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Dates: July 24, 2015 - August 7, 2015
Location: Bocas del Toro Research Station
Organizer: Dr. Rachel Collin
Registration Fee: $850 (includes STRI registration, room and board)


Dr. Patrick Krug

California State University, Los Angeles

Dr. Angel A. Valdes

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Course description:

This course will provide integrative training in the taxonomy and systematics of sea slugs, a charismatic group of marine gastropods, to interested graduate students and post-docs. The taxonomic instability of many sea slug groups illustrates challenges associated with identifying, describing and classifying soft-bodied marine invertebrates. This course will demonstrate how integrating data on external and internal morphology, ecology, reproductive characters and molecular data can produce more robust species descriptions, and advance the study of diversity and character evolution in a phylogenetic context.

Participants will learn:

  • to identify and describe common heterobranch sea slugs from mangrove and shallow coral reef habitats around Bocas del Toro.
  • to identify ecological characteristics such as host or habitat use, and reproductive characters such as larval development mode.
  • basic collection and ecological survey techniques for small, cryptic and mobile taxa.
  • to describe external morphology and prepare samples for examination of internal anatomy.
  • analytical methods for species delimitation using molecular sequence data.
  • integration of morphological and molecular results to produce modern species descriptions and monographs

This course aims to train the next generation of heterobranch taxonomists in tools needed to produce modern species descriptions, and to perform studies on the taxonomy, ecology and evolution of sea slugs. The course will last 12 days. The first four days will focus on Sacoglossa, including collection and survey techniques, host identification, and taxonomic training using common taxa at Bocas del Toro. The next three days will focus on other heterobranch groups such as nudibranchs, cephalaspideans and others, with time for independent projects. Lectures will cover higher systematics of heterobranchs and characteristics of sea slug orders, plus feeding, reproduction, and chemical ecology of major sea slug groups. The last five days will be dedicated to an independent project, and presentation of data. Daily activities will include lectures, trips, lab work, discussion sections, and/or participant presentations.

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, 2015. 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 Taxonomy Training.


Kimberly Garcia

University of Costa Rica
I am a Marine biologist from Costa Rica. I am broadly interested in the biology of sea slugs. My specific interests are the taxonomy, ecology and biodiversity of tropical sea slugs. During the last five years, I have been working in different projects involving the study of biodiversity and molecular biology of sea slugs of Costa Rica. My Degree´s thesis focused on the ecological associations between seas slugs and macroalgaes on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, identifying both the host and the sea slugs. This course represents an important tool to expand my knowledge and experience in the study of sea slugs.

Lina Marcela Jimenez

Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
I am an environmental engineer; I am finishing my studies in Biology. Currently, I am in the last semester, at Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin. My bachelor thesis is about the taxonomy and ecology of opisthobranches from the southern Colombian Caribbean. During the course, I expect to obtain the tools to identify and describe taxonomically, and to increase my knowledge about ecology and evolution, as well as meet people who share my interest for these amazing animals.

Jessica Goodheart

University of Maryland, College Park, U.S.A.
“I am a PhD student at the University of Maryland, College Park and research student at the Smithsonian. I'm broadly interested in marine invertebrate evolution and systematics, but my main focus has been primarily on opisthobranchs (sea slugs). My research will focus on the systematics of a group of nudibranch sea slugs called Cladobranchia and the evolution of nematocyst sequestration in that group.”

Xochitl Vital

National Autonomous University of Mexico
At present, I’m finishing a Master (in Marine Biology) at the Graduate Program in Marine Sciences and Limnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). My work aims to compare the opisthobranch’s communities in two coral reefs from a Natural Protected Area in Southern Gulf of Mexico, which has been disturbed for a long time by human activities. I’m interested in the biology, taxonomy, ecology and conservation of marine animals, and in my opinion, sea slugs is the most interesting group of marine invertebrates. Knowledge about these mollusks in my country is scarce, especially for the Atlantic coast, therefore I intend to help to fulfill many of the gaps in information that we have.

Craig Hoover

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, U.S.A.
I am a second year M. S. student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. I study population genetics of nudibranchs, and am interested in how changing oceanic conditions affect dynamics. This year presents the Pacific a wonderful example with an El Nino, and I look forward to peeking at the slug fauna of the Atlantic.

