Who we are
To provide study abroad, tropical field educational and research experience to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students, provide facilities for long-term biological research in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, operate programs for the conservation of terrestrial and marine resources and to serve the local community by establishing educational programs and workshops on environmental awareness and resource conservation.
To create, through experiential learning, individuals who are not only better prepared to meet the challenges of their academic careers but who also have increased awareness of their relationship to the environment. Our hope is that these assets will translate into individuals capable of making informed and meaningful decisions that will positively affect the future of our planet.
The Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Inc., was founded in September of 1996 when a group of like-minded professors, researchers and conservationists met in Gainesville, Florida, and set down the preliminary charter for the organization. ITEC was formally organized as a legal non-profit corporation in April of 1997 and received its 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status in March of 1999. In May, 1997, ITEC established the Bocas del Toro Biological Station in Boca del Drago, Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro Province, Republic of Panama. Taking advantage of the two adjacent ecosystems in the area, two courses were held in that year, Coral Reef Ecology and Tropical Rainforest Ecology. A total of 11 students and four faculty members attended. In that same year, ITEC also initiated the Marine Turtle Program and received permits from ANAM to operate this monitoring program on several area beaches.
With the addition of new summer sessions and several new field courses (primate ecology and geology) in the second year, student enrollment doubled. In each subsequent year until 2001, enrollment in ITEC field courses continued to double as diverse field courses were presented including ethnobotany, entomology, herpetology and animal behavior. A forest restoration project was begun in 1999 along with various local school projects such as the planting of trees and donations of sports and cooking equipment. Volunteer numbers continued to increase within the marine turtle and forest restoration programs.
With the turn of the century ITEC undertook several new initiatives that included adding to field station infrastructure and opening the station to visiting academic groups. ITEC also began the application process for membership in the City of Knowledge and added a new academic session over winter break. The events surrounding 911 in September of 2001 caused a serious reduction in our enrollment for 2002 and ITEC considered closing its doors. But the organization persevered and in 2002 ITEC became a legal non-profit organization in Panama (Resulto 221-PJ-108). From 2003 to 2010, ITEC continued to grow, add new courses and provide educational and research facilities for students, researchers and numerous school groups. Over the years thousands of students, instructors, volunteers and researchers have participated in ITEC programs.
Due to problems associated with the unregulated tourism taking place at our location on Drago Beach, a decision was made to find a new site for the Bocas del Toro Field Station. In 2011 a new location was chosen that was situated near Ground Creek in Boca del Drago, only a mile from our original site. The new location offered many advantages; it was closer to the rainforest and marine ecosystems that we depend on and completely isolated from the negative influences of tourism. On receiving our building permit from local authorities, construction began in earnest. By the end of 2012, the dormitory, kitchen and dining room had been completed and Winter Session that year was held at the new facility. New infrastructure came online in 2013 including the laboratory, library, classrooms, dive storage facility and water tower. Future construction will include a faculty and researcher residence, elevated mangrove and swamp forest walkway, and a marine research laboratory adjacent to the station’s coral reef.
Each year ITEC continues to provide a variety of ecology and anthropology field courses, hosts many visiting academic groups and provides research facilities and support to visiting scientists.
ITEC does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin with regard to staff employment, acceptance of students, research assistants or volunteers, or in any aspect of its operation.
Study Abroad in Panama!