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Dates: September 18, 2023 - September 30, 2023
Location: Bocas Research Station, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Organizer: Dr. Rachel Collin STRI, Panama
Registration Fee: $800 (includes room and board, STRI registration fee, etc.). Some need-based fellowships are available.


Terrence Gosliner

Ph. D. in Zoology, Senior Curator of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology, California Academy of Sciences, USA

Lynn Bonomo

M. Sc. in Biology, research associate candidate at the California Academy of Sciences, USA

Course description:

The course is aimed at students, post-docs, or professionals who are interested in learning about the evolution, identification and ecology of nudibranch mollusks and their relatives (Heterobranchia). Heterobranch diversity in tropical ecosystems is understudied, limiting their otherwise immense potential to be bioindicators of ecosystem health and provide a basis for establishing conservation priorities. These beautiful inhabitants of marine ecosystems provide many insights to understanding complex evolutionary patterns of color pattern evolution and trophic diversification.

The students participating in this course will:
-Collect, dissect, identify, and describe heterobranch mollusks in the field and lab.
-Immerse themselves in the fascinating world of heterobranchs and learn about their remarkable adaptations for ecological and evolutionary diversification.
-Gain insight to the remarkable biology of heterobranchs while observing them in their natural habitats among the mangroves and shallow coral reefs of the Bocas del Toro region.

Application: Please e-mail your CV, 1 letter of recommendation and a 1-2 page statement explaining your background and reasons for taking the course, to before May 15th, 2023. To be considered for a need-based fellowship, applicants should send a description of their need, their efforts to obtain funding from other available sources, and a travel budget.


Ana Mejía

Universidad de Antioquía, Colombia
I am a biologist, graduated from the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia. Since I started my career I fell in love with marine biology and focused my path in this area. I took some courses on reef restoration and monitoring of marine-coastal areas in the Caribbean. Later I also fell in love with sea slugs, I did my graduate work with an inventory of sea slugs in the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, in the Colombian Caribbean. Currently, I am a member of the Basic and Experimental Taxonomy and Marine Biology and Taxonomy research group of the University of Antioquia, I am starting my master's in Marine Sciences at the same university, and my research work will focus on the integrative systematics of nudibranch species of the genus Phidiana.

Cecifel Mosquera

Universidad Marítima Internacional de Panamá, Panamá
Cecifel is originally from Panama, she is currently a fourth-year student of Marine Biology at the Universidad Maritima Internacional de Panama, interested in doing a thesis project on opisthobranchs in Panama, with reference to their distribution and abundance.

Diana Gallego

Universidad del Valle, Colombia
Hello! I´m Diana Valeria Gallego-Sánchez. I´m a biologist from Universidad del Valle in Colombia, member of the Research Group on Rocky Intertidal and Shallow Subtidal Ecosystems - LITHOS, currently participating in the Young Researchers program of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of my country. I began to learn about sea slugs during the pandemic lockdown, attending a virtual conference halfway through college. Since then, my interest in the group has only increased and my ability to recognize them in the field has improved. Eventually, I developed my degree project with these impressive mollusks, having the opportunity to contribute to the inventory of the diversity of Heterobranchs from intertidal and shallow rocky environments and coral reefs in some localities of both Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Colombia. Attending this course will be a great gain for me academically and professionally; greatly contributing to my path on working with these animals and keep on participating in future research about them.

Dominick Dickerson

SUNY empire State University, U.S.A.
I would describe myself as an accidental anatomist/morphologist, my growth as an investigator influenced largely by affinity with the Summer’s Lab and the µCT scanner at the Karel F. Liem BioImaging Center out of the Friday Harbor Laboratories intersecting with the cephalopod neuroanatomy work out of the Gire Lab at UW led by Dr. Gire’s PhD student now Dr. Dominic Sivitilli. Autumn in the Salish Sea is a fantastic time for nudibranch hunting. Having become entranced in the incredible diversity of their forms, I endeavored to dedicate my independent research course towards optimizing specimen preparation and mounting of sea slugs for µCT scanning so as to make high quality digital datasets of their anatomy for visualization/study. I view this course as an experience to establish a stronger, formalized basis for my training in the taxonomy and fundamental biology/ecology of these enigmatic & majestic molluscs, which up unto now has been wrought from personal observation and study. The opportunity to do so in Panama at the STRI fieldstation is a dream opportunity I am grateful to have selected for.

Edgardo Londoño-Cruz

Universidad del Valle, Colombia
I am a biologist (marine biologist) who graduated from Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia), where I also obtained my Master of Science in Biology. Later, I received my Doctor of Science degree (Marine Ecology) from the Doctorate of Science program at Kyushu University (Japan), where I studied the co-existence patterns of marine invertebrates on intertidal rocky shores. Currently, I work as an associate professor at Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia) where I participate in several courses at the undergraduate level, such as, Zoology of Marine Invertebrates, and Ecology of Marine Populations; and graduate courses, such as Inferential Statistics, and Advanced Topics in Biology. My main research interests focus on the biodiversity (and population dynamics) of marine invertebrates associated with intertidal and shallow subtidal ecosystems such as rocky shores and reefs and coral reefs. I have done research on the most common groups, including polychaetes, mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms, but I am also interested in other groups such as sponges and flatworms. Within the mollusks [as Dr. Thomas Everett Thompson (1976) once said: heterobranchs “… are to the Mollusca what the orchids are to the angiosperms, or the butterflies to the arthropods”], I find the Heterobranchia as the most fascinating group, with beautiful and intriguing species. That is why I have enrolled to learn the diversity of this group, mostly along the Pacific coast of Colombia, but also the Caribbean and that is why I am participating in the course.

