. Reef Creature Identification, New World, Jacksonville, FL.
Humann, Paul. Reef Fishes Identification, New World, Jacksonville, FL
(Note: Instructor will provide list of other important books on coral reef
ecology on request.)

GROUP EXERCISES:  During the first week, students will visit several sites
in the vicinity of the station to familiarize themselves with the area and
to do reconnaissance observations that may lead to hypotheses that could be
tested in individual projects.  Students will be organized into dive team
groups and will carry out field observations or data collection by which
they will gain experience in the local area to help decide upon a likely
study site. These experiences will prepare students to carry out individual
research projects. In the evenings, students will participate in "debriefing
sessions" during which they will try to identify the reef organisms they saw
during the dives of the day and record the common name and scientific name
of the species in a debriefing log.

INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH PROJECTS:  Each student will be expected to prepare a
grant proposal for an original project in consultation with faculty.
Projects may be suggested by observations made during group exercises or
from the research literature, and will be evaluated on the basis of
feasibility in the available time, soundness of experimental design and
concept. During the final week of the course, data analysis and writing of
project reports will be carried out and students will present their results
orally in an end-of-course symposium.  They will present the research report
on their findings in the form of a journal article for evaluation.

* Fundamentals of oceanography, global ecology.
* Plate tectonics, formation of ocean basins, continents and ocean  
* Evolution of Caribbean and tropical Central American environment.
* Reef morphology, distribution of reef systems.
* Coral reef community study - sampling methods, distribution and
         abundance of organisms.
* Biology of coral reef organisms: Porifera and crypto-fauna.
* Biology of coral reef organisms: echinoderms, arthropods and
* Biology of coral reef organisms: fishes.
* Biology of coral reef organisms: algae and plants.
* The coral reef as ecosystem: How are reefs organized?
* Competition theory, diversity.
* Ecosystem stability: are coral reefs more stable than temperate
* Stability, resilience and fragility; are these concepts relevant to reefs?
* Anthropogenic effects on reefs.

COURSE LENGTH: ITEC Summer field courses are four weeks in length. CRE B-15
will run from June 15 through July 10, 2015.

TUITION: $2150 USD.  Tuition fee includes all lodgings, meals and airport
transfers in Bocas del Toro.  The tuition also covers transportation and
lodging during the three-day cloud forest field trip on the mainland to the
town of Boquete.  A $100 USD lab fee to cover dive tank air costs is
required for this course.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: May 10, 2015.  The course is limited to 10 students
and applications will be evaluated as they arrive.  If you believe that your
application may arrive late, notify ITEC.

GRADING AND COURSE CREDIT: Up to 6 units of credit will be given, 3 for the
lecture portion and 3 for the field/lab portion.  A letter grade and an
written evaluation will be assigned based on grant proposals, journal
article, oral presentation as well as attendance and participation in
lecture/ discussion and engagement in the material.  In the field/lab
portion, students will be evaluated on the basis of safe diving practice,
development of observational and data collecting skills, reliability as a
dive partner and preparedness to go into the field with data collecting
equipment and dive gear in order and ready.  Other, less tangibles such as
personal attitude, motivation and contribution to the course will also be
noted.  Course credit must be arranged at the student's institution.
Contact ITEC for details.

APPLICATIONS can be found at:

CONTACT: Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, 2911 NW 40th PL,
Gainesville, FL 32605, Phone: 352-367-9128,,  ITEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
founded in 1996.

Peter N. Lahanas, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Institute for Tropical Ecology
and Conservation (ITEC)
2911 NW 40th Place
Gainesville, FL 32605, USA

phn: 352-367-9128

In Panama: 011-507-6853-2134

Bocas del Toro Biological Station
Boca del Drago, Isla Colon, Panama
Field Station Manager, Enrique Dixon

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