Foreign Study Program Course Descriptions

The Biology Foreign Study Program exposes students, through intensive, full-immersion study, to Earth’s most diverse biological communities. Students are challenged to know, understand and appreciate the diversity of form and function in organisms, and the interactions that generate the often-spectacular patterns they see in the field.


Course Details

The Biology Foreign Study Program (Biology 55, 56, 57) exposes students, through intensive, full-immersion study, to Earth’s most diverse biological communities. Biology 56 is a continuation of Biology 55; these courses comprise the first two-thirds of the FSP, and focus on land (tropical forests) and tropical freshwater ecosystems in Costa Rica. Biology 57 focuses on coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean.

Bio 55 and Bio 56

Habitats in Costa Rica

Habitats in Costa Rica include lowland rain forest (La Selva and Corcovado), cloud forest (Monteverde), dry forest (Palo Verde and Santa Rosa), pre-montane wet forest (Las Cruces), montane forest (Cuerici), alpine paramo, streams, and wetlands. The schedule is full, including fieldwork, laboratories, lectures and discussions, with emphasis on original research, mostly in small groups of 2-3. Faculty and advanced graduate TAs share field accommodations with students and are in continuous contact as mentors throughout the program. Students master field and analytical methods (including hypothesis testing, statistical and software skills) for observational and experimental research. We pursue a great variety of research topics, including plant-pollinator and plant-herbivore interactions, processes driving coral reef structure (and coral reef decline), determinants of species distributions, animal behavior, and conservation ecology. Students practice contemporary scientific inquiry: making observations, asking testable questions, generating hypotheses, developing experimental protocols, collecting data, making statistical inferences - including multi-model comparisons, writing scientific papers, and presenting seminars. Research papers are published in an annual book. Accommodations are at field stations in Costa Rica, and at a marine laboratory in the Caribbean. 

Printable syllabus from Winter 2017.

Bio 57

Ecological Research on Coral Reefs

Field and laboratory investigations of marine organisms and coral reef communities. A continuation of Bio 55 and 56 (above). Lecture and research topics include studies of algae, aquatic plants, invertebrates, and fish, with emphasis on populations, species interactions, community structure and energetics, and reef conservation and management. The course is based at the Little Cayman Research Center, Little Cayman Island. Scuba diving is optional.

The Biology FSP Book

Each BioFSP class publishes a book containing the reports (~50) from student research projects that were conducted during the term. All prospective applicants are encouraged to look through these books. They represent the academic core of the BioFSP experience. These books are available in the Biology office and the Dana Library (in the serials section as Dartmouth Studies in Tropical Ecology). The books are also available online and many of the BioFSP papers have been published in DJUS and in peer-reviewed journals.  

Distributives: SLA.  Culminating experience for seniors.