Session 2

Are you interested in life under the sea and how organisms interact to shape entire ecosystems?


Are you looking for independent research experience that will be invaluable to your resume?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a marine biologist?


If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then this course is meant for you!

Course description

This course has two core goals: 1) provide a conceptual understanding of ecology with an  emphasis on marine community ecology in tropical coral reefs, 2) immerse students in field research, from conceptualization to final products (including formal presentations and reports).

The first week and a half of the course (7 meetings total) will cover core topics in marine ecology, including pop. biology, community assembly and succession, biodiversity, and species interactions. Following the on-campus portion of the course, we will depart for an extended field trip (17 nights) to Akumal, Mexico (Mayan for “place of the turtle”). Students, assisted by instructors, will conduct field research using snorkel gear and surveying/manipulative techniques in Akumal Bay, a coral reef and sea grass-based ecosystem teeming with wildlife (including an abundant sea turtle population).


The Destination

Akumal, Mexico (Yucatán Peninsula) — is an ideal base for studying one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. South of Cancun, Akumal is just meters away from the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef system and is surrounded by mangrove forests and jungle that house ‘cenotes’ — breathtaking underwater caverns.

The crystal-clear Caribbean sea invites exploration of the wondrous world under the sea, while the near-by Mayan ruins at Tulum offer a glimpse into Mexico’s pre-Columbian past. Because tourism in the region has placed a strain on the environment, there is a local non-profit NGO, Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA), advocating sustainable development and ecological conservation. The course instructors have an ongoing scientific collaboration with CEA, recently publishing a scientific article on the impact of tourism on the coral reefs of Akumal Bay.




We will stay in the beach-front eco-resort “Hotel Akumal Caribe”, providing us immediate access to the reef, where students will conduct field research projects. The owner of the resort is a conservationist and a friend of the instructors; she has supported this course for many years, when it was offered through the University of Texas at Austin. Here is the resort website:


Instructor: Mike Gil | Email:

Format: Introductory activities, lectures and discussions at UF (7, 2-hour meetings), immersive (literally) field research in Mexico: data collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation

Required Text: Required readings will be provided for free, in PDF form.

Estimated Costs: $2,867. This includes: tuition for 4 UF GPA credits, all accommodations, transportation, and meals while in Mexico, and international health insurance. The course fees DO NOT include: Round-trip airfare to Akumal, additional personal travel and optional personal expenses.

Class Meeting Time (while at UF)M,T,W,R,F | Period 9 – 10 (4:05 PM – 6:00 PM)

Tentative Class ScheduleTentative_schedule_Marine_Ecology_Akumal_2018_v1

This course has a limited number of seats – applications are currently closed for this course– International course applications were due Oct. 2nd, 2017.

For accepted applicants:A $350 deposit is due by Oct. 11th to secure your spot in the course. Please see this link from the University of Florida International Center regarding your deposit.: click here!