Through the SFS: Panama Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies program, the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro becomes the classroom where forest and shore come together. Students study the state of the island system's fragile natural habitats, defining the main environmental issues and understanding the community's goals in natural resource management.  The archipelago hosts more marine and terrestrial species than almost anywhere on Earth.

“I would definitely recommend SFS and the Panama program in particular to other Whitman students, since I think it provided an excellent place-based learning opportunity in a location that is vastly different from Walla Walla. SFS really takes care of its students, and by the end of the program, the students, staff, and associated community members all become a very tight knit group.” - Frankie G. ‘19

Faculty Adviser:

Professor Delbert Hutchison (Biology Department)

Fields of study:

Ecology, environmental studies


Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8 (Whitman requirement); Completion of at least one college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies science course.  Competent swimming ability required.

Language Prerequisite:

None, but students' experience will be enhanced if they have at least one semester of college-level Spanish (or three years of high school Spanish).


18 credits per semester - Required Courses:
Tropical Coastal Ecology (4 credits)
Principles of Resource Management (4 credits)
Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values (4 credits)
Directed Research (4 credits)
Language, Culture , and Society of Panama (2 credits)

Credit Conversion:

1 SFS credit = 1 Whitman credit




Students live at the SFS Center on a quiet waterfront on Isla Colon.


Provided by SFS at their Center.

Semesters Offered:

Fall, Spring


late August – December, February – May


Rolling Admission - students are encouraged to apply early.


SFS Financial Aid

Program Link:

SFS: Panama Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies