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Tropical Forest Ecology Field Course in Panama

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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 and seagrass ecosystems are 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 for details.



Dr. Peter N. Lahanas, Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation,

phone: 352-361-9128, email: lahanas@itec-edu.org. Specialty: Neotropical

forest ecology, animal behavior and herpetology.


Prof. Joe Maher, Director, Tree Climbing U.S.A. , 413 College Street,

Dawsonville, GA, phone: phone: 229-732-5973, email:

jmaher@treeclimbercoalition.org, Specialty: Tree canopy access,



COURSE DESCRIPTION: This field course is designed to provide the student

with a foundation in ecological concepts and field techniques as applied to

tropical rainforest ecosystems. The material covered is equivalent to a

university upper level course in tropical ecology. The course is divided

into three parts. During the first few days students will become familiar

with the many ecosystems found in our area and with the trail systems during

³orientation² walks. The bulk of the first 10 days will be spent learning

field techniques and carrying out various group projects or exercises (see

below). It is during this time period that students will learn to access

the canopy using various rope techniques (Climbing Certification is

available, please contact Joe Maher for details). Midway through the course

the entire station community takes a 3-day field trip to cloudforests of

Boquete (see details below). On returning to the field station, students

work on their individual research projects and continue to receive lectures

in the evening.


Formal lectures. Formal lectures will take place in the classroom and will

include the use of PowerPoint presentations and chalkboard. Lectures will

generally be given in the evening so that more daylight hours can be spent

in the field. Lecture topics will include:


o Neotropical Life Zones and Forest Types

o Tropical Forest Structure

o Tropical forest Productivity

o Epiphytes, Lianas and Creepers

o Tropical Forest Dynamics

o Nutrient Cycling

o Neotropical Vertebrate Ecology

o Neotropical Invertebrate Ecology

o Biodiversity Hypotheses

o Plant-Animal Interactions

o Animal Defensive Strategies and Mimicry

o Plant Defensive Strategies

o Pollination and Dispersal ecology

o Consequences of Human Use

o Tropical Forest Conservation



Informal Lectures. Informal lectures will be provided periodically during

orientation walks (when you first arrive), during group field projects or in

discussion groups. These will cover a wide variety of topics and will

generally be prompted by what we encounter in the field, or by the direction

taken during group discussions.


Readings. Readings corresponding to lecture subjects will be assigned in

the text. We will also read and critique papers brought by students and

faculty and additional readings may be assigned from time to time. In

addition, each student will read, critique, and provide oral reports on

published papers brought to Bocas.


Required Texts: Kricher, John (1999). A Neotropical Companion, 2nd Ed.

Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. ISBN 978-0-691-0097-42.


Field Book. A field book will be required in the course. A field book will

contain all data related to group projects and independent research

project. The field book should also contain all other incidental

observations such as species lists, behavioral notes, etc., and contain

detailed location information. The field book must be water-proof and either

pencil or water-proof ink used to record data.


Group Field Projects, Exercises, Demonstrations and Excursions. These are

research or demonstrational projects designed by the faculty and worked on

in groups of four or six students. The purpose of these projects is to

familiarize students with an array of field sampling techniques and

equipment commonly used in field studies. With help from a faculty member,

students set up projects, collect data, and generally (depends on the

project), analyze data, present the results to the class, and write a



Group Project, Demonstration and Excursion Topics

o Canopy access techniques

o Population ecology in poison-dart frogs

o Tail flicking behavior in geckos

o Forest structure and biodiversity

o Biodiversity of insular freshwater fishes

o Leaf-litter decomposer fauna

o Niche partitioning in forest lizards

o Cave ecology, bats, rats & invertebrates

o Soropta canal, caimans and crocodiles

o Bird Island, a pelagic seabird nesting colony

o Mangroves, reefs and seagrass fauna & flora


Individual Research Projects. Working closely with faculty, students will

be responsible for designing and completing an original research project of

their choosing. The project may deal with any topic in tropical ecology or

conservation. These projects will be carried out during the second half of

the course and students will have about 10 days for data collection. A few

days before the end of the course students will analyze their data, write a

technical report, prepare a PowerPoint presentation of their work and orally

present their findings during a station-wide symposium on the last day of

the course.


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 TRE W-14 will run from December 20, 2014 through January 9, 2015.


TUITION: $1850 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://www.itec-edu.org/application.pdf. 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 portion. A letter grade will be

assigned based on exams, reports, proposals, attendance at lectures, as well

as by less tangibles such as personal attitude, motivation, and contribution

to the course. Course credit must be arranged through the student¹s

institution. Contact ITEC for details.


CONTACT: Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, 2911 NW 40th PL,

Gainesville, FL 32605, phone: 352-367-9128, email: itec@itec-edu.org

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

http://www.itec-edu.org> . ITEC is a 501©(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



Bocas del Toro Biological Station

Boca del Drago, Isla Colon, Panama

Field Station Manager, Enrique Dixon


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