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Winter Field Course in Avian Ecology

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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 lie in front
of the station and lowland tropical rain forests surround us. This
juxtaposition of the two most biologically diverse ecosystems provides
tremendous opportunities for education and research. See:
http://www.itec-edu.org/ for details.

INSTRUCTOR: Scott T. Walter, Ph.D., Tulane University, tel: 337-591-1188,
email: scott.t.walter@gmail.com, Specialty: bird ecology, reproduction,
behavior, systematics and conservation.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will begin with an introduction to the
ecology and conservation of tropical birds within the context of how a wide
range of species utilize and interact with diverse ecosystems. We will learn
extensive field identification techniques to facilitate identification of a
variety of bird species from families common in the U.S., as well as species
in families unique to the Neotropics. Field observations will also be used
to identify various bird guilds, and to study avian habitat use across
different landscapes around the ITEC field station. A review of avian
conservation topics will then transition the class into field research.
Following training in ecological study design, students will form small
groups to conduct research projects. We will address data management,
statistical analysis, and presentation techniques as students prepare to
orally present their research results. Finally, each student will design and
implement an independent research project that includes data analysis and
formal presentation. Lectures in research manuscript preparation will guide
students in writing short reports on group and individual research projects.

FORMAL LECTURES: Throughout the course there will be classroom lectures
that provide the foundation for the avian ecology and conservation
information that we will further observe and study in the field. As
different birds are active at different times of the day and night, our
schedule will vary to accommodate the study of particular species.  The
majority of our time will be spent observing and studying birds in the
field.  Lecture topics may include:

Ø Tropical bird background
Ø Residents and migratory species
Ø Bird field identification
Ø Avian guilds
Ø Niche partitioning: habitat use vs. availability
Ø Bird conservation topics
Ø Bird research in the tropics
Ø Importance of seed dispersal by birds
Ø Bird demographic measures
Ø Research paper critiquing
Ø Experimental design and data collection
Ø Research implementation; planning and logistics
Ø Data management
Ø Statistical analysis
Ø Research presentation pointers
Ø Research manuscript preparation

INFORMAL LECTURES: Informal lectures will be provided periodically during
orientation walks, 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

READINGS: Readings corresponding to lecture subjects will be assigned in
the texts. We will also read and critique papers brought by students and
faculty and additional readings may be assigned from time to time.

   - The Birds of Panama, George R. Angehr and Robert Dean. Zona Tropical
Publications. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-9798804-5-2.
    - Select readings from Behavioral Ecology of Tropical Birds, Bridget
J.M. Stutchbury and Eugene S. Morton. Academic Press 2001, 165pp. ISBN:
    - Select readings from Ornithology, Third Edition, Frank Gill, W.H.
Freeman and Company, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-0-71-674983-7
   - Select research articles.

FIELD BOOK: A water-proof field notebook will be required in the course.
The 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.

FIELD PROJECTS: Course emphasis will be placed on hands-on experience with
a wide variety of bird observation and sampling techniques. Field outings
may include:
Ø Field observations, sampling and survey techniques
Ø Use of mist nets
Ø Seed dispersal by birds
Ø Use of rocket-, woosh, or cannon nets
Ø Bird morphometric measures
Ø Seabird colony visit to Bird Island
Ø Dawn chorus auditory observation
Ø Nocturnal bird auditory observation
Ø Point count surveys
Ø Habitat use vs. availability surveys
Ø Nesting behavior
Ø Foraging behavior

INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH PROJECTS: Following group project completion and
professor feedback, students will develop an ecological research question of
their own interest, design a study, and implement the project. Students will
be given independence to conduct these studies while the instructor provides
oversight and mentoring as needed. Projects will culminate in presentations
to the student body, faculty, and staff at the ITEC research station, as
well as to interested locals. Research manuscripts from these projects will
serve as the final project for the course.

BOQUETE CLOUD FOREST FIELD TRIP: This three-day field trip takes place
midway through the course and will allow students the opportunity to
experience assemblages of birds found in tropical cloud and seasonally dry
forests. We travel in ITEC boats to the mainland and then by private bus to
the town of 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
remote Palo Seco National Park. Several stops will be made in route.

COURSE LENGTH: ITEC Winter field courses are about three weeks in length.
The TAE W-15 course will run from Dec. 20, 2015 through Jan. 9, 2016.

TUITION: $1950 USD. Tuition fee includes all instruction, lodging, meals
and airport transfers in Bocas del Toro. The tuition also covers
transportation and
lodging during the cloud forest field trip to Boquete.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Nov. 20, 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 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 student's
institution.  Contact ITEC for details.

APPLICATIONS can be found at:

A LIST OF AREA BIRDS found at the field station and adjacent mainland areas
can be found at http://itec-edu.org/bocas-del-toro-bird-list/.

CONTACT: Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, 2911 NW 40th PL,
Gainesville, FL 32605, tel: 352-367-9128, email: itec@itec-edu.org, web:
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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