Vishal Bhave

Bombay Natural History Society, India
I am Vishal Bhave, work as Scientist at Bombay Natural History Society, India. I work on sea slugs of India. I have recently submitted my doctoral thesis on sea slugs of Ratnagiri, Maharashtra from Department of Zoology, Gogate-Jogalekar College. Since 2009, BNHS have started full fledge collection and I have curatorial responsibility of the same. My research is at infancy and is in exploratory phase. Future goal includes integrative taxonomy, to study distribution, ecology, and biogeographic affinities of this group. I also work on biodiversity mapping of coastal Maharashtra, where majority of coastline remains to be explored for diversity. This course will definitely help me to take this further with proficiency and future collaboration with fellows.

Hilton Galvao

University of São Paulo − USP, Brazil
I am a current student in the PhD program of Systematics, Animal Taxonomy and Biodiversity at The University of São Paulo – USP, Brazil. My research project includes taxonomy and phylogeny of solar-powered sea slugs (family Plakobranchidae) based on morphological characters. I am mainly interested in the taxonomy and systematics of sea slugs as a whole. Their biology and evolutionary history are in my field of studies as well.

Sabrina Medrano

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, U.S.A.
I am currently an M.S. Biology student at Cal Poly Pomona. As an undergrad pursuing a B.S. in Zoology, I briefly worked with grasses, lizards and even conducted marine surveys. I am currently working on the systematics of two sacoglossan genera (Cyerce and Polybranchia). I am conducting molecular and morphological investigations to answer questions regarding their phylogenetic relationship and biogeographic range.

Gina Lopez

University of El Salvador, El Salvador
Currently, I am an undergraduate BS student from the University of El Salvador, focusing my soon-to-begin thesis on taxonomy and systematic of Opisthobranchs, to identify which species are found out in the rocky intertidal zone from the Occidental Coast of El Salvador, in the rainy season specifically, which is going to be of great contribution for the knowledge of the scientific entity of my country for being almost an unkown area. My interest in Sea slugs is the research on their toxin compounds and how they could be use for active pharmaceutical ingredients. So, this course will be very trascendental for my professional formation.

Jennifer McCarthy

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, U.S.A.
At California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, I was an undergraduate researcher in bioinformatics under Dr. Peter Arensburger. In this lab I learned basic PERL programming and how to work with whole genome data sets. This sparked my interest in genomics, which drove me to look into graduate labs where I could combine genetics and my lifelong passion for marine biology. After graduating in June of 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in General Biology and a minor in Physiology, I was accepted into Dr. Àngel Valdés' lab. Starting in fall of 2014, I continued at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, working towards a Master's in Biological Sciences. I have started my Master's thesis project on a group of Sacoglossans, using molecular and morphometric analyses to revise the family Juliidae.

Jaymes Awbrey

California State University, Long Beach, U.S.A.
I have continued my education at California State University – Los Angeles in the Krug Lab. The Krug Lab has offered me invaluable experience in techniques for studying evolution and taxonomy in marine invertebrates. My work in the lab has expanded my knowledge base of computer analyses and methodology of species delimitation while studying a unique group of sea slugs that exhibits a high level of cryptic diversity. At the same time, the lab has given me ample opportunity to study some of the basic morphology characteristics in a number of these slugs.

Jessika de Jesus

California State University, Long Beach, U.S.A.
My passion has always been in the field of marine biology. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). I began my undergraduate career with a long standing interest in the overall field of marine biology, but as I furthered my education, I developed more specific interests in marine invertebrate biology, wetland and restoration ecology, marine biodiversity, and conservation. While assisting graduate students and professors in a wetlands restoration project, I developed a love for fieldwork and came to appreciate the beauty and natural resources that wetlands provide for us. I am currently a first year graduate student at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) working to achieve a Master’s Degree in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology/Ecology. I am now in the second quarter of my first year, working under the direction of my M.S. thesis advisor, Dr. Patrick Krug, in the Larval Ecology and Evolution Lab. My thesis will focus on the larval biology and ecology of Caribbean sea slugs, mainly looking at larval development, dispersal, and swimming behavior.

William Gowaki

University of South Florida, U.S.A.
As an undergraduate at the University of South Florida, I was a student of Dr. Sidney Pierce for Biology II and Advanced Invertebrate Zoology. From him I learned much about sea slug, especially those with kleptoplastic abilities. I received my bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in marine biology in the summer of 2014. Now, as a graduate student at USF pursuing a master’s degree in integrative biology, I have the privilege of continuing my education and actively researching these very same sea slugs alongside Drs. Susan Bell and Sidney Pierce. I am currently researching the life history and seasonality of the kleptoplastic sacoglossan Elysia papillosa at a location in Tarpon Springs, FL.