An Interdisciplinary Earth Systems Field Course-2020 (Page 1 of 2 )

GEO/GLG/IES/LAS 413/513: Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades & Bahamas

More Syllabus Info on Page 2

Enjoy ecology from an interdisciplinary perspective? Enjoy Snorkeling? SCUBA? We are taking applications NOW for the Summer, 2020. First-come, first-served! The mangroves and corals are waiting!

R. Hays Cummins, Western Program, Miami University

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Marine Ecology Syllabus: Site NAVIGATION & Table of Contents

Course Announcement & Brief Description//Further Information Essential Participant Information Equipment Resources
Tropical Marine Ecology Syllabus Latest Florida Keys and Bahamas Weather The Don't Leave Home Without It List
Evaluation Texts TME Course Reader Table Of Contents
Student Led Presentation Topics Tentative Schedule Important Contacts: People, Places and Phone Numbers

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Course Announcement & Brief Description

Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades and San Salvador, Bahamas

Listen to a "vocal intro" to the "Tropical Marine Ecology" Syllabus Page (Quicktime: or MP3)

GEO/GLG/LAS/IES 413/513--May 2020

Focus: Tropical Marine Ecology is being offered to introduce both undergraduate and graduate students to the present and past ecologic environments of the Bahamas, Everglades and Florida Keys. Topics will be covered from an interdisciplinary perspective and students should have a keen interest in natural science. Quite simply, we will learn by doing. We will look, discuss, ask questions, reflect, and look again! It is possible you will learn more in this field course than you will in a semester back at Miami!

We will explore:

  • Land Use & the Florida Everglades
  • Mangroves, Seagrass beds & Tropical lagoons
  • Coral Reefs and Associated Marine Communities
  • Fossil Reefs
  • Intertidal Zones

Days are spent in the field making observations and responding to questions and what I call "ecosystem challenges." Field notebooks and underwater slates will be provided. We will examine coral reef and grassbed ecology, taxonomy of vertebrates, invertebrates and flora (of coral reefs, lagoons and tidal flats), climate, and many physical aspects of marine ecology. Measurements and interpretation of environmental parameters (currents, tides, dissolved oxygen, pH, Eh, salinity, and temperature), sedimentology, and the statistical analyses of ecologic data will be performed using modern instrumentation and computers. Group and individual projects concerning biologic and physical analyses of select marine environments will be performed. We'll spend lots of time in the water, swimming and snorkeling. SCUBA opportunities will be available throughout the trip.

Nights are spent in laboratory work, discussion groups, lectures and astronomic observations using a telescope.

Class Mix: Our goal is to have a class with a healthy variety of undergraduate majors, graduate students, and teachers that are eager to contribute and learn about these ecosystems. People from other universities, states or countries are encouraged to attend!

Where: San Salvador, Bahamas, Everglades and Florida Keys

Prerequisites: Strong desire to learn and two natural science courses. Limited scholarships are available. Maximum enrollment: 20.

CREDIT: 5 semester hours

COST:$1295 plus tuition and fees for 5 credit hours of Miami University Registration

GLG 413/513- Course Economics



Rm & Board

Out-of-State Fees-(If applicable)


5 hours

$To be established soon-UG

$To be established soon-Grad

$1395 ~$1800

REGISTRATION:Reserve a spot by contacting Dr. Hays Cummins and paying a $100 deposit. First come - first served.

Would you like to ENROLL? Contact:

Hays Cummins

Western Program, Miami University

Oxford, Ohio 45056 513-529-1338

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Tropical Marine Ecology IMAGES

Tropical Ecosystem of Costa Rica IMAGES

Syllabus:Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica

Syllabus: Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades, and San Salvador, Bahamas

Director: Dr. Hays Cummins, Miami University, 513-529-1338

Who is Dr. Cummins? My doctorate is in oceanography. Besides satisfying my love of the sea, I chose this field because of its inherent interdisciplinarity and broad systems approach towards understanding the world around us. Over the years, I have received over $3,500,000 in research funding from the National Science Foundation for work in paleobiology, science pedagogy and the development of a young investigator's magazine called Dragonfly. I love being in the field and I love to teach. Tropical Marine Ecology is in its 14th year.

Goals & Objectives

Welcome to Tropical Marine Ecology. First of all, we will see and do many things. This is a field course where we will investigate aquatic systems (estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, lagoons, beaches, intertidal zones, taxonomy of vertebrates and invertebrates of coral reefs, lagoons, and tidal flats) and paleobiology and global change (paleo-reconstruction of past lagoon environments, fossil coral reefs, dune systems and land use). Along the way, we we will integrate your research questions--group projects concerning biological and physical analyses of a select marine habitat-- into the overall experience culminating with a presentation of your work at our own Natural History of the Bahamas Research Symposium.

