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Panama City, Playa Venao , Panama

Program Description

This course will give students knowledge of tropical ecology and the issues surrounding reforestation in a developing country, through peer-reviewed article discussions during class time and a mandatory field trip to Panama over spring break.

Lecture topics covered will include tropical forest dynamics, reforestation, silvopastoral systems, climate change impacts, and ecosystem services. Independent research projects will be developed during the first 6 weeks of the semester and carried out in the dry tropical forests of Panama.

Students will gain experience with study design (pre-field trip), data collection methods (during field trip), and statistical analysis (post-field trip). Students will also learn identification and natural history of plant and bird species within dry tropical forests. Students should expect to spend a major part of each day outside in the natural tropical environment over spring break.

Enrollment is limited to 10 students.

This one-week Spring Break program is embedded within either BIO 427 or BIO 526. Students will enroll in either course and meet weekly on campus throughout the spring semester, both before and after the required one-week experience abroad.

Location Description

We will stationed in the small beach town of Playa Venao on the Pacific coast of Panama, approximately 5 hours from Panama City. March is a relatively hot, dry time of year with high winds.


Heather Griscom | | Biology


We will be staying at the Eco Venao Hostel. Students will be in shared rooms (men and women separate). There is Wi-Fi, a full kitchen, and laundry facilities. EcoVenao also has a restaurant and coffee shop.

All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) will be provided as part of the program except for travel days. Students will either be given a stipend for meals or group dinners will be paid for by the instructor.

Additional Items to Consider

Students must have a valid passport.

Students enrolled at JMU full-time during current Spring semester will pay no additional tuition to participate in a spring break program. The program fee will be the total required cost.

This Spring Break program is embedded within a semester-long, on-campus course taken during the spring semester term. The program travel dates correspond with a required one-week experience abroad.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0.

Pre-requiste: BIO 250:Quantitative Ecology & Evolution.

Open to sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students in all majors.

Undergraduate students must enroll in the BIO 427 course during the spring semester. 

Graduate students must enroll in the BIO 526 course during the spring semester.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • Unofficial transcript is required

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


BIO 427: Topics in Biology (4 credits)

BIO 526: Graduate Topics in Biology (4 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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