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Course Description

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center invites interested students to participate in a field intensive program focused on cetacean behavioral ecology. Initiated in December 2010, students arrive in Puerto Rico as a member of our research team mentored by interns and scientists.

Join our research team studying humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) wintering off Puerto Rico. Space is limited to 4 students per 7 day session for boat and land based research platforms during the field season from January – May. We are offering this “shorty” format to fill the need for less expensive programs fitting into work and class schedules.

This field intensive training program is well suited for students (undergraduate and graduate) of all skill levels interested in cetacean behavioral ecology, and conservation. The program culminates in a certificate acknowledging training including:

  • Research experience in vessel and land based data collection and recording of humpback whale behaviors
  • Photo identification of individual humpbacks and dolphins
  • Theodolite tracking and computer interface
  • Passive acoustic sampling and analysis
  • Assessing environmental factors
  • Permit requirements for marine mammal research involving endangered species
  • Overview of ecology on this island bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean

Fees support research projects and program curriculum. Participants are directly involved in data collection and analysis for PhD dissertation related research for humpback whale occupancy, habitat use, and movement off Puerto Rico as well as an examination of reaction to human activity near shore (including boats, divers, surfers, and aircraft. The course fee includes travel between field stations, training program in scientific methods, room and board at the project base station, reference materials related to the project, and a certificate of completion. Fees do not include travel to and from Ponce, Puerto Rico and compulsory insurance. Students landing in Ponce, Puerto Rico will be picked up at the airport and brought to the base station in Guayanilla.

MCERC has provided documentation of study for students working with their advisers at universities resulting in college credit. Please send us an e-mail in advance of your application if you are considering this option.

Applications are typically accepted beginning in August for the coming winter and remain open until all spots are filled.

Click HERE to register!!!



  • humpback whale behaviors
  • data collection from land and boat platforms
  • data analysis (acoustics and behavioral)
  • software packages for analyzing data
  • culture of Puerto Rico
  • an overview of marine and coastal ecology


  • nightly round table discussions of peer reviewed publications
  • snorkeling
  • swimming
  • data collection via hydrophones and ethograms
  • Mysticetus Cetacean Tracking software taining
  • fluke matching- capture-recapture study of humpback whales
  • walk through San German, Puerto Rico
  • Ishmael Acoustic software training
  • Audacity software training

What to Bring

  • Laptop computer
  • 2 GB USB drive
  • Earphones or ear buds
  • Type 1 personal flotation device a (Type V vest or collar is acceptable) or participate int he Chip-In program
  • Audacity, Ishmael, and Mysticetus software must be pre-loaded and tested prior to arriving
  • a packing list is provided in a folder in each program session on the MCERC EDucation Hub