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Dates: June 6, 2016 - June 19, 2016
Location: Bocas Research Station, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Organizer: Dr. Rachel Collin
Registration Fee: $850 (includes room and board, STRI registration fee, etc.). Some need-based fellowships are available


Dr. Estefanía Rodriguez

American Museum of Natural History

Alejandro Grajales

Course description:

The course is aimed at graduate students, post-docs, or professionals who are interested in learning and applying knowledge about the diversity of sea anemones. The students participating in this course will:

  • Learn to describe and identify sea anemones, in particular those from the shallow coral reefs and mangroves of the Bocas del Toro region. Learn general biological and ecological characteristics of the group.
  • Gain hands-on taxonomic experience with tropical sea anemones.
  • Learn basic histological techniques.

This course seeks to give the participant the necessary tools to start and/or continue studies on the taxonomy and diversity of sea anemones in a broad sense, i.e. including the order Actiniaria (sea anemones sensu stricto), Corallimorpharia (mushroom anemones) and Zoanthidea (matt anemones). The course will last twelve days, with five days dedicated to taxonomic training, including the characteristics and identification of the various actiniarian suborders, superfamilies and families; the orders Corallimorpharia and Zoanthidea will be also considered. Three days will be dedicated to learning colleting, fixation and preservation methods, histological techniques necessary for sea anemone identification as well as cnidae preparation and identification. Common taxa at Bocas del Toro will be identified to species. We will conduct surveys of sea anemones at several field sites near the Bocas Research Station to collect baseline data for conservation and for future studies. The remaining three days will be dedicated to an independent/group project, and its presentation. Daily activities will include: morning and afternoon lectures, a field trip, lab work, and discussion sections or talks.

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 January 15th, 2016. Limit 12 students. 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


Hernández Carolina

UNAM, México
I am undergraduate student of biology, at the Faculty of Science in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). I am a member of the project "Biodiversidad del Golfo de México", and my area of specialty is sea anemones. I love the sea and diving, I enjoy observing sea life. I’ve been working in taxonomy and systematics of sea anemones. I expected learn more about the ecology of this group and I hope to make the most out of this amazing experience in this workshop.

Julián Pérez C.

Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo, Ecuador
Julián Pérez C., is an environmental engineer in love of nature. He has been interested in birds since 2008. However, in 2013 he started to participate in the Inventory of intertidal and subtidal biodiversity in 6 protected areas and 4 possible expansion areas in Ecuador, marking a new interest in marine species, particularly in those that has lack of information that includes anemones.

Leslie Babonis

University of Florida, United States
I am a postdoc interested in the evolution of novelty. My overarching research goals focus on understanding the mechanisms by which novel tissues, cells, and gene families arise and I approach this problem using a variety of organismal, genomic, and functional techniques in the model sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis. Cnidarians are particularly valuable models for understanding the evolution of cell type diversity; although they have only few cell types, cnidarians exhibit a high level of genomic conservation with bilaterian model systems. Furthermore, cnidarians are unified by their possession of one of the few unambiguously novel cell types: cnidocytes. Much of my current research focuses on the dynamic interplay between the evolution of novel genes and the rearrangement of conserved gene regulatory networks in the specification and differentiation of cnidocytes.

Heather Dame

Central Michigan University, United States
I will be starting my Ph.D. in the department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the Ohio State University this coming fall. As of Spring 2016, I will have completed my Master’s of Science at Central Michigan University, where my thesis was focused on the molecular systematics and species distribution of a tribe of sedges (Fuireneae). Prior to this, I received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in marine biology from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. I am interested in exploring the phylogeography within a lineage of Actinarian sea anemones by exploring both their morphological and genetic diversity.

Margarita López

University of El Salvador, El Salvador
My name is Margarita, I am a recently graduated biologist from the University of El Salvador. My studies have focused primarily on marine biology, I have learned to love marine biology in each of its manifestations; but my country is still young in the coastal marine research, because the little experience and knowledge have limited scientific research. I think the description, taxonomy and new reports of species are very important for the management and conservation of coastal areas, as well as the study of behavior and connectivity of species within ecosystems. Specifically anemones are extremely interesting and important organisms within ecosystems for their adaptations and behaviors bodies, but have been little studied in my country. This course will enable me to gain valuable new knowledge and tools that will allow me make contributions in my country and my professional development.

Rafael Brandão

Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil
I’m a Masters student on the Animal Biology program at Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), Brazil. My main interests are the diversity and evolution of sea anemones stricto sensu (Actiniaria) from tropical shallow waters, specifically focusing on species from the Amazon Costal Zone (ACZ). I’ve been working with sea anemones since my senior year in Federal University of Maranhão in 2014, where I conducted the first inventory of sea anemones for Maranhão’s island, in northeast Brazil. Currently I’m studying sea anemones diversity of Edwardsiidae family in Brazil, by analyzing samples that are deposited in several collections and museums around the country.

Alexandra Colombara

Auburn University, United States
I am a PhD student from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, USA. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Miami, where I developed an interest in marine science and how climate change is impacting ocean ecosystems. My doctoral research involves sea anemones and they are affected by biotic factors associated with climate change. I am interested in how anemones, particularly those in the Florida Keys, will be affected all the way from the molecular level up to the population level by climate change. I also have a passion for conservation, and hope that my work will one day add to our knowledge of how unique marine species like anemones can be preserved and protected for future generations.

Yamaly Barragán

Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, Peru
I’m a biologist from Perú, and I’m doing my master degree at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, México. My actual research project includes taxonomy and biogeography of sea anemones. My undergraduate research project focused on taxonomy of sea anemones from the South of the Gulf of California, México. I am especially interested in taxonomy, biology and systematics of Hexacorallia especially in sea anemones.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology through an award titled “Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics: Integrative Research and Training in Tropical Taxonomy” (DEB-1456674). 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.