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The central theme of The School for Field Studies (SFS) Panama study abroad program is ?islands as a delicate system,? with emphasis on the resources of Panama?s spectacular coastal and marine environments. Students will explore several key interfaces: human and natural systems, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and conservation and development. The goal of this undergraduate study abroad program is to assess the state of the archipelago?s fragile natural habitats, define the main environmental issues, and understand the community goals in natural resource management. Our ultimate goal is to help islanders maintain balance and harmony between people and nature in this fragile ecosystem.
The School for Field Studies pilot semester program Tropical Island Biodiversity and Conservation Studies in Bocas del Toro, Panama, provides students with an exciting opportunity to conduct research and explore the rural Caribbean and the isthmus of Panama.
Panama is the great connector between two continents ? a corridor that links the natural riches of Central America to South America. Few places on Earth can claim the density of species and ecosystem richness that this isthmus can. Among its reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, estuaries, and rivers, this region boasts a variety of reef/game fish, turtles, and dolphins, as well as more novel species such as manatee, monkeys, and caiman.
Our classroom in Panama is the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro, a place where forest and shore come together and present almost limitless opportunities to study the ecology and conservation of both the marine and terrestrial realms.
It is the dynamic interface between forested islands and life-filled waters that will drive our learning of fragile habitats, natural resource use, and indigenous ways of life based on deep relationships with the environment.
Getting to Your Program
Students make their own travel arrangements but are given guidelines for arrival dates and times. Students may choose to take the SFS group flight.
Upon arriving in Panama, US citizens are ordinarily given a 180 day tourist visit. Non-US citizens may, however, require a consular visa. IAP and SFS are not responsible for administrative procedures with immigration for traveling or visas not related to the academic program, so if you plan to travel outside of the program and/or stay in Panama for longer than the program lasts, please check with the of Panama immigration.
Students are required to participate in a pre-departure orientation at UW-Madison as well as an on-site orientation upon arrival in country. The orientations are designed to introduce students to the program and prepare them for living abroad.
The SFS field station in Bocas del Toro for our Panama study abroad program will be a brand new facility built by our partner, the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC). Located on 130 acres of property owned for generations by a local Ngobe family, the station sits on a promontory of land adjacent to open fields and within sight of the Chiriqui Lagoon and dense off-shore mangrove stands. Within meters, thick inland tropical forest dominates the landscape, sheltering the site with verdant canopies where howler monkeys abound and toucans search incessantly for fruit. Student housing consists of rooms within a raised platform building that provides views of forest and shore. Freshwater showers are available. Other buildings consist of classrooms, a library, a laboratory, and a common room used for dining and events. A full-time cook is available for most meals; healthy traditional dishes will dominate the menu each day with fresh fish from local waters.
Excursions and Activities
POTENTIAL FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
Snorkeling for field research and species identification on pristine coral reefs
Shallow water excursions to the delicate intertidal surf zones where giant starfish and spiny sea urchins abound
Deep exploration of giant stands of old-growth rain forests; viewing giant orchids, colorful macaws, monkeys, and numerous arrow frogs Monitoring of beach erosion and palm stand loss due to rising sea levels
Lecture from Panamanian and international researchers and government environmental officials
Visits to massive banana plantations on the mainland to understand the impact of the commercial agricultural industry on the local economy and delicate coastal environment
Excursions to distant islands to visit indigenous housing settlements and observe the livelihoods of traditional farmers, fishers, and forest gatherers
Visits to eco-lodges and resort hotels to understand how development imparts pressures on fragile marine and terrestrial habitats and ecosystems
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
SFS Center Director and staff
Use the links below to find out more information on academics, daily life and student impressions for this program.SFS Academic Notes
(Fall - 2013-14)SFS Academic Notes
(Spring - 2013-14)
Returned Student Network
to contact a returned student.
How to Apply
First complete the IAP Online Application. UW Affiliate programs may require you to apply directly to the affiliate either simultaneously during the IAP application process OR after you have received a preliminary admissions decision from IAP. After you have completed the IAP Online Application, the following forms will become available to you through the application portal. Be sure to read the instructions carefully for information on when to apply to the affiliate.
SFS Academic Reference Form: Submit to SFS
SFS Application Fee: Submit to SFS
SFS Application Instructions Checklist: Upload + Submit
SFS Character Reference Form: Submit to SFS
SFS Online Application for Admission: Submit to SFS
SFS Participation Approval Form: Submit to IAP
Unofficial Transcript - OPTIONAL - Additional File
Forms are subject to change. Complete the forms according to the checklist provided to you in the online application portal.
After the Deadline
IAP will review your application and make a preliminary admissions decision. You will be notified of the admissions decision via email. The affiliate university or organization will make the final admissions decision.
|Fall - 2014-2015
SFS's interdisciplinary, experiential approach to education is designed to train students to learn by doing. As students engage in high-quality field research, students begin to understand the challenges of confronting environmental issues. Students learn the value of experiencing another culture, of collaborating with their fellow students and with the local community to develop workable solutions. Students are also given the rare opportunity to work side by side with an international research team and learn state-of-the-art field research skills. The program combines classroom-based academics with field study. Students should expect an academically intensive experience and be willing to learn in a variety of settings.
Each field station is staffed by a Center Director and two to three full-time, resident faculty. Most of the SFS faculty are native to the country/region in which they teach.
SFS's classroom in Panama is the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro, a place where forest and shore come together and present almost limitless opportunities to study the ecology and conservation of both the marine and terrestrial realms.
It is the dynamic interface between forested islands and life-filled waters that will drive learning of fragile habitats, natural resource use, and indigenous ways of life based on deep relationships with the environment.
School for Field Studies
Program Web Page(s)
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
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