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Dates: August 7, 2022 - August 20, 2022
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.


Marcela Bolaños

Harvard University - Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Sigmer Quiroga

Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta, Colombia

Course description:

Polyclads represent a highly diverse group of free-living marine flatworms that has been critically overlooked for decades. They lack a stable and reliable classification system since their taxonomy has been traditionally based on the structures of the male and female reproductive systems seen only through the study of serial histological sections. Similarly, color and patterns have also been used for classification; however, these features often represent a problem because in several descriptions scattered throughout the literature, color was not recorded accurately or was lost after fixation before being documented. Even more alarming, only a handful of polyclad researchers worldwide are currently active and expertise on this taxon is getting lost. Therefore, this course intends to train a new generation of polyclad taxonomists by providing a deep understanding of their systematics and a conceptual framework for species descriptions. This is an intensive two-week training with daily lectures complemented by field trips and extensive laboratory sessions designed for advanced undergraduate, graduate students, postdocs, and early career researchers involved in the field of taxonomy or to students and researchers who are particularly interested in marine invertebrate biodiversity.

The past, the present and the future of polyclad diversity and taxonomy will be study by reviewing the traditional morphological classification system and the assessment of existing knowledge gaps. Also, contemporary views of molecular phylogenies will be compared and problems posed by molecular techniques will be evaluated. Finally, future research directions combining molecular tools and morphological approaches will be addressed. At the end of the course the students will:

  • Become familiar with the current classification system and molecular phylogenies for polyclads;
  • Advance the skills recognizing fundamental reproductive structures used to identify cotylean and acotylean flatworms, especially those from Bocas del Toro region; and
  • Learn morphological and molecular techniques used in polyclad collection, preservation, and identification.

The course is limited to 12 students and will be taught in English.

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 February 1st, 2022. 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. For more information see:

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.