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2012 Summer Field Course in Canopy Access Techniques

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2012 SUMMER COURSE ANNOUNCEMENT (Dec. 20, 2012-Jan. 9, 2013)




COURSE LOCATION: Bocas del Toro Biological Station, Boca del Drago, Isla Colon, Republic of Panama. The biological station is located on a beach facing the Caribbean Sea. Coral reef and seagrass 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 for details.


INSTRUCTOR: Joe Maher, Tree Climber Coalition, PMB 43, 6625 Highway 53 East, Suite 410, Dawsonville, GA 30534. Telephone (Home) 706-216-2402, (Cell) 706-531-4516, email: jmaher@treeclimbercoalition.org, web: http://www.itec-edu.org Specialty: Tropical canopy access for research and ecotourism, field photography.


COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course is designed to provide students with the methodology and expertise necessary to explore and conduct research in the tropical forest canopy. The course involves a hands-on approach to the techniques necessary for accessing the canopy as well as lectures on various topics relating to climbing techniques, safety while climbing, facilitation of climbing activities, and combining scientific research with climbing. This course is the equivalent of the Basic Canopy Climbing Course, the Canopy Access Technicians Course, and the Facilitators Course, all done back-to-back over a four week time period. Certificates of Training at each of these levels will be awarded to those completing the course and receiving a passing grade on the examinations.


The course will be divided into three distinct periods of instruction and practice. Precise scheduling will depend upon student's progress at each level:


The first week will consist of orientation, introductory climbs into the canopy, and the Basic Canopy Climber Course, during which students will be introduced to, and practice, basic methods for both single rope technique (SRT) and double rope technique (DRT) climbing. Techniques for initial access into the canopy will also be introduced. Students will be climbing into the canopy every day. There will be classroom meetings each evening to cover lecture topics, debrief the activities of the day, discuss safety issues, and acquaint students with the activities for the coming day. By the end of this first week, students should be able to select a tree in the forest, get a line into that tree, rig for a climb in the tree, and make the climb, demonstrating familiarity with both basic DRT and SRT technique and the safety issues involved with such a climb.


The second week will consist of the Canopy Access Technician's Course, during which students will be introduced to more advanced methods of climbing into the canopy and will be encouraged in their development of a personal style of climbing. The course is designed to take students beyond the basic styles of climbing and encourage the use of a variety of techniques as demanded by the challenge of the climb at hand. Creative thinking is encouraged so long as such thinking is contained within the parameters dictated by safety protocols. Students will continue to climb into the canopy each day and there will be some climbs done at night. Students will also be expected to participate in a blindfolded climb. Classroom meetings will continue each evening for lectures, debriefings, and discussion of safety issues. By the end of the second week students should be capable of going into the forest in the absence of the instructor and safely conducting a climb into a previously unclimbed tree. At the end of the second week, students will have a three-day break for a trip to Boquete in the central highlands. An optional cloudforest climb during this break can be made by students wishing to do so.


The third and fourth week will consist of training in the facilitation of climbs, rescue techniques, and building confidence to the extent that canopy climbers will be comfortable enough to conduct research while involved with climbs into the vertical environment. Students will also be introduced to the concepts of team climbing, incremental climbing, and the issue of risk management. Students will be asked to facilitate climbs made by others who have never climbed before in order to demonstrate their ability to teach the techniques that they themselves have been using.


Individual Research Projects Working closely with faculty, students will be responsible for designing and completing an original in-canopy research project of their choosing. 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 at a station-wide symposium on the last day of the course.



  • Maher, Joe (2004) Exploring The Roof Of The Rainforest. The Treeclimber's Coalition, Atlanta, Georgia. Contact Maher for a PDF file.
  • Jepson, Jeff (2000) The Tree Climber's Companion. Beaver Tree Publishing, Longville, Minnesota.
  • Flowers, Dick (2000) Recreational Tree Climbing. Self Published. Available from New Tribe at www.newtribe.com.
  • Smith, Bruce and Allen Padgett (1996). On Rope. National Speleological Society, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Vines, Tom and Steve Hudson (1999). High Angle Rescue Techniques. Mosby Publishing, St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Lowman, Margaret and Nalini Nadkarni eds. (1995). Forest Canopies. Academic Press, san Diego, California.
  • Priest, Simon and Michael Gass (1997) Effective Leadership In Adventure Planning. University of New Hampshire, Concord, New Hampshire.

COURSE LENGTH: ITEC Winter field courses are three weeks in length. The CAT W-12 will run from Dec. 20, 2012 through Jan. 9, 2013.


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: Nov. 20, 2012. 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.


CONTACT: Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, 2911 NW 40th PL, Gainesville, FL 32605, 352-367-9128, itec@itec-edu.org, http://www.itec-edu.org/index.html, jmaher@treeclimbercoalition.org.

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