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BIOL 394: Caribbean Marine Biology

Statement of Purpose:
This program is designed to provide students with a coral reef biology and aquatic animal and ecosystem field experience. It will involve on-site lectures by local experts and extensive snorkeling/diving activities in a variety of marine habitats.

General Information

Dr. Don Sakaguchi of the Dept of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology (GDCB) and Biology Program.
Dr. Jeanne Serb of the Dept of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB) and Biology Program.
Please contact Dr. Sakaguchi ( to have your name placed on our email list.

Course Number and Credits:
BIOL 394 A (seminar, 1 credit) and BIOL 394 B (field trip, 1 credit). Students must enroll in both 394A and B. These credits count toward your advanced biology coursework.

Grading for BIOL 394A and 394B is S/F. Evaluation will be based upon student participation, completion of assignments, submission of a research paper on some aspect of marine biology and oral presentation of research topic.

Informational Meetings: 
If you would like more information, please attend one of these informational sessions:
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 4:30 – 5:20 PM in Bessey Rm 2234,
Thursday, Sept. 15, 4:10 – 5:25 PM in Bessey Rm 2226,
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 5:25 – 6:15 PM in Bessey Rm 2226.

BIO 394 video slide show by Aubrey Brouillette, BIO 394 class of 2014.

Curriculum planned will include lectures on coral reef ecology, marine invertebrates and fish, dolphins, health considerations while traveling abroad, Honduran culture and history, climatology of Central America and the Bay Islands. 

Program at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) will include seminars and labs in marine biology and ecology, coral reef biology, reef invertebrates and fishes, and marine mammals. One side trip to a local village on Roatan Island is planned for one afternoon.
Coral restoration project
Coral restoration project: ISU BIO 394 students cleaning off the coral trees.


Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) at Anthony's Key Resort on Roatan - Bay Islands, Honduras.

Roatan is approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) long, and less than 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across at its widest point.

Roatan is on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere (2nd largest in the world), stretching over 1,000 km from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down to the Bay Islands of Honduras.

The primary objective of RIMS is preservation of Roatan's natural resources through education and research.AKR Airial View

Course Requirements:
Students must possess an exceptionally strong desire to learn more about marine science and the marine environment.
Students should have successfully completed at least one year of college-level biology. Students must be very comfortable in an aquatic environment (i.e. extensive marine activities: snorkeling and/or SCUBA diving). 
SCUBA certification is NOT a requirement.
Students must be capable of participating in 2-3 open water activities over the course of 12 hrs. (each activity requiring 30-75 minutes). 
If you have questions about these course requirements please contact the course instructors.

RIMS guests are housed in quad occupancy louvered wooden bungalows overlooking the lagoon reefs.

Each has a ceiling fan, 24-hour electricity, and a bathroom, including hot water shower; three ample meals a day are served (food has been described as excellent by past participants).
AKRAKR dIve dock

Estimated Program Fee (subject to change):
Estimated Program fee is approximately $3,500 (subject to change as we are still negotiating airline fares) includes roundtrip airfare, lodging, travel/health insurance, in-country arrangements, diving and snorkeling, RIMS Marine Biology Program. RIMS marine biology program, two dives/snorkeling daily, one-night dive/snorkeling, RIMS lectures on coral reef biology and dolphins, educational dolphin platform session, dolphin snorkel, tips for baggage handling, housekeeping service, waiters, chefs, boat captain, divemaster, and boat.

Many students are eligible for study abroad scholarships to help with the course fee.

Other Fees
$50 study abroad administrative fee charged by Study Abroad Center in 3224 MU (charged directly to U-bill), ~$15 for trip insurance.

Out of Pocket Expenses
$165 Passport and mailing
~$200 Personal expenses (some meals, souvenirs, toiletries, cell phone fees, visa, vaccines and preventative medications, etc.)
For those interested in SCUBA certification (additional fees are associated with SCUBA class and materials (Scuba certification with open-water dives and rental of scuba/snorkeling gear).

Note: The program fee does not include: SCUBA class and materials, SCUBA certification, and rental of SCUBA/snorkeling gear, Study Abroad fees (indicated under Other ISU fees), vaccinations, immunizations and preventive medicines, and other incidental expenses that you may incur.

Additional information and Program Application available here.

COVID-19 Note: By accepting applications for this study abroad program, our intent is to offer this program as proposed. However, if the COVID-19 situation does not improve, and if travel restrictions are not lifted, this program will not be offered as planned. Applying for this study abroad program through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is risk-free. If the program is cancelled, you will not be held financially responsible for the program fee.

RIMS Services:
Dry and wet laboratories.
A large air conditioned classroom with A/V equipment
Specimen collections and reference library.
Tours and use of Roatan Museum that chronicles and displays the cultural and archaeological history of the region.
One all purpose dive boat with guides, use of tanks, weights and belts.
Vehicles for transport with guides to terrestrial sites (1 trip).
Recompression chamber and medical clinic (doctor on call 24-hours).
Recreational services and facilities of adjacent AKR.
Escorted round-trip transfer from airport to Institute.
RIMS sign

 RIMS 2022-School of Blue Tang


Interesting and helpful links:
National Oceanic and Atmosphereic Administration - Coral Reef
Information System (CoRIS)

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)
International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN)
Reef Check
Project AWARE Foundation
Information about Roatan Island
Anthony's Key Resort and Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences
CDC Home Travel Information Page
CDC Travel Information: Mexico and Central America
Information on sea temperature around Roatan
Information on the weather in Bay Islands

RIMS 2022-Snorkelers


RIMS 2022

Dates for next spring break field trip (BIOL 394B): March 11-19, 2023 (Saturday to Sunday; subject to change).