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New Tropical Field Station Available

Melanie Colón

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The Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC) has built a new

biological field station on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro Province, Panama, and

the facility is available to host your course in tropical biology. The ITEC

field station is located within the Bocas del Toro Archipelago which is

situated on the northeast Caribbean coast of Panama.


Founded in 1996, ITEC is an independent, non-profit organization in the

United States (501©(3)) and Panama (Resulto: 221-PJ-108), and was

established to provide a venue for research and the presentation of field

courses in tropical biology. ITEC (http://www.itec-edu.org), has presented

a variety of four-week field courses every year since it was founded, and

hosts many university and study abroad organizations annually. ITEC is a

member of the Ciudad del Saber (http://ciudaddelsaber.org/en) and the

Organization for Biological Field Stations (http://www.obfs.org/).


Why bring your field course to ITEC? Our location on the north end of Isla

Colon represents an ideal location for virtually any course in tropical

biology (See ³Hosting your Courses² at

http://itec-edu.org/hosting-your-courses/). The juxtaposition of both

lowland tropical rain forests and marine systems results in tremendous

biodiversity and translates into remarkable opportunities for education and

research. Ecosystems and habitats available at the field station include

marine (coral reefs, sea grass beds, rocky intertidals, mangroves, etc.),

terrestrial (lowland rainforest, pastures, limestone caves, etc.) and

freshwater systems (streams, ponds, swamps, marshes, etc.). See Ecosystems

(http://itec-edu.org/bocas-del-toro-ecosystems/) for details. The Bocas

del Toro Archipelago also offers a unique opportunity for the study of

island biogeography and the insular biotas they contain. All of the islands

of the archipelago are easily accessed from the ITEC field station.


Why Panama? The Republic of Panama represents an ideal country to visit for

the tropical biologist. Panama is politically stable, uses U.S. currency

(along with the equally-valued Balboa), has vast forests in Bocas del Toro

and Darien Provinces, and boasts an extensive array of national parks and

preserves. Three preserves occur within the Bocas del Toro Archipelago; the

Bastimentos National Marine Park, the San San-Pond Sak National Reserve and

Isla Pajaros, a pelagic seabird nesting colony. Panama has become an

important destination for ecotourists and supports this with a modern

infrastructure and availability of services.


Culture. Visiting students and instructors will find the diversity of

cultures in Bocas del Toro remarkable. The primary cultures in the area are

Afro-Antillean and the indigenous Ngöbe, but the indigenous Naso, Bokata and

Guna are also present. Panamanian mestizo, Chinese and Arab cultures are

also important in Bocas.


Station Infrastructure. The Bocas del Toro Biological Station is located on

a hill overlooking Almirante Bay in Boca del Drago, Isla Colon (9o 24¹

21.34² N, 92o 18¹ 48.97 W). The station consists of three primary

buildings and several smaller ones. Infrastructure includes a dormitory for

36 students, faculty housing for 8-16, a dinning hall seating 50, and a

lab-library-classrooms complex. Other structures include a garage and shop,

and a dive storage building. Current capacity is 45 students, faculty and

research personnel. Cell phone reception and Wi-Fi are available at the

field station. See Bocas del Toro Biological Station for details:



Instructional Facilities: Lecture facilities are available at three

locations each accommodating an audience of 35+. Digital projectors as

well as blackboards are available without cost to all visiting groups.


Boats and Vehicles: ITEC maintains a fleet of four boats ranging in size

form 12 feet to 25 feet, capable of transporting up to 20 individuals.

Vehicles include a 4-wheeled drive pickup and 4-wheeler. Aluminum and

dug-out canoes are also available.


What¹s Included: Daily rates for visiting groups include meals, lodging,

local airport transfers and local transportation to area locations. These

include area reefs, beaches, Soropta Canal, Bird Island, Punta Caracol, and

other locations near the field station. The daily fee also includes the use

of all ITEC vehicles, boats (with or without pilots), laboratory, lab and

field equipment, classrooms, dive tanks and weights. Contact ITEC for



Station Availability: The Bocas del Toro Biological Station is open and

available continually throughout the year. Contact ITEC on availability for

specific dates.


Appropriate Course Subjects. The following course subjects list represent

courses that have been presented at the field station previously but is not

exclusive. Virtually any course involving tropical ecology, biology,

anthropology and geology may be presented at the field station.


Rain Forest Ecology (Isla Colon Is over 75% forested).

Canopy Access Techniques (resident instructor available throughout the


Coral Reef Ecology (hard and soft reefs exceptionally diverse and abundant).

Herpetology (diverse amphibian and reptile faunas including 4 species of sea


Plant Biology/Systematics (very diverse flora due to proximity to


Conservation Ecology (can include volunteer work with local schools).

Animal Behavior (both terrestrial and marine animals to work with).

Entomology/Invertebrate Zoology (extremely diverse marine and terrestrial


Mammalogy, especially monkeys and bats (76 species recorded for area).

Avian Ecology (150+ species in our area).

Ethnobotany (five distinct indigenous cultures in our area).

Carbonate Geology (karst producers: corals, algae, etc., and coal precursor

peat swamps)


ITEC Species Lists (http://itec-edu.org/data-bases-species-lists/).


Other Tropical Ecosystems Available. Many groups elect to visit the cloud

forest ecosystems of Boquete or Cerro Punta and the seasonal (deciduous)

forest of the Pacific versant of Panama as a comparison to the lowland rain

forest and coral reefs of Bocas del Toro. ITEC maintains partnerships with

various travel and lodging partners that make these excursions easily

available to visiting students and faculty. Trips vary from 3-5 days,

depending on the needs of your course. Contact ITEC for details.


Research. Short and long-term research opportunities also exist at the

Bocas del Toro Biological Station. Research permits from the environmental

authority ANAM is required to conduct research in Panama. See

http://itec-edu.org/research/ for details.




Course Hosting Information

Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC)

2911 NW 40th Pl.

Gainesville, FL, 32105









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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