SFS Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (Semester)

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Spend a semester in the dynamic community of Bocas del Toro, where you will experience everything from underwater ecosystems to rich green rainforests. Go behind the scenes of this “paradise” as you study the impacts of tourism and development on the unique habitats of this island system. Evaluate local and national environmental policies and study the principles of sustainability and conservation as part of an in-depth field research project.

SFS students live and study at the Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, once a beachfront hotel that sits among the slender palms and warm sands of Isla Colón lies the Center. You’ll take your classes over the waves of the Caribbean and among the surrounding rainforests and reefs. The laidback tourist hub of Bocas Town is a short taxi ride away, with access to shops, restaurants, and a vibrant culture that is as unique as the mix of people who live here.

  • Snorkel in the waters of the archipelago to explore coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds as you study sea stars, turtles, rays, dolphins, and schools of tropical fish.
  • Visit the Pacific coast and the mountains of Boquete: Explore the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park, take a canopy walk through cloud forest, and tour a sustainable coffee farm.
  • Spend a day in Ngäbe communities: Speak with local Indigenous leaders, visit a women’s co-op, and take a forest walk with a local guide.
  • Build core skills including: Species IDs, underwater transects and quadrats, tourism impact assessment, scientific writing and communication, basic Spanish language, research design and implementation, data collection and analysis, research presentation
  • Conduct research in some of the following areas: Climate change impacts, marine protected areas, rainforest biodiversity, tourism impacts, ecosystem health, community livelihoods and perceptions

We’ve updated our refund & cancelation policy to allow for flexible booking due to COVID-19

We’ve updated our refund & cancelation policy to allow for flexible booking due to COVID-19


SFS Awards More Than $650,000 in Need-based Aid Each Year

SFS works closely with your home school to help you fund your SFS program. Many applicants receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.

$500 - $5,000

Questions & Answers


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Yes, I recommend this program


my semester with TIBS was awesome! It was so cool to have the ocean, rainforest, and archipelago as a whole as a classroom. All of the professors and staff at SFS are amazing people who truly make the program as awesome as it is. They're all super talented and passionate about what they do and for sure people I'm coming away super lucky to have gotten to know. The classes were all super engaging and interesting. The center is right on the water and they have paddle boards and kayaks to use which was awesome. The town is super close and most of the activities there are to do on your free time are diving, surfing, snorkeling, and hanging out on the beach. There is not much free time during the first two months but there is more once directed research starts. I didn't mind at all being so busy the first two months though because classes were so cool and we got to go to so many different places with class.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I wish I knew that there would be limited access to hiking/backpacking/camping so don't bring your backpacking gear to this program because you won't use it. Also, READ THE WELCOME LETTER AND THE WHOLE FIELD GUIDE when they send it out!!!
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