Peter Lahanas lahanas at itec-edu.org
Fri Apr 5 18:02:17 EDT 2013

Panama Coral Reef Ecology Course Description.
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:
http://www.itec-edu.org/index.html <http://www.itec-edu.org/index.html> for
INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Mary K. Hart, University of Florida, Biology Department,
Gainesville, FL 32611, email: mkhart at ufl.edu
Specialties: Behavioral ecology of reef organisms, biology of fishes, reef
community structure and species interactions, reproductive strategies in
marine species
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 the equivalent of
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 then focus in depth on Caribbean reefs using
the reef at Bocas del Toro as an example. A brief introduction to plate
tectonics will be provided as a basis for understanding the evolution of
reefs and reef substrate and the distribution of coral reefs in the
biosphere.  Students will learn to characterize a general reef community and
its place among surrounding marine habitats. The major reef biota will be
discussed in terms of their phylogeny, biology, physiology, ecological
requirements, and roles in species interactions on reefs. We will examine
how coral reef communities are structured, including the roles of predation,
competition, and mutualisms/symbioses.  We will discuss the impacts of
anthropogenic stressors to coral reefs and the role of marine reserves in
reef restoration and conservation.  Sampling methodology will be discussed
with regard to the demands of the reef setting.  We will examine the
strengths and weaknesses of different experimental designs and sampling
schemes for asking particular research questions.
FORMAL LECTURES:  Lectures will present topics that provide a background for
the fieldwork in an interactive format. Topics are selected to teach
students about the biology and ecology of the reef organisms they will
encounter and 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 related to lecture topics will be made from the texts
and supplementary research articles provided in the library as well as
journal articles.
Sheppard, Charles et al. The Biology of Coral Reefs (Biology of Habitats). 
Oxford University Press.
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 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 logbook.
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.
* Seagrasses and mangroves: interactions with 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.
* Predation, competition, and mutualisms in reef systems
* Coral reef community structure and dynamics
* Reproduction in reef organisms
* Anthropogenic effects on reefs: climate change, fishing, and marine
COURSE LENGTH: ITEC Summer field courses are four weeks in length. This
course will run from July 15 through August 9, 2013.
TUITION: $2050 USD.  Tuition fee includes all lodgings, meals and airport
transfers in Bocas del Toro.  The tuition also covers transportation and
lodging during the 3-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: June 20, 2013.  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 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.
CONTACT: Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, 2911 NW 40th PL,
Gainesville, FL 32605, Phone: 352-367-9128
<file://localhost/tel/352-367-9128> , itec at itec-edu.org
<mailto:itec at itec-edu.org> , http://www.itec-edu.org/index.html

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
web: http://www.itec-edu.org

In Panama: 011-507-6853-2134
lahanas at gmail.com

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