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The currency for Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar.

Mobile/cellular phone service for people with existing service in the states from major carriers will often work in Puerto Rico without any roaming charges. You will need to look at your service’s overage map to assure that you have a plan with a carrier that is widely operational. To date, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon are among the services that receive cell signal without roaming charges in Puerto Rico. Please be sure to check your own carrier (as well as the carriers mentioned here) to be working in the past before you arrive for your program session!

Internet service is not available at the field station! We function as a remote station (although we are somewhat spoiled with many amenities of a house). Please plan accordingly. Students who wait to turn in papers and projects for courses during their week-long field intensive will not be able to submit for deadlines over the course of the week. In addition to having every hour of every day filled with valuable instruction, there is not a place to connect to the internet in our tiny neighborhood (no internet cafes or coffee shops!).

If you are interested in receiving course credit from your professors this information may be very helpful.

Many of our students receive 3-4 hours of course credit through directed/independent studies with a faculty member at their university. In most circumstances you need to make this arrangement BEFORE you attend the program. Our programs meet the university requirements with the number of study hours for faculty led instruction, independent work, and field/lab work by including the preparation you are required to do for the week you are in the field.

This information will likely be useful to your faculty adviser;

You will prepare for this program by reading several peer review publications related to humpback whale life history, behavioral ecology, Puerto Rico oceanography, marine ecology, and cetacean biology. In addition to these publications you will read publications related to methods including theodolite work for cetacean tracking, and Pythagoras software. Pre-course preparation will take at least 30 hours to complete and you will have a quiz when you arrive to measure your success in completing this precourse preparation.

Our field time typically begins before the sun rises and continues most of the day light hours. When we are at the field station you will learn to analyze acoustic data using software programs in order to detect humpback whale song and fish vocalizations. You will be instructed on capture-recapture techniques for studying population dynamics and behaviors. Digital images of humpback whale flukes and spots on axis deer (Axis axis) will be our focal study. We will spend many hours during the program session teaching you to identify individuals based on natural markings including color patterns, scars, trailing edge patterns, notches in dorsal flukes of dolphins, and spots on deer. You will very likely leave the program with the ability to participate in matching natural markings in other projects (such as internships).

Two weeks during the field season will include training on Mysticetus Observation Platform software and Marine Mammal/Protected Species Observer techniques. These are highly marketable skills valued for many off shore projects required to have mitigation for marine protected species and marine mammal projects collecting data.

You will receive instruction in the field and at the base station working with the theodolite. Our program is structured to assure you learn how to set up, calculate station height, and use a theodolite from a land based platform.

You will be lectured on the geology, oceanography, and policy (USA and global) related to this project. We are committed to having our students understand the connectivity between whales and the habitat on a local, regional, and global scale. Integrated into these lectures will be challenging you to answer the question, “Why should we care?” helping you to understand that offering the tourists, residents, and policy makers a motive to support conservation of a species or habitat is critical to the success of any conservation effort.

Finally, most students seeking credit for this program are asked by their professor to write a paper or give a presentation to demonstrate the success of the learning experience with us. We encourage this end of the program project effectively creating a cosmopolitan group of ambassadors for marine mammal conservation.

The total hours you will commit to this program, including the pre-course preparation (30 hours preparation, a minimum of 90 hours in the field and the lab at the base station, 20 hours for paper/presentation) will equal 133 hours. This is a conservative estimate as many students will read more publications and our days are very long.

If your faculty adviser needs more information regarding our program, please have them contact Mithriel MacKay, Director of Education and research, at mithriel@marine-eco.org.

Meals are prepared by the students, interns, and instructors. We make every attempt to satisfy most appetites, preparing meals that are suitable for most diets. We are able to accommodate vegetarian diets and most fussy eaters by preparing meals that can be “customized” on individual plates from the dinner table. Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate diets with other restrictions. Please be aware if your diet has special restrictions, it is up to the student to contact MCERC and ask if the planned menu is suitable for your special needs.

MCERC programs require hiking, climbing, carrying equipment, and other strenuous activity. Please contact the Director of Research and Education through the Contact Us page for information regarding any program and the physical demands associated with the curriculum.

MCERC staff will send a list of things to pack and things we recommend you pack. This list will be sent 1-2 weeks before students are scheduled to arrive at the base station. Please be sure to think ahead and bring any prescriptions in the original bottle when you pack for your time with us.

A few things you will need (that may take time to get!)

  • A laptop computer and ear buds/ear phones
  • Required text books for your program (see program description)
  • A Type 1 personal flotation device is required for some programs.
  • Sea sick medicine (Bonine, Dramamine, patches, non-drowsy Dramamine)

Many people who have never been sea sick will feel nauseated when we are doing boat work. Please consider purchasing one of the anti-seasickness over the counter medications and bringing it with you… just in case!

Puerto Rico is part of the USA. Citizens of the USA do not need a passport but will be required to have a government issued photo ID of some sort (driver’s license, for example) for air travel. Students arriving from other countries may need a visa for the internship lasting Jan-May if the internship extends past a specific number of days. MCERC is not aware of any students in need of a visa for the one week “shorty” programs. Please contact the US consulate for specific details and requirements regarding visas.

Students registering for any course with MCERC will receive a package in their email with instructions on how to get to the base station, things to bring, and any other information required to make the trip to the base station

Prices vary depending on dates and length for each course. Check out the courses page for more information of course costs, dates, instructors, and more.

No. Participants must be 18 years or older, able to swim, and be comfortable in the water. Program fees include rustic accommodations at the base station (see course descriptions), food, transportation and associated costs at all field sites, instruction. Fees do not include arrival and departure transportation costs.