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Upcoming Courses

About Training in Tropical Taxonomy

Despite estimates that 30 to 60 percent of marine species remain to be described, a growing shortage of taxonomic expertise hampers conservation of the world’s biodiversity. Collaboration between temperate and tropical scientists is critical. Most biodiversity occurs in the tropics while most of the infrastructure for advanced study is in universities in the temperate zone.

Experts who identify organisms on sight without relying on technology are themselves going extinct. Any hopes for replacing them are dashed by the perennial lack of funding for training. New molecular and imaging techniques and improved bioinformatics tools cannot replace the gradual loss of classical taxonomy.

At STRI, with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, we offer a series of 2-week courses aimed at teaching skills for the identification of six groups of understudied marine organisms (sponges, tunicates, seaweeds, hydroids, sea anemones and ribbon worms) and strengthening the personal connections among seasoned experts and students to foster global research networks. Our small courses (10 to 16 students) provide an opportunity for less experienced students to learn from seasoned experts.

Each course includes lectures, field trips, laboratory exercises, and independent projects. Classroom time focusses on the systematic organization of the group, definitions and coding of important taxonomic characters, biology and life history of the group and use of bioinformatics resources and repositories. Field trips train participants in the use of collection methods, in situ documentation of features, locality and habitat, and methods for rapid assessment of biodiversity.

In addition to the obvious result, a cadre of enthusiastic students, we have created more than 30 YouTube videos available to the wider academic community to teach collection and preservation methods. On nearly every course, we discover new species and to date, we have added 200 species to the Panama Marine Biodiversity Portal, a database publicly available through the Symbiota platform.

Whether you already have expertise in the taxonomy of marine organisms, or are a student who would like to learn more, please review course information on this website and contact us if you need more information.

Steering Committee

The steering committee of the Training in Tropical Taxonomy helps guide the program and plan future courses.

Rachel Collin

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Robert W. Thacker

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Rosana Rocha

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Suzanne Fredericq

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Interested in teaching a TTT course?

Please contact Rachel Collin at