BIST Honduras 2023

SENS 226

Coral Reef Ecosystems (SENS 226)

Instructors: Dr. Gary Mahoney & Dr. Robert Foster
Date: May Term (Summer I)
Estimated Cost: $4,800*

Spend four weeks on a Caribbean island learning to scuba dive and contributing data to citizen science projects monitoring the health of a beautiful coral reef and the fish and birds living there.  Based on the Honduran Bay Island of Utila, this course will provide a firsthand study of fragile eco-systems.  Students will study island and coral reef ecosystems including the organisms that call those places home and their interactions and interdependencies.  Current threats to the survival of coral reefs also will be examined and discussed.  Students will obtain diving certification (students who already possess a diving certification will take an advanced certification course) and work on skills necessary for conducting surveys.  Then students will explore several areas of coral reef – photographing, cataloging, and studying the behavior of the resident species.  The data collected will be submitted to REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) and become a part of their international data base.  On the surface, students will learn rudimentary bird identification skills, will survey the birdlife on and around the island of Utila, as well as Water Cay and Cayos Cachinos. The data will be sent to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology via their website.  Students will develop an understanding of how different birds and fish have adapted to their environments and will examine the impact of human development on those environments.

Prerequisites: Application, interview, and instructor permission required. Students will dive or hike nearly every day while abroad. Students must be in good physical condition, be good swimmers, and not have a fear of water. A special swim test will be required (certified scuba divers with recent (past 12 months) diving experience may waive this requirement). Students without diving certification will obtain their open water scuba certification as part of the course. Students who are certified divers but who have not dived recently may be required to complete a scuba refresher course. Divers who already possess a scuba certification will enroll in an advanced scuba course. All students will complete a scuba certification as part of the course.

Financial Support

Financial support from Berea College is available for any major to cover a portion of the cost of a summer abroad. The Department of Foreign Languages offers similar financial support for qualified majors and minors. Find out more information on how to obtain financial support.

This program is not eligible for the Gilman scholarship.

*This is the estimated cost. Note that Berea BIST budgets are all-inclusive: program, airfare, housing, meals, immunizations, insurance, spending money—the works!


For specific questions about this course, contact Gary Mahoney or Robert Foster.

For general questions about the BIST application process or scholarships, contact the Education Abroad Team at or drop by 205 Woods-Penniman.