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Dates: July 9, 2008 - July 23, 2008
Location: Bocas Research Station, Bocas del Toro, Panamá
Organizer: Dr. Rachel Collin
Registration Fee: $500 (Includes room and board, STRI registration, etc). Fellowships are available


Dr. Suzanne Fredericq

Dr. Wilson Freshwater

Dr. Brian Wysor

Course description:

This course is designed to orient participants to the biodiversity of tropical marine floras through field and laboratory work. Specifically, it will emphasize the development or enhancement of practical skills essential for identification, characterization and preservation of tropical marine macroalgae (seaweeds). Sampling forays in diverse environments (e.g., mangrove habitats, seagrass beds, coral reefs, sponge communities) on protected and exposed shorelines throughout the Bocas del Toro Archipelago will complement morphological and molecular investigations in the laboratory.

  • Morphological investigation will emphasize the preparation of specimens for microscopic examination and the interpretation of vegetative and reproductive structures in living material in the light of published observations from the primary literature. Participants will contribute to the development of the Bocas del Toro Biodiversity Inventory ( and the development of a bi-lingual field guide to the local marine flora through the production of individual species pages documenting microscopical and field observations (e.g., Lobophora variegata).
  • Molecular investigation will emphasize sampling and preservation of material for subsequent analysis of DNA sequences for barcoding, phylogenetic and biogeographical studies. Data derived from this part of the class will contribute to the Bocas del Toro Barcode of Life Project.

Most field sites can be sampled by snorkeling (0-10m depths), but optional SCUBA diving opportunities will be available. The course will be taught in English.


Cindy Fernandez

University of Costa Rica
My research interests are the taxonomy and ecology of Pacific and Caribbean macroalgae, biodiversity and biogeography of Eastern Pacific algae species and algae invasions. Currently I have been studying the biodiversity and ecology of algae of Cocos Island National Park and an invasive alga (Caulerpa sertularioides) in Caño Island Marine Reserve and in Culebra Bay. Soon, I will be beginning my PhD project, titled “Taxonomy and phylogeography of Caulerpaceae, Dictyotaceae and Corallinales in Pacific Central-America”, that aims to update the algae biodiversity of the region and to understand its distribution.

Martha Diaz

Universidad Nacional de Colombia
My research is the integral study of the marine macroalgae, looking for enhance its ecological knowledge. During the last four years, I have been a Curator at the Colombian Marine Natural History Museum in this group, from Marine and Coastal Researcher Institute “José Benito Vives de Andreis”- Invmar. I am doing my master in the National University of Colombia with Dr. Guillermo Díaz Pulido and Dr. Sven Zea as my advisors, the main goal of my research is to understand the influence of some factors (herbivory, sedimentation and algal propagule density) related to coral reefs degradation inside algal communities. Rates of coral reef degradation have increased globally in the last 30 years and will continue to rise in the future. These are the main reasons why I have been interested in the understanding of the algae role in the maintenance of reef health and reef degradation.

Olga Camacho

Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano
I am interested in seaweeds since my practical subjects as student of Marine Biology at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Colombian Caribbean. Particularly, the genus Sargassum has caught my attention, from his complex taxonomy to ecologically and productive aspects that determine his relevancy in tropical ecosystems. As bachelor degree thesis, I carried out a taxonomic study on this genus. With the intention of continuing and increase the knowledge about the population’s dynamics of Sargassum in this particular area of the Caribbean, and to provide solid bases for the management of the marine biodiversity, I am currently developing a project with two of more representative and abundant species of the genus. Specifically, I am studying his reproductive phenology, abundance and recruitment. This investigation makes part of my master’s thesis at the Universidad del Magdalena in Colombia.

Margarita Rosa Albis Salas

Universidad Nacional de Colombia
I am doing a master in Science-Marine Biology in Universidad Nacional de Colombia. I am from Sincelejo, Colombia. My thesis degree is about Thalassia testudinum` physiological and morphological caracteristics. I working with benthic and ephifitic algae associate to the seagrass bed.

Andrea Planas Orellana

Universidad de El Salvador
I come from the University of El Salvador. I have been collaborating, as auxiliary student, in the Inventory and Maintenance of the Phycology Reference Collection in the Biology School, of this University and I am currently realizing my bachelor thesis related with the epibenthic community on the submerged roots of Rhizophora mangle in Barra de Santiago, Ahuachapán, El Salvador. I am interested in the study of mangrove-associated algae and seaweeds, and in acquiring more knowledge about the taxonomy and ecological factors of these tropical species in order to apply in future researchers.

Ryan Fikes

Center for Coastal Studies Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
My research interests include tropical macroalgal ecology and community dynamics of Caribbean rocky ironshores. My master’s thesis was conducted on recruitment and colonization patterns of macroalgae to a newly formed tidal inlet in the northwest Gulf of Mexico. I am very interested in gaining a better understanding of advanced taxonomic skills, specifically molecular techniques such as barcoding. I would like to be able to apply these skills to assist in determining contributions of Caribbean macroalgae to that of the Gulf of Mexico

Kevin Miklasz

Hopkins Marine Station
I study algal biomechanics, in particular the bouyancy of diatoms and the reproduction of coralline algae. I am particularly interested in the taxonomy of coralline algae and understanding what factors have led to their diversity and distribution. My knowledge of algal diversity has been limited to temperate habitats, I am looking forward to exploring tropical diversity this summer.

Samantha Schmitt

University of North Carolina at Wilmington
I am interested in the morphological and genetic variation of marine macroalgae surrounding the Isthmus of Panama. I am attending the University of North Carolina-Wilmington to obtain my masters degree in marine biology. While studying at UNCW I am working with Dr. Wilson Freshwater at the Center for Marine Science.

Thomas Sauvage

University of Hawaii at Manoa
My research interests are in coral reef ecology, invasive species and algal taxonomy. For my Master's thesis, I am characterizing the benthic changes that have occured on Waikiki Reef (Oahu, Hawaii) over the past 40 years following the introduction and subsequent invasion by the red alga Gracilaria salicornia. I am also investigating the genetic diversity of the genus Caulerpa in Hawaii. Recent confiscation of an alien Caulerpa in a local aquarium shop highlights the threat posed by the marine aquarium trade as a vector for alien species introduction in Hawaii. There is an urgent need to obtain molecular confirmation of Caulerpa species native to the archipelago.

Anna Fricke

ZMT Bremen
From the cold north, where I delt with the succession of Arctic macroalgal communities during my diploma thesis, I then changed to the warmer south. Now, in my doctoral thesis, I investigate tropical macroalgal communities and the modulating effects of ultraviolet radiation on their succession. I am highly interested in gaining a better understanding in taxonomic techniques and looking forward to learn more about the tropical environment.

Jimena Samper Villareal

I am interested in marine botany, I have worked in projects involving the taxonomy of algal epiphytes on seagrasses, Caribbean of Costa Rica algae taxonomy and taxonomy and ecology of algae in mangroves. I am also interested in seagrass and mangrove ecology, as well as integrated coastal zone management. I am currently enrolled in the licentiate of Ecology and Management of Water Resources at the University of Costa Rica, and will be attending the Tropical Coastal Management M.Sc. Program at Newcastle University as of next September.

Course materials