Island Biogeography in the Bahamas

J Term Off Campus Course: BIOL 240 Island Biogeography, San Salvador Island, The Bahamas

Course Overview

Biogeography is the scientific study of the patterns and causes of the distribution of organisms using a combination of ecological and evolutionary theory, geology, and geography: what species are where, and why? Islands have been the subject of important biogeographic work and have contributed substantially to existing biogeographic theory. The course covers the important elements of biogeographic theory within the context of islands using the marine and terrestrial flora and fauna of San Salvador Island.

Basic Course Information

  • Students spend about 3 weeks in residence at the Gerace Research Centre on San Salvador Island.
  • Class activities include hikes through the rugged scrub-forest communities in the island’s interior; snorkeling trips to coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove lagoon habitats; plant community analysis; rocky intertidal community sampling; a swim to an offshore island inhabited by iguanas; night snorkeling; and a descent into a water cave.
  • Students are also exposed to the history and culture of the island.
  • Daytime field activities are supplemented by evening lectures, discussions, and student presentations.
  • SCUBA diving is possible for certified divers.
  • Program co-directors/professors: Dr. Douglas Hamilton and Dr. Mark Kuhlmann

Physical Requirements

Participants need to be good swimmers who will be comfortable snorkeling in the ocean and be able to participate in moderate hikes.

Academic Requirements

  • An 8-10 page paper (from a list of topics) due before departure.
  • A lecture to the class on the topic of the paper.
  • Reading assignments.
  • An 8-10 page research paper describing the results of an experimental or observational project conducted while on San Salvador, due during spring term.
  • Two exams.
  • A detailed notebook recording all field activities, personal observations, and reflections.

Program Fee and Other Expenses

  • The course fee covers airfare from the US departure city (usually Miami, FL) to San Salvador and back, room and board while on San Salvador, and all activities.
  • Additional expenses include transportation to and from the departure city, meals while traveling, and required snorkeling equipment.
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