Caribbean Tropical Ecology in Puerto Rico

Anoli in conch, Tropical Ecology in Puerto Rico

In winter session 2016, the Department of Biology of the University of Massachusetts Boston will offer a three-week course designed to introduce students to the basics of Caribbean tropical ecology, evolution and conservation biology that will take place in the United States territory of Puerto Rico. The course will involve a mixture of classroom and field-based learning, and include excursions to all the major ecosystems of the Caribbean tropics. The program will be taught by Liam J. Revell, professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Alberto R. Puente-Rolón, of Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Recinto Arecibo.

Program Focus

Topics of particular focus during the course include the following areas:

  1. Major ecosystems of the neotropics. Students will investigate the similarity and differences of major tropical ecosystems in diversity, ecology, flora, and fauna.
  2. Evolution of tropical island faunas. Tropical islands often represent hotspots of endemism, harboring unique species found on the island but nowhere else in the world. In the course, students will learn about this phenomenon from an explicitly evolutionary perspective, as well as other evolutionary processes characteristic of the island.
  3. History of disturbance and land use in the Caribbean. In the course, students will learn how the history of natural disturbance, land use, and the introduction of non-native species has played a role in the ecology and evolution of Puerto Rico’s flora and fauna.
  4. Conservation of Caribbean species. Many species of plants and animals in the Caribbean, terrestrial and marine alike, are under severe threat. In the course students will learn about threats to species conservation in the Caribbean, as well as measures that can be taken to protect endemic Caribbean plants and animals.

While the course will focus on the four major themes above, students will visit six different, all uniquely tropical, ecosystems that can be found in Puerto Rico: tropical rainforest, cloud forest, tropical dry forest, mangrove, coastal seagrass, and coral reef. Students will learn about the species and ecological processes that characterize each setting, as well as the environmental threats to the ecosystems. In addition, students will work in groups to design, implement, and write up several field-based projects over the duration of the course.


Dates Event
Jan 2 Arrival: San Juan
Jan 2-10 El Yunque Forest. Stay at El Verde field station.
Jan 10-15 Northwestern Karst region. Stay at Mata de Platano Field Station, Arecibo
Jan 15-23 Vieques Island. Stay at La Finca Caribe Ecolodge

Academic Credit

Students will earn a total of 4 credits, including one laboratory credit, in the following course:

  • BIOL 359: Tropical Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology


Liam J. Revell
University of Massachusetts Boston

Alberto R. Puente-Rolón
Universidad Interamericana Recinto Arecibo
Puerto Rico


Please be advised that international programs are subject to change, slight or major, at any time due to circumstances beyond our control; this includes any and all fees, dates, itinerary, and program activities. We will do our best to inform all applicants of any changes in as timely a manner as possible.

Schedule and Fee

Program runs:
January 2-23, 2016


The program fee covers all instruction and academic fees, entrance fees to research sites, lodging, three meals per day, all on-site program-related transport, and travel insurance.

To Apply

Application Deadline:
November 16, 2015

Early applications are strongly encouraged as space is limited. (Registration is managed through the College of Advancing and Professional Studies; students should not register in Wiser.)

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Request Information

For more information, please contact:

Erika White