To recap, we will explore:

For the first part of the course, we will be based in the Florida Keys & Everglades

More Info on Page 2

Miami Plan Principles

As part of a Miami Plan thematic sequence, GLG 413 addresses these Miami Plan principles:

  • Critical Thinking and Understanding Contexts- Each and every day, students are challenged in the field and in the classroom to connect what they see and experience with what we read in the literature. The field component is the third dimension of challenging what students think they know with what they read and finally get to see for themselves. The hub of the field course is student-generated research. Student research teams develop, with peer review, their own research questions and methodologies. The responsibility for the success of the project lies almost entirely on the student research team's imaginations and their willingness to recognize failure. These failures can be used as opportunities to grow as scholars. Project success is judged not so much by the final results but rather by students' abilities to deal with the unknowns inherent in all research. Understanding Contexts will be promoted by continually questioning conventional wisdom and agenda-driven hypothesis testing (control of the answer by control of the question). Throughout the course, students will be asked to retain multiple working hypotheses rather than engage in a defense of a single solution. Students will be asked to question and challenge assumptions. Retaining multiple and seemingly contradictory (and controversial) observations or ideas is a challenge. In addition, marine ecology will be explored as part of a continuum of ecology - an interacting ecology that embraces terrestrial, biochemical and geochemical systems as well as human value systems. Our value-driven choices affect the marine environment. What we do and don't do matters.
  • Engaging with Other Learners-Tropical Marine Ecology is an intense, all day in the field and late evenings in the classroom course. Students live and learn together. We explore and research coral reefs, tropical lagoons, land-use, intertidal zones, local conservation, and other aspects of interdisciplinary marine and geologic science. The hub of the course is student-centered research projects in our field laboratory. All projects are student generated. The instructors are the facilitators. All group projects are peer reviewed including the beginning research idea, project methodology and the project proposal. Once each project has been peer critiqued and formally approved, only then will the field research begin. The final night of the field experience culminates with a Bahamas Natural History Symposium where students present the findings of their field research. All of these activities require an immense amount of cooperation, team work and engaging with other learners.
  • Reflecting and Acting- Students are taken out of the classroom and into the field in a foreign country. The experience can be disorienting and challenging. For many students, this field course is the very first time that they actually connect the literature (based on course readings) with their own field observations. This synergy typically ignites our class discussions and facilitates the transition to students generating their own research questions. Students become active learners!

    Student Outcomes

    Here are a few expected student outcomes:

  • Students, regardless of major, will do self-directed inquiry
  • Students will read and discuss scientific literature and culturally based perspectives
  • Students will place their research within a broader, global context. How does their research correspond to what other researchers have done?
  • Students will connect their own field observations with the literature on a daily basis through class discussion
  • Students will compile a daily journal. The journal will detail field observations and syntheses on a daily basis.
  • Students will work in groups and experience the value of team-work

    So,....What does this course count for?

    Tropical Marine Ecology counts for:

  • EITHER GEO, LAS, IES, or GLG credit
  • Oceanography Thematic Sequence
  • Three hours of Zoology credit
  • Tier 2 Honors Credit
  • Environmental Science Co-Major Synthesis Credit
  • Environmental Principles & Practice Co-Major Field Course Credit
  • Global Miami Plan Credit
  • Elective Credit (speak with your academic advisor)


    Students in our course have a wide range of rich academic backgrounds. Participants include teachers, graduate students, and undergraduate students at various stages in their careers. Because of this diversity, I ask that everyone be open to what others have to offer -- we can all learn from one another. To facilitate this interaction, I would like each research "team" to have a mixture of participants with various academic backgrounds in it. In this way we can all work together towards making your experience as productive as possible.

    Evaluation of your performance will be based upon your participation in all aspects of the course--I anticipate active engagement. Highlights include field work and preparation of a field journal, participation in evening discussions and labs (see the frisbee lab, earth-sun lab, geologic time scale metaphor lab, and the moon lab as examples), group interaction, research-team project reports, and a San Salvador Natural History Symposium where we celebrate the presentation of your field research projects. You will also research a topic of your choice before arriving for the course and present your topic to the class--sign-up here! I expect that you will be tired by the end of it all, but you will have learned more in this seventeen day field experience than in an entire semester of regular course work.

