COURSE LOCATION: Bocas del Toro Biological Station, Boca del Drago, Isla Colon, Republic of Panama. The biological station is located on a hill facing Almirante Bay and Volcan Baru on the mainland. Coral reef and lowland tropical rainforest ecosystems are immediately accessible from the field station. This juxtaposition of the two most biologically diverse ecosystems along with Panama's rich cultural diversity provides tremendous opportunities for education and research. See for details.

INSTRUCTOR: Armando Medinaceli, Ph.D. cand., Department of Anthropology, Washington State University,;, phone: 610.203.8495. Specialty: ethnobotany, ethnozoology and ethnoecology with research in Mexico, Guatemala and Bolivia.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This 4 week course will emphasize tropical ethnobiology in the context of tropical rainforest and island ecosystems. The material covered is equivalent to an upper level university course in ethnobiology or ethnobotany. The course explores the biocultural diversity of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago and mainland Panama. There are four indigenous groups residing in our area including the Bokata, Naso, Guna and Ngöbe. Non-indigenous cultures include Mestizo and Afro-Antillilean. Readings and lectures will focus on the plant and animal use by traditional cultures of Central and South America, as well as innovative methods, current theory in ethnobiology and ethical frameworks that surround traditional knowledge and biological conservation. The course will include demonstrations by local healers, artisans and other specialists who utilize plants and animals. Much of the course will be spent learning field techniques with classmates where students have the opportunity to gain research experience through fieldwork in the surrounding rainforest. Independent research projects based upon individual interests will be conducted with local indigenous or non-indigenous communities, under the direction of an experienced field ethnobiologist.


  • Definition and Evolution of the Discipline of Ethnobiology
  • Ethnobiology and Culture of Bocas del Toro and Panama
  • Tropical Plant and Forest Ecology
  • Useful Plants Classification- NeoTropical Plant Families
  • Ethnobiological Research Project Development
  • Ethics, Intellectual Property Rights and Ethnobotanical Protocols
  • Role of Humans in Diversification of Plants and Gendered Knowledge
  • Qualitative Techniques and Quantitative Methods
  • Interviewing and Ethnographic Methods
  • Plant Collection, Pressing, Drying and Mounting Herbarium Specimen
  • Audio, Photo, and Video Documentation
  • Local Markets and the Commodification of Plant Resources
  • Wild Foods and Traditional Diets
  • Tropical Agriculture and Agroforestry
  • Entheogens- Psychoactive Tropical Plants
  • The Botany of Cacao and the Production of Chocolate
  • Traditional Medical Systems and Ethnomedicine
  • Medicinal Plants and Bioprospecting
  • Non-Timber Forest Products
  • Biocultural Conservation
  • Sharing Research Results and Development of Community Projects

READINGS: Readings corresponding to lecture-topics will be assigned from the course text and from relevant articles in the primary literature. In addition, each student will read, critique, and provide oral reports on published papers from the primary literature.

REQUIRED TEXT: Anderson, E., D. Pearsall, E. Hunn, and N. Turner. 2011. Ethnobiology. Wiley-Blackwell. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey, NJ. Required journal articles will be provided to students before the field semester.

FIELD BOOK: A field book will be required in the course. The field book willcontain all data related to group projects and the independent research project. The field book should also contain all other incidental observations such as species lists, ethnographic notes, etc., and contain detailed location information. The field book must be waterproof and either pencil or water-proof ink used to record data.

BOQUETE CLOUD FOREST FIELD TRIP: This field trip will allow students the opportunity to visit other areas of Panama, to experience Panamanian culture, and to visit tropical cloud and seasonal forests first hand. We travel in ITEC boats to the mainland and then by chartered bus to Boquete which lies at the base of 11,000 ft. Volcan Baru. The bus trip will take us up and over the central mountain range and through Palo Seco Protected Area. Several stops will be made in route.

COURSE LENGTH: ITEC Summer field courses are about four weeks in length. The TEB C-18 course will run from July 15, through August 9, 2018.

TUITION: $2250 USD. Tuition fee includes all lodging, meals and airport transfers in Bocas del Toro. The tuition also covers transportation and lodging during the 3-day cloud forest field trip on the mainland. A $100 lab fee is applicable to this course.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: June 15, 2018. The course is limited to 10 students and applications will be evaluated as they arrive. Applications can be found at If you believe that your application may arrive late, notify ITEC.

GRADING & CREDIT: Up to 6 units of credit will be given, 3 for the lecture portion and 3 for the field portion. A letter grade will be assigned based on exams, research reports and presentations, lecture attendance, and participation in discussions and activities. Course credit must be arranged at the student's institution. Contact ITEC for details.

CONTACT: Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, 2911 NW 40th PL, Gainesville, FL 32605, phone: 352-367-9128, email:, web: ITEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1996.