Marine Biology of Coral Reefs

Snorkel the second largest barrier reef in the world, off the coast of Belize, on this 10-day field expedition. Study the ecology and conservation of fish, corals, sponges, and reef ecosystems, putting your knowledge into practice on a remote Caribbean island – Southwater Caye – in the middle of a marine reserve.


The Ceiba Marine Biology of Coral Reefs program provides an introduction to oceanography, marine biology, and marine conservation in a blended format. The course overall totals four weeks, beginning with two weeks of online instruction followed by a 10-day marine science expedition to Belize, and then a couple more days online to wrap up the course.


The online content will be presented via video lectures, discussion forums, and collaboration tools (wikis) in an asynchronous format, providing maximum flexibility for students who are off campus or working during the summer. Fundamentals of oceanography and an overview of the ecology of mangroves, coral reefs, sea grasses and other marine ecosystems will be presented during the online component. You will read peer-reviewed marine science literature and collaborate online to develop a research proposal prior to traveling to Belize.

The field component in Belize will take place on Southwater Caye, offshore from the coastal village of Dangriga. The focus will be hands-on instruction of common marine field and laboratory research methods, including transect and plot based surveys of fish, algae, and benthic invertebrates, plankton tows, and measurement of physical characteristics of seawater.

During the first 3-4 days, you will visit the nearby seagrass, mangrove, and coral reef ecosystems and gain experience in marine field research through structured field activities. You will also practice and refine your proposed research methods. Over the second week, you will carry out your proposed research projects, obtaining guidance and feedback from the course instructors, and participating in nightly group reflections.

During the final 3-4 days, you will analyze your data, write up your results, and prepare an oral presentation that will be presented to the group in a final symposium. Daily field work will be complemented by group discussions and presentations on marine conservation.

You will also participate on an excursion to the Blue River Rainforest reserve where you will be exposed to a different side of Belizean culture, and get a chance to experience another aspect of the rich terrestrial environment of Belize. The deadline for the Summer 2019 course is Friday, March 1st. Apply now! (UW-Madison).