    Division of Labor-Undergraduates, Graduate Students and Teachers:

    Our course will have undergraduates and graduate students enrolled. All students will complete a Field Journal, in-country bio-challenges, lead discussions, and share their group research findings during our annual San Salvador Natural History Research Symposium. Graduate students, Honors students fulfilling Tier 2 requirements, undergraduates receiving zoology credit, and Undergraduate Summer Scholars (USS) have some additional, unique requirements beyond those of many undergraduates.

    Undergraduates-- Honors students fulfilling Tier 2 requirements, undergraduates receiving zoology credit, and Undergraduate Summer Scholars (USS) will complete every aspect of the course including the post-field course research synthesis paper. Other undergraduates will complete all aspects of the course except the post-field course research paper

    Undergraduate Summer Scholars (USS)--All USS students, prior to the international marine ecology field experience, will develop, in consultation with your USS mentor(s), a pre-trip detailed research proposal that further develops and builds upon your USS submission. This pre-field experience proposal will prepare you to complete the field portion of your work. Your detailed 5-10 page written proposal will include a title, abstract, Introduction (including why you chose this research question, relevance of the research question, background info), a literature review, a clear articulation of your research question and predictions, and materials and methods.  

    In addition, all USS will present to the class an overview of their research during the international field experience.  Upon your return to the states, you will continue your research, work with your USS mentor(s), analyze and synthesize your data, write your final research report, and prepare your presentation of your work at the fall USS symposium at Miami University. 

    Honors students, students receiving zoology credit, and Graduate Students: Upon your return to the United States, you will be expected to write up a final research report on your In-country Marine Ecology Research Project. Your paper should include a bibliography, a synopsis of your research question, your experimental design and field methods, your data, statistical analyses and graphs, discussion, conclusions and recommendations for further research.

    Teachers (if following the "teaching unit route" will: (1) post on the Web an outline of the "Teaching Unit" before we leave for Florida; (2) present your "Teaching Unit" to the class--I anticipate some great feedback from the class! and (3) turn in and post to the Web your "Teaching Unit" three weeks after returning to the United States.

    Point Distribution:

     Assignment  Point Distribution
     Class Participation  100 pts
     Field & Readings Journal  150 pts
     Ecosystem Challenges
    • Mangroves
    • Modern and Fossil Coral Reefs
    • Fossil Reefs
    • Fossil Dunes
    • Lagoon Community Reconstruction
    • Reef Fish
    • Marine Algae
    • Intertidal Zones
    • Everglades
    • Tropical Lagoons
     150 pts
    Discovery-Oriented Research Projects
    • Idea Development
    • Experimental Design
    • Data Analysis
    • Synthesis
     200 pts

    Topic Presentation & Topic Paper

  • View Pre-Course Topic Outlines
  • View Pre-Course Paper Submissions

    Teachers: "Ecology Teaching Unit"

  •  200 pts

    Natural History Symposium of San Salvador (Based Upon Your Group Field Research)

    Graduate Students: Research Paper

     200 pts
    Point Total  1000 pts

    Return Home

    Things to Do Before the Course Begins!

    Listen to a "vocal intro" to the "Tropical Marine Ecology" Syllabus Page (Quicktime: or MP3)

    There are several tasks to complete prior to arriving in Florida. First, you must select a presentation topic and post a discussion outline (see below) to the Web. This is followed by the completion of (2)a five page paper, with sources,that is developed from the foundation provided by your presentation topic. And last, (3) you must have finished reading The Enchanted Braid by Osha Gray Davidson, published by John Wiley and Sons, prior to arriving in Florida.

    The Sequence of Events

    Things to Do Before the Course Begins!- Spring Semseter

    • Select a presentation topic and post a discussion outline (undergraduates and graduate students). Teachers select a "Teaching Unit" Theme.
    • A five page paper, with sources, that is developed from the foundation provided by your presentation topic.
    • You must have finished reading The Enchanted Braid
    • Readings will be assigned from the Reading List before the course begins. Each particular assignment can be found at our "Marine Ecology Assignment & Discussion Web Site. You will keep a "readings journal" where you will write your thoughts and reflections on each article. Bring this journal with you on the course!

    The Marine Ecology Field Experience

    • Give 100% to the experience (attitude, participation, discussions, field journal, and your research experience)

    Things to do after your return from the Bahamas

    • Traditional Graduate students will write up a final research report on their San Salvador Natural History Symposium Research Project.
    • Teachers will either turn in a final research report or a completed Teaching Unit on "Marine Ecology" or a unit that best fits your teaching needs that includes marine ecosystems as a component. Remember, the choice is yours!

