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Greetings NEORNers
I am teaching a tropical ornithology course in Bocas del Toro, Panama, this summer through the Institute of Tropical Ecology and Conservation. The course description follows. Please email me if you are interested or have any questions.

Andy Kratter
Florida Museum of Natural Hsitory

Neotropical Ornithology Course Description.






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.  The island has a mix of cultivated land, mangrove habitats, and forest patches.  See: http://www.itec-edu.org/index.html for details.


INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Andrew Kratter, University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL 32611, email: Kratter@flmnh.ufl.edu


Specialties: Community ecology of tropical forest birds. Taxonomy, systematics, and biogeography of New World birds



This course is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the study and identification of Neotropical birds in the Republic of Panama. Course will emphasize three components of Neotropical Ornithology: (1) introductory information regarding the biology, evolution, natural history, ecology, and conservation of birds with special reference to the biology and ecology of Neotropical birds (2) building identification skills for finding and identifying birds of the tropical rain forest, and aquatic and marine habitats in the Bocas del Toro archipelago and nearby mainland areas (3) techniques of experimental design for conducting an ecological/behavior study of a selected species. All aspects of our study of birds is set against and within the tropical habitats of Panama.

Basic Requirements

Attendance and participation in all activities including lectures, discussion groups, identification trips, field trips to selected habitats, completion of individual study project, presentation of projects to class for group discussion are required to complete this course. Everyone should plan on bringing a good pair of binoculars. I will provide a spotting scope for identification sessions. A laptop computer will also prove useful.

Required Texts

Angehr, G. R. and R. Dean. 2010. The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide. Comstock Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-0801476747

Hilty, Stephen. 1994. Birds of Tropical America. Chapters Publishing Ltd. Shelburne, Vermont..


Outcomes and Learning

At the conclusion of this course the student will:

1. Have a sound introduction to the biology and ecology of tropical birds in the Panamanian habitats

2. Gain an introduction to the selected literature about neotropical birds of the Panamanian area with emphasis on tropical rain forest birds.

3. Have the skills to identify selected tropical rain forest birds

4. Have the requisite skills to identify tropical rain forest birds

5. Have the requisite skills to develop an experimental design of ecological or behavioral study of tropical rain forest birds.

Course Outline

First half of the course includes lectures and field trips for finding and identifying neotropical birds. Second half of the course emphasizes field identification techniques, building species lists with trips to additional tropical habitats, and individual projects involving studying the ecology/behavior of a particular species.

Bird Biology Lecture Topics

        Introduction to birds

        External anatomy of birds

        Evolution of birds with special emphasis on tropics

        Introduction to phylogenetic methods

        Speciation and species concepts

        Adaptations for an mechanisms of bird flight

        Physiology of birds

        Breeding biology of tropical birds

        Molt in tropical birds

        Feathers and coloration of birds

        Bird communication

        Foraging in tropical birds

        Community Ecology of tropical birds, competition, predation, etc.

        Conservation of tropical birds


Birding skills and projects

        Equipment for bird identification

        Finding birds in the tropical rain forest

        Review/work on individual research project


Field trips

        Nocturnal birds of the tropical rain forest

        Field trip to Cloud Forest

        Field trips to nearby islands, shore/coastal habitats

        Supervised studies; students will have the change to be involved in projects.


General Bibliography

     Wetmore, A. 1965-1973. The birds of the Republic of Panama. Parts I-III. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. Volume 150.

     Wetmore, A., R. F. Pasquier, and S. L. Olson. 1984. The birds of the Republic of Panama. Part IV. Smithsonian Institute Press Washington, D. C.

     Gentry, A. H. 1990. Four Neotropical forests. Yale University Press. New Haven, Connecticut.

     Hilty, Stephen. 1994. Birds of Tropical America. Chapters Publishing Ltd. Shelburne, Vermont. 304 pages.

     Ridgeway, R. S. and J. A. Gwynne, Jr. A Guide to the Birds of Panama. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press. Princeton University Press. 534 pages.

Terborgh, J. 1992. Diversity and the tropical rain forest. W. H. Freeman and Company. New York, New York.


COURSE LENGTH: ITEC Summer field courses are four weeks in length. This course will run from July 15 through August 9, 2013.


TUITION: $2050 USD.  Tuition fee includes all lodgings, 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 to the town of Boquete.  


REGISTRATION DEADLINE: June 20, 2013.  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/lab portion.  A letter grade will be assigned based on grant proposals, journal article, oral presentation as well as attendance and participation in lecture/ discussion and engagement in the material.  In the field/lab portion, students will be evaluated on the basis of development of observational and data collecting skills, and identification of tropical birds. Other, less tangibles such as personal attitude, motivation and contribution to the course will also be noted.  Course credit must be arranged at the student's institution.  Contact ITEC for details.


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


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