Marine Biology in Bonaire


Image of a scuba diver in Kralendijk, Bonaire
Study marine ecology and explore the diversity of coral reefs over winter break.
Location: Kralendijk, Bonaire
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Winter Break
Program Type: Faculty-led

  • Short lectures, discussion groups, and excursions on land complement the marine field trips
  • Scuba drive on a fringing coral reef, snorkel in a mangrove lagoon, explore grass beds and intertidal areas, and more
  • Students will stay in bungalows at Captain Don's Habitat

Bonaire is a special municipality within the country of the Netherlands and was formerly part of the Dutch Antilles, along with the adjacent islands of Aruba and Curacao. It is located about 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela and outside of the hurricane alley. In January, the average air temperature is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the monthly rainfall is about two inches, and the water temperature is about 81 degrees. Terrestrial vegetation is dominated by cacti and other desert plants. 

Students in this 2-credit field course will scuba dive into the undersea world of coral reefs and marine biology. The course is expected to consist of daily lecture on various marine topics, approximately two boat dives per day, and optional night and shore dives.

Two hours of academic credit will be granted for the Spring semester by the University of Kansas upon successful completion of the program. Undergraduate students will enroll in BIOL 418: Laboratory in: Marine Biology, which will count as a lab credit. Graduate students will enroll in BIOL 701: Laboratory in Marine Biology, which will be count as a seminar/topics course credit.

There will be at least two required meetings (virtual or in-person to be determined) before the program to discuss course requirements, the program in Bonaire, and recommended items to take. In addition, students are welcome to contact Professor Rivers during the semester to discuss the program and course.

Course lectures by Professor Rivers will introduce students to such topics as the general structure and ecological function of marine environments (from estuaries to the deep sea), the structure, formation, and functioning of coral reefs, the ecology of reef organisms (vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and algae), and the modern threats to coral reefs.

The group will stay at Captain Don's Habitat in double or triple occupancy bungalow rooms. Breakfast and dinner will be provided on most days.

The group will participate in approximately two boat dives per day (Sunday-Friday) at various locations on the leeward side of Bonaire. Most of the dives will be during daytime and will generally not exceed depths of 60 to 70 feet. An optional deeper wreck dive (of about 100 feet) and night dive later in the week are possible. All internationally recognized safe diving guidelines must be followed. 

A typical day will include scuba dives, an hour of course lecture, and a pre-dinner review of what the group observed diving. Students will have free time during the afternoons and can elect to snorkel.

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

Open to undergraduate and graduate students from accredited U.S. colleges or universities who have a minimum 2.5 GPA. Participants need to be confident swimmers. Priority will be given to students who have obtained open water scuba certification by January 2022. Because the certification includes open water training, it is recommended that students obtain the scuba license before local U.S. waters get too cold. Students are required to have their own dive mask, snorkel, and fins; other equiptment can be rented. Feel free to contact Professor Rivers about required and optional equipment. Students in all majors are welcome; although no course pre-requisites are required, a general ecology course is useful.

Professor Trevor Rivers (trivers@ku.edu) from the Undergraduate Biology Program will lead the program. He has been performing research in the Caribbean since 2001, where he studies the bioluminescence and behavior of marine organisms.