MARINE BIOLOGY MAY TERM:
ROATAN ISLAND, HONDURAS
Dr. Mel Zimmerman, Professor of Biology and Director of the Clean Water Institute, has been teaching Tropical Marine Biology as part of the May Terms at Lycoming College since 1984. He has made 23 trips to the Caribbean/Gulf or Central America with more than 200 students from Lycoming. All but 5 of these trips were to the Hofstra University Marine lab in Jamaica.
During a sabbatical in 1989, Dr. Zimmerman and his wife, Gail (certified in Biology), were directors of the Hofstra lab for a semester. They were directors again during the summer of 2001. After 25 years in operation, the Hofstra lab in Jamaica closed in 2005, and Dr. Zimmerman used a professional development grant tied to his sabbatical in 2006 to complete an eight-day workshop organized by The Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) on Tropical Marine Ecology at the Roatan Institute for Marine Science (RIMS), a private teaching/research lab housed at Anthony’s Key, Roatan Island, Honduras.
The experience led Dr. Zimmerman to organize a May Term in 2007 that included an extended eight-day trip to Roatan. The RIMS lab is located in the middle of a 13km protected area known as the Sandy Bay Marine Reserve. The island of Roatan is along the southern edge of the second largest barrier reef in the world. The MESO-American Barrier Reef extends from Yukatan (Mexico) south to the Bay Islands of Honduras.
This year 16 students will travel to RIMS on a week field trip (starting June 2) at the end of their May Term course in Tropical Marine Biology. Two-to-three snorkel/dive trips each day along the reefs will explore coral diversity and reef health. We will explore the ecology of organisms ranging from sponges, squid, octopus, sea turtles to fish; including Groupers, Wrasse, Parrotfish, Butterfly fish, and an occasional Barracuda. Twelve of the students are certified PADI open water divers who completed their dive instruction at Lycoming College. An added bonus to the lab is a dolphin training/research facility. Fifteen bottlenose dolphins reside at RIMS and, after lectures on their ecology and physiology, students are able to snorkel as part of their course encounter. Field trips also included a tropical forest/garden ecology tour and a “zip-line” canopy tour that starts in the central-highland and ends at the sea and a night snorkel.
Twelve of the 16 students are certified PADI open water divers. A scuba certification course is offered every semester at Lycoming for PE credit (Dr. Zimmerman is dive master). Two dive trips are planned each day – including a night dive and an optional shark dive.