[Coral-List] Winter Coral Reef Ecology Field Course in Panama

Peter Lahanas lahanas at itec-edu.org
Mon Nov 3 08:53:28 EST 2014

2014 WINTER COURSE ANNOUNCEMENT (December 20, 2014-January 9, 2015)

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, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems are
in front of the station and lowland tropical 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/ <http://www.itec-edu.org/>  for details.

INSTRUCTOR:  Dr. Elizabeth Lacey, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey,
email: elizabeth.lacey at stockton.edu.  Specialty: coral reef ecology and
dynamics, community structure, symbiotic relationships.

COURSE DESCRIPTION:  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 tank-recharging fees.  Students with SCUBA certification
are expected to bring their own BC, regulators, mask/fin/snorkel and proof
of certification.  For those not diving certified, students are expected to
bring mask/fin/snorkel.  Students using only mask and snorkel are exempt
from the lab fee.
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 briefly survey reef systems in various parts of the
world and focus in depth on Caribbean reefs. Using the reef at Bocas del
Toro as an example, we will carry on an inventory of representative reef
biota to characterize a general reef community. We will examine several
theories of the origins of reefs and discuss some controversial arguments on
the ecological processes ruling the dominant state and health of coral
reefs.  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 discuss
the impacts of anthropogenic stressors to coral reefs and the role of marine
reserves in reef restoration and conservation.  In the inventory we will
examine several experimental designs and sampling schemes with regard to
their usefulness in a reef setting.

Formal Lectures.  Lectures will present topics that provide a background for
the fieldwork in an interactive discussion format. Topics are selected to
teach students about the biology and ecology of the reef organisms they will
encounter and 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.

Lecture Topics 
* Fundamentals of oceanography, global ecology
* Plate tectonics, formation of ocean basins, continents and ocean currents
* Reef morphology, distribution of reef systems
* Seagrasses and mangroves: interactions with reef systems
* Coral reef community study - sampling methods for distribution and
abundance of organisms
* Coral reef community study - components and interactions, trophic dynamics
* Biology of coral reef organisms: Cnidarians
* Biology of coral reef organisms: Poriferans
* Biology of coral reef organisms: Echinoderms, Arthropods and Annelids
* Biology of coral reef organisms: Fishes
* Biology of coral reef organisms: Macroalgae
* Ecosystem stability, resilience and fragility
* Anthropogenic effects on reefs: climate change, over-fishing, diseases
* Marine protected areas and reserves

Readings.  Assignments relating to lecture topics will be made from the
texts and supplementary research articles provided in the library.

Required Texts 
Sheppard, CRC, Davy, S.K. and G.M. Pilling The Biology of Coral Reefs,
Oxford Press, USA. 
Humann, Paul. Reef Coral Identification, New World, Jacksonville, FL.
Humann, Paul. Reef Creature Identification, New World, Jacksonville, FL.

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.

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 make observations that may lead to hypotheses that could be tested in
individual projects.  Students will be organized into dive teams and will
carry out field exercises in which they will gain experience in the use of
sampling equipment and techniques used in reef research and monitoring.  In
the evenings, students will participate in Œdebriefing sessions¹ 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

Individual Research Projects.  Each student will be expected to prepare a
research 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.

BOQUETE CLOUD FOREST FIELD TRIP:  This field trip will allow students the
opportunity to visit other areas of Panama, to experience Panamanian
culture, and to visit tropical cloud and seasonal forests first hand.  We
travel in ITEC boats to the mainland and then by chartered bus to Boquete
which lies at the base of 11,000 ft. Volcan Baru.  The bus trip will take us
up and over the central mountain range and through Palo Seco National Park. 
Several stops will be made in route.

COURSE LENGTH:  ITEC Winter field courses are about three weeks in length. 
The CRE W-14 will run from December 20, 2014 through January 9, 2015.
TUITION: $1950 USD.  Tuition fee includes all lodging, 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. 
REGISTRATION DEADLINE:  November 20, 2014.  The course is limited to 10
students and applications will be evaluated as they arrive. Applications can
be found at http://itec-edu.org/education-programs/application/.  If you
believe that your application may arrive late, notify ITEC.
GRADING and COURSE CREDIT:  Grades will be assigned based on attendance at
lectures, exams, reports, proposals, as well as by less tangibles such as
personal attitude, motivation, and contribution to the course. The
instructor will provide a breakdown of points earned and final letter grade
to your academic institution. The student is to provide direct evidence of
course participation such as the syllabus, schedules, handouts, lecture
notes, proposals, reports, etc. Course credit must be arranged through the
student¹s institution and academic advisor.  Contact ITEC for details. 
CONTACT:  Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation,  2911 NW 40th PL,
Gainesville, FL 32605, phone: 352-367-9128, email: itec at itec-edu.org, web:
http://www.itec-edu.org.  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
web: http://www.itec-edu.org

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

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

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