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Dates: July 17, 2006 - July 28, 2006
Location: Bocas Research Station, Bocas del Toro, Panamá
Organizer: Dr. Rachel Collin


Dr. Cristina Diaz

Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Robert Thacker

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Course description:

In July 2006, 13 students representing 9 countries participated in a 12-day course on the taxonomy and ecology of Caribbean sponges. This course worked synergistically with the Smithsonian Institution’s DNA Barcode initiative. Lecture material included discussions of the current taxonomy of marine sponges and tunicates, an overview of the morphological characters that differentiate families, recent developments of cytological characters, and applications of molecular systematics to questions in taxonomy. Field surveys of mangrove and reef communities allowed students to gain experience with field identification and with several survey techniques. During the class instructors and students collected multiple samples of 100 sponge species with the goal of providing proof of concept for rapidly and efficiently generating high quality DNA extractions for DNA barcoding as samples are identified by experts at the point of collection. Students conducted independent projects on assaying the diversity of cryptic interstitial sponge fauna, diversity of sponges of mangrove islands and the development of resources on sponge biology for educators. Sponsored by SENACYT.


Chris Freeman

Georgia Southern University- USA
I am studying the chemical ecology and biochemistry of sponges from Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, a temperate hard-bottom reef off the coast of Georgia. In particular, I am interested in the defensive chemicals that these sponges use to deter predators. I am using a combination of analytical chemistry to quantify the concentration of the these compounds and field and laboratory feeding assays to investigate their deterrent ability.

Renata Goodridge

University of the West Indies - Barbados
I am the coordinator of field projects for CERMES, University of the West Indies, including coordination of and technical support for students and staff. As a marine scientist and the chief diver for research and contracted work through CERMES and the Office of Research, I have been involved in coral reef assessment projects throughout the Caribbean for over 15 years. My favorite underwater creatures are sponges, and so I find myself delving ever deeper into the sponges of Barbados' varied reef systems.

Ivan Alberto Ramirez


Lisa Becking


Estrella Villamizar


Alex Mercado

Puerto Rico

Steve Kimble


Lianna Jarecki

British VI

Gisele Lobo Hajdu


Matthew Forrest


Christina Elmore


Maria Amaro


Lorenzo Alvarez


Course materials