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Tropical Biology in Panama

BCI Lab view from the lake
View from Lake Gatun of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute located on Barro Colorado Island.

Tropical Biology Program to Panama
The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology offers a 'Semester in the Field' in Panama for juniors interested in intensively studying the ecology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and conservation biology of the tropics. Over the years faculty and students alike have noted that learning both the principles and practice of ecology is best done via total immersion, especially when the setting is in the tropics. We have chosen Panama as one of our New World tropical sites in part because of its diversity of habitats. It is also home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) which has field stations, dormitories, classrooms and scientists that can help make our program a success. STRI's website for our program contains background, logistical, and course information for students. 

The program entails students taking 4 Princeton courses in sequence. In 2017, the first is "Tropical Biology" taught by STRI faculty member Dr. Yves Basset. This course offers an intensive, three-week field experience given at various sites in Panama. It examines the origins, maintenance, and major interactions among elements of the tropical-terrestrial biota. This course involves extensive travel and completion of many field projects.

The second course is “Ecology and Epidemiology of Parasites and Infections Disease” taught by Andrew Dobson (EEB professor). In this course, students will explore the dynamics and abundance of parasites in a variety of host species in the Panama Canal zone.

After spring break, the third course is "Biology of Coral Reefs” taught by Princeton Ph.D. graduate and professor at Pontifica University in Colombia Maria Echeverry-Galvis. This course focuses on the ecology and behavior of coral reef organisms and includes extensive daily work in the water.

"Pre-Columbian Peoples of Tropical America and Their Environments"  is the fourth course. It is taught by STRI faculty Dr. Dolores Piperno, and allows students to fulfill the University's "Social Analysis (SA)" distribution requirement. When students finish the 'in the field' part of the course they return to campus to write up their findings and work intensively on their junior paper. During this somewhat novel reading and exam period they live in University housing, but are responsible for their own meals.

Immersed in learning: "Intense field work in Panama transforms student researchers," is a story in the Princeton Weekly Bulletin (05/19/03) by Steven Schultz, about students' experience in EEB's undergraduate Tropical Biology program.

2016-17 Meetings & Deadlines

Global Program System

Panama and Kenya | September 23 | noon | 209 Eno Hall

The Panama/Kenya application deadline is September 26, 2016


Students holding up a sloth on a long pole
Prof Wikelski and students boating