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BIOL 481 & 481L: Tropical Island Ecology & Evolution

Tropical Island Ecology and Evolution - a field based undergraduate partnership offered by the Univeristy of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo in partnership with the Organization for Tropical Studies


4 Weeks, July 3 - 31, 2017


Hawai╩╗i Island

  • Pu╩╗uwa╩╗awa╩╗a Dry Forest
  • Hakalau Forest Biological Field Station
  • Hawai╩╗i Volcanoes National Park
  • Waipio Valley - P┼Źh─üh─ü i ka Lani


  • BIOL┬á481-481L Tropical Island Ecology & Evolution + Lab (2 credit hours)

Why Hawai╩╗i

biol 481 bird

Due to their extreme isolation and environmental variation, the Hawaiian Islands are one of the world's biodiversity "hotspots". Over 90% of the terrestrial plants and animals in Hawai╩╗i are found nowhere else in the world. It holds the unfortunate distinction of having the greatest number of endangered species of any U.S. state. Invasive species, climate change, and habitat degradation pose significant challenges to Hawai╩╗i's ecosystems, making it a vitally important case study for biodiversity conservation.

Tropical Island Ecology and Evolution

biology 481 volcano image

Students will work with University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo faculty and other experts to design and carry out individual research studies in a variety of natural areas on Hawai╩╗i Island. Through lectures and field-trips to ecosystems such as coastal strand, active volcanoes, tropical rainforest, tropical dry forest, and even alpine tundra, students will learn about the processes of competition, dispersal, primary succession, restoration, speciation and extinction, and the various factors that threaten island biodiversity.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify and understand the key processes that influence the ecology and evolution of tropical island systems
  • Apply the knowledge of island ecosystems gained from this course to address conservation issues in a variety of fragmented landscapes across the globe
  • Discuss conceptual issues underlying current research topics in tropical island environments
  • Evaluate and discuss scientific research critically
  • Successfully design and carry out all aspects of a field research project
A tropical rainforest

Course Syllabus & Schedule

  • Week 1:
    • University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo
    • Hawai╩╗i Volcano National Park
  • Week 2:
    • Pu╩╗uwa╩╗awa╩╗a Dry Forest
  • Week 3:
    • Waipio Valley - P┼Źh─üh─ü i ka Lani
  • Week 4:
    • University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo Hakalau Forest Biological Field Station

Course Instructors

  • Dr. Kristina Paxton, Course Co-Coordinator, Department of Biology, University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo; movement ecology, avian disease, conservation genetics.
  • Dr. Patrick Hart, Resource Faculty, Department of Biology, University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo; forest bird ecology and behavior, acoustic ecology.
  • Dr. Rebecca Ostertag, Resource Faculty, Department of Biology, University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo; forest ecology, nutrient cycling, restoration, long-term forest dynamics


biol 481 insects

$1,500 Resident Tuition
$2,175 Non Resident Tuition

Course Fees: $2250

Tuition includes five academic credits awarded through the University of Hawai╩╗i for participants from eligible academic institution. Material fee covers complete room, board, course materials and equipment. Airfare to Hawai╩╗i and incidental expenses are not included. A limited number of partial, need-based scholarships are available, with first priority to students from UH Hilo and OTS Consortium member institution.

Pre-Requisite Information

Students must be at least 18 years or older at the start of the course and have completed one full year of biology courses at the undergraduate level.

Application Deadline

BIOL 481 students

Applications are still being accepted for the Summer 2017 course.

Application Instructions

For more information

View the Trop Talk video MISSING ICON youtube-color-play for a short description of the course.

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