    Student-Led Discussion/Presentation Topics (First-Come, First Served)

    As part of our course expectations, each student will present a fifteen minute talk on a marine/ecological topic of your choice during the course. These presentations will be in the evenings. I expect you to research a topic of interest to you and share what you know with the class. Topics can include, but are not restricted to, anything related to marine science, oceanography, ecology, mangroves, coral reefs, lagoons, the Everglades, agriculture in southern Florida, the Seminole Indians, birds, alligators and other specific organisms of interest, introduced species, seagrass beds, human perturbation, paleobiology, air-sea interactions, climate change--let your interests lead the way. Priority for presentation topics will be on a first-come, first served basis.

    Topic Paper Outline and Papers

    Your topic paper (5 pages plus references) will be based upon the foundation provided by your presentation outline. Sign-up with me via the Discussion Feedback Web Page If you have questions, please e-mail or phone me at 529-1338 or feel free to come see me during my office hours, 3-5 T &TH in 15 Peabody Hall on the Western campus.

    Look at previous years' submissions:

    Field Course Discussions/Presentations-2008,'07, '06, '05,'04,'03,'02,'01,'00, '99 and '98

     Discussion Topic Submissions:

     Search for Topics Entered....

  • Marine Ecology 2003

    Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica 2004

  • Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica 2003
  •  since I last checked
     in the last 3 days
     in the last week
     in the last month
     in the last 2 months

    More Info on Page 2

    Review Sample Discussion Topics from Previous Years

    Some of previous TME class discussion topics are shown below. If you are interested in these topics, you are free to choose one.

    Field Course Discussions/Presentations-2008,'07, '06, '05,'04,'03,'02,'01,'00, '99 and '98

    Intertidal Zone Organisms
    • Ecology
    • Physical Environment
    • ID
    • Master Species List
    • Ecology
    • ID
    • Master Species List: Florida and San Salvador
    Sea Turtles
    • Evolutionary History
    • Species Diversity
    • Ecology and Reproduction
    • Endangered Species
    Tropical Fish
    • Ecology
    • ID
    • Master Species List by Habitat
    Tropical Algae and Seagrass
    • Ecology
    • ID
    • Master Species List
    Salt water intrusion into the groundwater supply of coastal ecosystems Bioluminescence Sharks
    • Fossil record
    • Life Histories
    • Shark ecology
    • Human Interaction
    Hunting and Grazing:Large Gastropods in Tropical Lagoons
    • Evolutionary History
    • Species Examples
    • Ecology
    Marine Art & Science:
    • Wave Patterns
    • Intertidal Zones
    • Erosion
    • Weather Events & Clouds
    • Sunsets (Volcanic Eruptions, etc)
    Seminole Indians:
    • History
    • Seminole Wars/Survival
    • Seminole Society
    • Seminoles of Today
    • Evolutionary History
    • Geographic Distribution
    • Ecology
    • Threats to Species Survival
    Weather in the Tropics:
    • Hurricanes
    • Thunderstorms
    • Trade Winds
    • Seasonality
    Global Climate Change:Are Oceans the Wild Card? Wetlands:
    • Description
    • Ecologic and Economic Importance
    • Geographic Distinctiveness
    • Threats to Survival
    Fish in the Deep Sea:
    • Adaptations
    • Ecology
    • Diversity
    • Specific Life Histories
    Conservation Ecology:
    • What it is and why it is necessary
    • Examples
    • Focus on specific organisms
    The Ecology of Mangroves
    • Species Diversity
    • Distribution
    • Physical Requirements
    • Reproductive Strategies
    • Ecologic Importance
    • Overall Evolutionary History of Cetaceans
    • Diversity Trends
    • Specific Focus on Porpoises including life history, behavior and distribution
    Sea Snakes
    • Ecology
    • Distribution
    • Evolutionary History

    Essential Participant Information!

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    Course Texts:

    We will have three texts for the course: (1) Tropical Marine Ecology, a course reader consisting of recent articles pertaining to tropical ecology, oceanography, astronomy, land use, climatology, the Everglades, and the Florida Keys. A Table of Contents of the reader is at the end of this document. The course reader will be available at the Oxford Copy Shop by April 30. I will assign many of the course readings before the class begins in June. These will be available as PDF documents that I will e-mail to you or have on Miami's Library Reserve for download from the web; and (2) Peterson Field Guide # 36, Southeastern and Caribbean Seashores. I will also provide other field guides for class use. Readings will be assigned on a daily basis. And last, (3) you must have finished reading The Enchanted Braid by Osha Gray Davidson,published (1998) by John Wiley and Sons, prior to arriving in Florida.

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    More Marine Ecology Syllabus Info on the More Info on Page 2

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    For further information, contact Hays Cummins or phone me @ 513-529-1338. The course is filled on a first-come, first-served basis!

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