Evelyn Tamayo

Universida EAFIT, Colombia
Hello, I am a final year undergraduate student in Biology at EAFIT University, Medellín, Colombia. My research interests are focused on marine biology, conservation and climate crisis. I consider very important the social appropriation of knowledge, that's why I belong to environmental education and territorial defence groups in my region. I am beginning to formulate my degree project on sea slugs of the Choco, Colombian Pacific, advised by Mario Londoño Mesa from the University of Antioquia and Edgardo Londoño Cruz from the University of Valle. I am very excited to take this course because it will allow me to acquire knowledge that is very valuable to continue my research.

Jazmín Ortigosa

Universidad Autónoma de México, México
Hello, I am Jazmín Deneb Ortigosa Gutiérrez, from Mexico. I studied a bachelor's degree in Biology and a master's degree at UNAM. I did my PhD at the University of Cádiz, in Spain with Dr. Lucas Cervera and Dr. Marta Pola. Although Mexico is surrounded by the sea and marine sea slugs are very attractive, very few people are dedicated to their study and there are still places to study. I currently work as a professor of malacology at UNAM, in communication at the Laboratorio Nacional de Resiliencia Costera (LANRESC) and in science communication at A POCO NO (@ap0c0n0 Instagram, Facebook). I am very excited to attend the course because science is dynamic and you never stop learning. My birthday is on #nudibranchday, I can't ignore the signs from the universe to continue studying these amazing creatures.

Juan Zarate

INVEMAR, Colombia
My name is Juan Camilo Zárate Arévalo, I am from Bogotá, Colombia. I am a marine biologist with a Master's in Ecology, management and restoration of the natural environment from the Barcelona University. I have had the opportunity to work on several research projects at various topics in the Colombian Caribbean, such as aquaculture aimed at repopulating marine fish, asexual and sexual coral restoration, work with the community on restoration issues, opisthobranch report for the Colombian Caribbean, Sensitivity maps to oil spills, species distribution models, connectivity and marine spatial human footprint. I am an SDI Certified Advanced Diver. I have several interests in the field of marine biology, among which is the taxonomy of opisthobranchs. I personally find them to be a very striking and diverse group, of which many more organisms have yet to be discovered and reported throughout the world. Additionally, my other interest is to share educational material through our SEATHISCO page (Instagram, Facebook and Tiktok) where people are taught to respect and care for marine fauna. I am excited to take this course and improve my opisthobranch handling skills, which will allow me to expand my technical-scientific knowledge and skills in my country.

Kelly Markello

California Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.
Kelly Markello is a field associate at the California Academy of Sciences. She studied the taxonomy and morphometrics of tiny echinoids, commonly known as sea peas, for her master’s degree through a joint program with the California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco State University. Kelly worked as a curatorial assistant in the Invertebrate Zoology department and gained a broad background in marine biodiversity and identification of a wide range of taxa. She is currently researching crinoid diversity of the Philippines and is exploring new taxonomic characters using SEM imaging. Kelly is excited to broaden her understanding of marine invertebrate diversity by exploring opisthobranchs at STRI with Dr. Gosliner.

Monisha Bharate

University of Bergen, Norway
I am a PhD candidate at University of Bergen, Norway. I work in the field of malacology with special focus on the study of the diversity, systematics, and evolution of Haminoeids. I use integrative taxonomy approach with scanning electron microscopic images of anatomical characters, metagenomics and multilocus sequencing to infer diversity and phylogeny of Haminoeids. By attending the course, I want to improve my knowledge of Heterobranch taxonomy and systematics, I am also looking forward to meeting people who share the same passion, and it will be a great opportunity to learn, brainstorm and establish network across the world.

Shanly Coneo

Aquabiosfera S.A.S., Colombia
My name is Shanly Coneo Gómez, I am from Barranquilla, Colombia and I am a marine biologist from the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University. I have a master degree in ecology, management and restoration of the natural environment with an emphasis in ecology from the University of Barcelona. My professional and research experience focuses on the study and taxonomy of the different classes of mollusks and other groups of invertebrates in the Colombian Pacific and Caribbean, both in reef and artificial environments. I currently work at an environmental consultancy and in my spare time, together with some colleagues, do research on the Santa Marta nudibranchs and, in addition, I make an effort to raise environmental awareness through an Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok profile known as Seathisco. I am very excited to participate in the course, to meet and interact with new people who share the excitement for these interesting organisms, and to acquire new skills for their study.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) through an award titled “Collaborative Research: ARTS: Understanding Tropical Invertebrate Diversity Through Integrative Revisionary Systematics and Training” (DEB-1856504). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.