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Tropical Ecology Research Experience

Tropical forests are charismatic ecosystems that are ideal for capturing the imagination of school-age students. The incredibly high levels of diversity, the myriad interesting life-history strategies, and the unique fauna and flora in tropical forests can act as a hook to catch the interest and imagination of students. 

The Panama Experience is an ongoing project devoted to the teaching and learning ecology and environmental science in the classroom. The Panama Experience gives inner-city, Milwaukee Public School teachers a hands-on experience in cutting-edge tropical ecology research. Participating teachers develop teaching modules that they share via this website to help elementary and secondary school teachers from around the world to communicate fundamental concepts in ecology and environmental science. 


The Panama Experience is organized by Professor Stefan Schnitzer at Marquette University and Professor Sarah Oszuscik at Maryland Montessori Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. This program is supported by multiple grants from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Teachers program.




The Panama Experience takes place on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), located in central Panama in the middle of the Panama Canal. BCI is an internationally known research station, located on a forested island preserve in central Panama and run by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The many researchers working at BCI bring different levels of specialization and experience, from undergraduate to graduate students, post docs to professors, and thus provides an inspiring and invigorating scientific environment for participating teachers.

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