Marine Biology in Panama

Language Requirement: None
Academic Standing by Program Start: See additional requirements
Location: Panama
GPA: 2.5
Program Overview

Sustainable Goal: Life Below WaterGEO and The Oregon Institute for Marine Biology (OIMB) are excited to offer a program that will focus on the biology of tropical coastal habitats (coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows) and relevant anthropogenic issues on both local and global scales.

The course will be offered at the Bocas Research Station (BRS), a facility operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). BRS is located on Isla Colon, a part of an archipelago located along the Caribbean coast of Panama.

Check out the OIMB in Panama blog and see what students do in the lab (and underwater).


Academic Details

The Marine Biology-Panama program offers seven, 400-level Marine Biology credits from spring term through September.

The program consists of a one-credit course in spring (BI405) and a two-part summer term course: part one credit, eight-week planning the research project, and five-credit, two weeks of on-site academic instruction and fieldwork in Panama. OIMB Faculty Richard Emlet and Maya Watts are the instructors for the program.

BI405 Reading (1 credit P/NP) During the spring term, students explore primary and secondary literature on the habitats and environmental issues that will be seen in Panama. Students make presentations on their readings and participate in weekly discussions. Students will be required to develop a bibliography of material useful for their subsequent experience in Panama. Residency at OIMB is not required to participate. Evaluation will be based on the completion of the assignments and participation in the discussion. Class meets for one hour each week and will involve video conferencing for students on the main campus.

OXLA 488/588  Tropical Marine Biology in Panama (6 credits)
Summer term preceding the September field course
During the summer preceding the Panama field course, students will work to design and plan their research project to carry out during the field course in Panama. This pre-departure effort will involve periodic submissions of (and feedback on) planning reports organized around i) project design (questions and hypotheses) and background literature, ii) project experiments, methodology and expected data, and iii) a completed project proposal with a list of materials necessary to conduct the research. This component is included in the study abroad program course fee. Students do not enroll for it separately. Residency at OIMB is not required.

September Field Course in Panama
The course in Panama will be a combination of a large number of field trips to a variety of tropical habitats (coral fringing and patch reefs, mangroves, and seagrass meadows), a planned research project with field observations, data collection and analysis, and lectures on habitats and organisms. Students will keep a daily journal of their observations and experiences and will conduct a research project lasting several days over a week-long period.  Assessment of student work will focus on the completion and quality of journal entries and presentation of research results in the form of an oral presentation and a research poster.

Course Equivalencies

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

UO students, please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.

Faculty and Staff

Professors Richard Emlet ( and Maya Watts (, University of Oregon faculty members from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB), will direct this program.

Housing Description

You will be housed in quads (four persons to a room) in the dormitories at the Bocas Research Station. Group meals will be arranged at the study site. The dormitory, like the entire research station, has a tropical charm that incorporates elements of both colonial and native styles and is a very comfortable place to stay for a two-week period.

Additional requirements

This program is open to Biology, Marine Biology, or Environmental Science majors.

Must have completed at least one term at OIMB

BI451 Invertebrate Zoology

Application process

Start an application with GEO. Upon acceptance to the program, you will enroll in BI405 in spring term through duckweb, and you will be automatically enrolled in OXLA 488/588 through GEO.


Dates and Deadlines
Term Priority Deadline Deadline Arrival Departure
Summer 2/15/2022 3/15/2022 8/28/2022 9/10/2022


Travel Advisories

For current health, safety, and travel advisory information, search the US Department of State country webpage.

Priority Discounts

If your program has a Priority Deadline, complete all pre-decision application materials by this date to receive a $100 credit toward your program fee. Please note, students participating in multiple summer programs are only eligible to receive the $100 credit once.

Note: this $100 discount does not apply to priority deadlines for SIT programs.