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  • Locations: Bocas del Toro, Panama
  • Program Terms: Fall Semester, Spring Semester
  • Homepage: Click to visit
  • Program Sponsor: The School for Field Studies (SFS) 
  • Restrictions: WWU applicants only
Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Semester 2019 10/15/2018 ** Rolling Admission 01/30/2019 05/10/2019

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.
Fact Sheet:
Program Type: Field Study, Study Abroad Language of Instruction: English, Spanish
Fields of Study: Anthropology, Biology, Botany, Culture, Ecology, Economics, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Geography & Land Studies, Hospitality & Tourism, International Studies, Marine Biology Housing Options: Student Residence/ On Campus
Minimum GPA: 2.8
Program Description:




  • Terms: Fall, Spring
  • Credits: 18 semester-hour credits
  • Prerequisites: One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science; 18 years of age
  • Application Deadline: Rolling admissions. Early applications encouraged
  • Financial Aid: All accepted students can apply for need-based scholarships, grants, and loans


Understanding key island systems, both natural and human, and how they interface is the focus of this dynamic marine and terrestrial semester program.  Through field observations and research, students identify the pressures on the environment and social systems, and evaluate the responses by local stakeholders and policymakers. Students critically consider the interdependence of island residents’ livelihood strategies, key species’ population structures and habitats, and then apply sustainability principles to identify potential management strategies. Lectures by Panamanian and international researchers, government officials, and community stakeholders provide additional depth and context.


  • Marine and terrestrial species identification
  • Impacts of tourism on humans and the natural environment
  • Assessment of ecosystem health
  • Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
  • Impact of policy enforcement on local communities and environment
  • Resource management
  • Ecology of terrestrial and marine species important to tourism
  • Conservation and management strategies


  • Snorkeling to identify marine species and research human impacts on coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other marine habitats
  • Field lectures in the rainforest to learn about canopies, competition for space, biodiversity and soil composition
  • Visits with indigenous communities to learn about livelihood strategies as well as the challenges of adapting to a rapidly changing economic environment
  • Tours of cacao farms and banana plantations to understand the impact of diverse forms of agriculture on local economies and coastal environments


Through Directed Research (DR)—as opposed to basic, applied, or independent research—students conduct research on a specific topic that is part of the SFS Center’s long-term strategic research plan, which has been developed in partnership with local community stakeholders and clients.

The course, taught by resident SFS faculty, provides students with the opportunity to apply the scientific process in a mentored field research project that addresses a local environmental issue. Through the DR project, students contribute to a growing body of scientific research that informs local conservation and resource management decisions.