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Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

NSC 109: Study Abroad Seminar
Taught by UT faculty member Ken Dunton
Department of Marine Science at the UT Marine Science Institute


Detailed Syllabus Here

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Since 2005, our Marine Botany field course has focused on the ecology and vegetation of Caribbean ecosystems on the Yucatan Peninsula (Quintana Roo), including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove communities. Our studies include how anthropogenic impacts from increased tourism have affected coastal watersheds and the functioning of these unique ecosystems. Lead instructor Dr. Ken Dunton (UTMSI) has assembled an exceptional team of guest instructors that include marine botanists Dr. Stein Fredriksen (University of Oslo) and tropical reef fish ecologist Dr. Luiz Rocha (California Academy of Sciences), marine ecologist Dr. Wes Tunnell (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi), coral reef ecologist, Michael Gil (University of Florida), benthic invertebrate biologist Susan Schonberg (UTMSI), along with graduate students and post doctoral research associates. Topics will be covered from an interdisciplinary perspective; our measurements of water quality, plant community structure, species composition, and sediment parameters will be used by local NGOs to develop management and conservation policies for these unique systems. The Riviera Maya is under immense pressure from tourism and our studies have provided invaluable data on the effects of nutrient inputs from groundwater pollution that originates from wastewater seepage into the porous limestone that underlies the Riviera Maya.

Students are expected to develop and conduct their own independent research in three-member teams under the guidance of an instructor based on proposals developed in NSC 109. Note that this course fulfills part of the Basic Education Requirement in writing based on field and laboratory data collected for detailed journal entries and the final research paper.

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Akumal, Mexico (Yucatán Peninsula) — Known as the “place of the turtles” to the Maya, Akumal is still home to many sea turtles and is an ideal base for studying one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.

South of Cancun, Akumal is next to one of the world’s largest barrier reefs. The crystal-clear Caribbean sea invites exploration of the wondrous world under the sea, while the near-by Mayan ruins at Tulum offer a glimpse into Mexico’s pre-Columbian past.

Because tourism in the region has placed a strain on the environment, there are non-profit NGOs in the region that are successfully preserving the ecosystems, while also advocating for responsible development. The Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA), where participants stay, is one of the major NGOs in Akumal and a community leader in environmental protection through education.

Field Experience: May 17 – June 4, 2017 Akumal, Mexico

June 9, final class meeting time (video linked), Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas, Texas
Semester dates subject to change.
NSC 109 Study Abroad Seminar
MNS 352D Marine Botany

Estimated Costs

Estimated Program Fee:     $2,275

Actual cost TBD. Please check our website for the most up-to-date information. The program fee includes the $300 non-refundable deposit, housing, local transportation, meals, on-site orientation and student services, snorkel gear rental, and program activities in Akumal. It also includes transportation to/from Port Aransas, housing, and meals for required NSC 109 class meeting in February.

Spring Tuition and Fees: Students register for NSC 109 and MNS 352D as part of their normal spring semester registration. Flat rate tuition applies.

Estimated Roundtrip Airfare:     $450–$600
Students purchase roundtrip airfare for Austin to Cozumel, Mexico.

Estimated Additional Expenses:

Application Fee   $50
Books and Materials   $50
Food   $60
Local Transportation   $50
Personal Items   $200
Medical Insurance   $95
Passport   $135
Visa (no Visa required if you are a U.S. Citizen)   $0
Personal Emergency Funds   $500

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Financial Aid: All federal, state, and UT institutional aid can be used for Maymester Study Abroad Programs. Spring financial aid packages can be recalculated based on the additional costs of the program. See http://world.utexas.edu/abroad/funding/loans

Scholarships: Various scholarships are specifically designated for international study. In fact, a former participant of the Akumal Maymester created a scholarship specifically for students in this program—the Beal/Gurevitz Marine Botany Study Abroad in Akumal Scholarship. To learn more about eligibility for the Beal/Gurevitz scholarship,  contact Ken Dunton. To research and apply for other funding opportunities, visit http://utdirect.utexas.edu/student/abroad/globalassist.WBX