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Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (SFS)


Todd Heidt

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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This School for Field Studies (SFS) program in Panama concentrates on the study of tropical island biodiversity. Bocas del Toro is home to biologically diverse marine and terrestrial ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangrove cays, white sand beaches, and tropical rainforests. However, poor management of both the development of these areas and the subsequent resource use by residents and tourists has put increasing pressure on these ecosystems, threatening the human, animal and plant communities that depend on them.

The curriculum of the program focuses on defining key island systems, both natural and human, and how they interface. The research in Bocas del Toro has already revealed patterns and processes at the nexus of biodiversity, conservation and human welfare that merit ongoing study. Through field observations and research, students identify and understand the pressures, both direct and indirect, on the environment and social systems. Students gain an understanding of the interdependence of the livelihood strategies of island residents, population structure of key species, and habitat arrangements and conditions. Equipped with foundational knowledge, students then apply sustainability principles to identify potential management strategies. Guest lectures by Panamanian and international researchers, government environmental officials, and community members help students understand the social, economic, and policy context for environmental management in the region.

Learn more about the SFS Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies program.

Credits: 4.5 for successful completion of the fall or spring semester.

Advisor: Professor Katherine Adelsberger

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Monday, December 5, 2022