Research, Communities, and Conservation

The Research, Communities and Conservation program in Panama leads us deep into the country,  from the coral reefs to the rainforest, students will explore a range of ecosystems and grapple with diverse and divergent worldviews and approaches to how humans should interact with the natural environment. Students learn the basics of ecological and anthropological research, interact with a variety of communities, and consider their own view on conservation and the impact they make on the natural world.

Students will begin the trip in Panama City and make their way to the Guna Yala region of the country with a two night stay in the San Blas Islands. While in San Blas, students will immerse themselves in the marine environment as they snorkel to explore the beautiful coral reefs and survey the ecological diversity of this unique setting. They will also learn from the Guna people about their relationship with the marine environment, their deep commitment to preservation, and their new efforts related to coral reef restoration.  Students will then travel to the Mamoní Valley Preserve where they will have the opportunity to engage in hands-on research, exploration, and community interaction. 

Program Notes

  • This is an “unplugged” trip where students will not have access to cell phones or internet for the duration of their time in Panama.
  • During this trip students will stay in hotels and open-air bunkhouses. Meals will be at restaurants, prepared by Mamoni (where there is a diverse selection of foods, fruits, and vegetables), and packed lunches
  • This program conflicts with the March 9 SAT test date.
  • Students and faculty leaders will update families and friends at home through our Notes from the Field blog. Check out previous year’s posts, below for a better understanding of the travel experience.

Program Dates

March 4 – March 11, 2024

Program Eligibility

This trip is open to all students, with preference given to students who have a demonstrated interest in scientific inquiry and are excited for outdoor adventure, including hiking, swimming, snorkeling, and staying in rustic accommodations. All interested students are encouraged to apply by November 5. Financial aid is available to all qualifying students. 

faculty trip leaders

Heidi Valk; Trevon Bryant


Deerfield Academy’s Center for Service and Global Citizenship strives to make all of our travel programs affordable and accessible for all students while ensuring a high quality global education experience. While the costs of travel around the world have been rising steadily over the past several years, all of our trips are subsidized, and thanks to the generosity of many we are able to provide robust financial aid for qualifying students.

Helpful links

2024 Preliminary Itinerary

*This itinerary is subject to change.

March 4:

  • Travel Day – Flight to Panama City from NE/NY based airport

March 5 – 7: San Blas Islands

We will travel from Panama City to San Blas Islands via boat.  Students will participate in snorkeling exploration, have beach time discussions, and visit Cartí Suitupu were they will interact with the local community. 

March 7 – March 10: Centro Mamoní 

We participate in a hike challenge to the Mamoní Valley Preserve were students will engage in environmental science research projects led by local researchers of the Mamoní Valley Preserve and will spend time with community members of Las Margaritas and Chepo, two of the rural towns next to the reserve.

Our day-to-day activities on-site will be a combination of field research, community interaction and exploration of the surroundings. We’ll be hiking around the area, swimming in the crystal-clear rivers, learning about the different ecosystems, and grappling with the challenges of biodiversity conservation in the context of climate change and human impacts on the land.

March 10: Panama City

We travel back to Panama City and explore the Casco Viejo neighborhood.

March 11:  Travel home from Panama City to US Airport**

** Families are responsible for transportation from U.S.-based airport to the student’s destination for the remainder of March break.

Notes from Abroad

Panama 2019

Panama #6: Gratitude

Selena Martineau ’19, Elsa Marrian ’21, and Kristine Yang ’21 share a final reflection of a “phenomenal” time in Panama.

Panama 2019

Panama #5: Vibrancy in Panama City

Abby Fernald (’22), Sam Bronckers (’20), & Grace Honos (’22) describe the energy of Panama City after spending the last 5 days in the rain forest.

Panama 2018

Panama #8: Farewell!

Claire Quan (’20) and Nafi Sall (’20) describe their last day of the trip and celebrate the sense of community that they have developed while traveling.