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SIUE Faculty Led Program: Biological Studies in Panama
El Palmar, Panama; Panama City, Panama; Santa Fe, Panama
Program Terms: Summer - faculty led
Restrictions: SIUE applicants only
Dates / Deadlines:
There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Fact Sheet:
Housing Options: Hotel Language of Instruction: English
Program Type: Faculty Led Area of Study: Biology
Program Description:

Biological Studies in Panama

Panama - jungleThis unique program offers Biology majors the opportunity to explore the amazing biodiversity and culture of tropical Panama. The 6 SIUE credit program includes 17 days in Panama, with six days in Panama City and surroundings, eight days based at La Peregueta, a privately owned nature reserve located near Penonome, 60 miles southwest of Panama City, and three days at Santa Fe in the central highlands. Students will observe and learn about the unique animals, plants, and ecosystems of Panama on guided field trips and utilize wildlife and vegetation techniques learned in the field to design and perform an independent research project.

The Program Leaders, Dr. Peter Minchin and Dr. Rick Essner, both of the SIUE Department of Biological Sciences, have many years of experience in leading field-based courses in wildlife biology, ecology, and botany. Both undergraduate and graduate students may apply.


Guided day trips to observe biodiversity and natural history at sites including:
Pipeline Road Rainforest Discovery Center, where we will observe life in the tree tops from a canopy tower.
Barro Colorado Island, renowned rainforest research site managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
• The brand-new Biodiversity Museum in Panama City, due to open early in 2014, with amazing displays telling the story of how formation of the isthmus of Panama changed life on Earth.
Parque Natural Metropolitano, a nature park located within Panama City.
Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo, where we will see animals that are difficult to observe in the wild, such as the harpy eagle, the largest and most powerful bird of prey.
Santa Fe National Park, located in the central highlands, where we will see cloud forest with its unique animals and plants.

Visits to historical and cultural sites including:
Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal, where we will learn about the history of the canal, see ships passing through the locks, and enjoy a great buffet lunch.
Casco Viejo, the oldest section of Panama City, founded in 1671 after the pirate Henry Morgan looted and destroyed the original city. We will do a walking tour that includes free time to shop for souvenirs and artifacts.
Valle Anton, located in the crater of an enormous extinct volcano.
• Shopping at the street markets in Penonomé.

Optional Activities:
  • Day tour of an Embera Village, led by Embera guide Garceth Cunampio.  The Embera are one of several indigenous groups in Panama.  Those participating will go to a remote rainforest village by dugout canoe and spend the entire day experiencing this unique culture. - Additonal cost of $70
  • Snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean on a private island near Portobelo (lunch, kayaks & all gear included). - Additional cost of $58
  • Dinner and traditional Panamanian dance show at the restaurant Las Tinajas. - Additional Cost of $30

panama map

Locations visited during the program are shown as red stars on map of Panama above.


Note: Enrollment in 6.0 credit hours for the appropriate level courses is REQUIRED for participation in this program.

Undergraduate Level Courses:                                                      
BIOL 490 Natural History of Panama (3 hr)                       
BIOL 490 Wildlife and Vegetation Techniques (3 hr)                           

Graduate Level Courses:
BIOL 590 Natural History of Panama (3 hr)
BIOL 590 Wildlife and Vegetation Techniques (3 hr)

Students will be assessed SIUE tuition and the information technology fee on the Summer 2014 SIUE Bursar Bill for the 6 credit hours of SIUE credit.

PROGRAM FEE:  $1,995

The program fee will include:

  • Round trip airfair from St. Louis, MO to Panama City, Panama on the group arranged flight
  • Lodging (hotel accommodations in Panama City and Santa Fe; shared beach house in El Palmar)
  • Ground transportation in Panama
  • Some meals
  • Field trips (transportation, guided tours, entry fees)  to historical and cultural sites and guided day trips to observe biodiversity and natural history.
  • CISI International Insurance
  • Tourist Visa

Payment Due Dates:

$1,000 Deposit Payment due by December 20, 2013

$995 Balance due by March 20, 2014

The program fee does NOT include:

  • SIUE Tuition & Info Technology Fee: Participating students will be registered in 6 credit hours for the SIUE courses associated with this program. Students will be billed accordingly with Summer 2014 tuition and the information technology fee charged to the Summer 2014 SIUE Bursar bill.
  • Meals & incidental expenses in Panama - students should bring at least $300 for meals and personal expenses in Panama. The El Palmar Beach House has a fully equipped kitchen. The group will purchase groceries and prepare group meals at the house. This will provided an opportunity to reflect on the day's activities and plan and prepare for the next day.

INFORMATIONAL MEETING - All interested students are invited to attend this meeting with the faculty leaders to learn more about this program!
Wednesday, November 13 at 5:00 PM
Location: SLW 2075 (Conference room on level 2 of the Science West Building)


  • Seven nights hotel accommodations (shared rooms) at Hotel La Estancia in Panama City.  This award-winning hotel is located on a hill in Ancón, overlooking Panama City.  Wildlife can be viewed from the balcony as you enjoy a full breakfast (included).
  • Three nights hotel accommodations (shared rooms) at Hotel Santa Fe in the central highlands.
  • While learning wildlife and vegetation techniques and carrying out research projects at La Peregueta Nature Reserve, students and professors will share spacious, comfortable accommodations at a house located right on the beach at El Palmar on the Pacific coast of Panama (eight nights).
El Palmar beach house Panama

Above - Beach House at El Palmar

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (subject to change)

5/16:            Flight to from St. Louis Panama City, Panama. Transfer to Hotel La Estancia.

5/17 - 5/18:   Day trips from Panama City, including Parque Natural Metropolitano, Biodiversity Museum, Rainforest Discovery Center & Canopy Tower, Summit Botanical Gardens & Zoo, Miraflores Locks.

5/19:            OPTIONAL ACTIVITY (additional fee) - Guided day tour of an Embera Indigenous Village

5/20:            Travel to Beach House at El Palmar.
Orientation visit to La Peregüeta.

5/21 - 5/27:  
Field courses and student research projects at La Peregüeta while staying at El Palmar Beach House.

5/24:            Day trip to Valle Anton, located in the crater of an enormous extinct volcano.

5/28 - 5/30:  Travel to Santa Fe in the central highlands of Panama, staying at the Hotel Santa Fe.  We will explore the biodiversity and amazing scenery of the mountains.

5/31:            Return to Panama City (Hotel La Estancia). Afternoon tour of Casco Viejo and shopping for souvenirs and artifacts.

6/1:      All-inclusive day trip to Barro Colorado Island.

6/2:             OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES (additional fees) - Snorkeling trip to Portobelo on the Caribbean coast. Final dinner and traditional Panamanian dance show at restaurant Las Tinajas.

6/3:             Return flight from Panama City to St. Louis.

NOTE: There will be some required pre-departure meetings and students will spend two weeks after return to complete virtual collections, write reports, prepare and present posters, and take an exam for each course.  Meeting times and locations TBA.

Photo below: Drs. Essner and Minchin with SIUE student participants and guide Jacobo Ortega on previous program to Panama in 2009.

2009 SIUE group in Panama



Dr. Peter Minchin
SIUE Department of Biological Sciences
Office: SLW 1250
Tel: 650-2975
Dr. Richard Essner
SIUE Department of Biological Sciences
Office: SLW 1115
Tel: 650-2338