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General Information


Students learn to identify marine species and to perform underwater ecological surveys while enjoying a wonderful respite from the cold winds of Iowa at that time of the year.

Statement of Purpose

This program is designed to provide students with a coral reef biology and aquatic animal and ecosystem health field experience. It will involve on-site lectures by local experts and extensive diving/snorkeling activities in a variety of marine habitats.


Scuba divers

Curriculum planned will include lectures on coral reef ecology, marine invertebrates and fish, dolphins, health considerations while traveling abroad, Honduran culture and history, climatology of Central America and the Bay Islands.

Program at RIMS will include seminars and labs in marine biology and ecology, coral reef biology, reef invertebrates and fishes, and marine mammals. One side trip to a local village on Roatan Island is planned for one afternoon.

Course Information

Scuba divers

Course Requirements

Students must possess an exceptionally strong desire to learn more about marine science and the marine environment.

Students should have successfully completed at least one year of college-level biology. Students must be very comfortable in an aquatic environment (i.e. extensive marine activities: snorkeling and/or SCUBA diving).

SCUBA certification is NOT a requirement.

Students must be capable of participating in 2-3 open water activities over the course of 12 hrs. (each activity requiring 30-75 minutes).

If you have questions about these course requirements please contact the course instructors.


Dr. Don Sakaguchi of the Dept of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology (GDCB) and Biology Program.

Dr. Jeanne Serb of the Dept of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB) and Biology Program.

Please contact Dr. Sakaguchi (dssakagu@iastate.edu) to have your name placed on our email list.

Course Number and Credits

BIOL 394 A (1 credit) and BIOL 394 B (1 credit). Students must enroll in both 394A and B.


Grading for BIOL 394A and 394B is S/F. Evaluation will be based upon student participation, completion of assignments, submission of a research paper on some aspect of marine biology and oral presentation of research topic.

Program Fee


The program cost consists of three parts:1)Program Fee;2) Other ISU Fees;and 3) Out of Pocket Personal Cost.

Estimated Program Fee: $3,150 (subject to change), which includes round trip airfare, accommodations and 3 meals daily at Anthony's Key Resort (AKR) (Sun. - Sun.), RIMS marine biology program, two dives/snorkeling daily, one night dive/snorkeling, RIMS lectures on coral reef biology and dolphins, educational dolphin platform sessions and dolphin snorkel, trip insurance, tips for baggage handling, housekeeping service, waiters, chefs, divemaster, and boat.

The program fee does not include: SCUBA class and materials, SCUBA certification, and rental of SCUBA/snorkeling gear, Study Abroad fees (indicated under Other ISU fees), Roatan departure tax, vaccinations, immunizations and preventive medicines, and other incidental expenses that you may incur.

RIMS dock

Other ISU Fees

1) $10 program application fee to the Ag Study Abroad office; 2) $105 study abroad administrative fee charged by Study Abroad Center in 3224 MU.

Out of Pocket Personal Cost

In addition to the above costs that are not included in the program fee, you will also have the following out of pocket personal costs: passport which costs ~$165 if you don't already have one; health insurance which cost $1.15 per day Of course, there are also other personal costs, such as souvenirs, snacks, etc.

Program fee and the $105 administrative fee will be applied directly to your Ubill in spring 2020.


Next field trip scheduled for spring break 2020: March 15-22, 2020.

Application deadline: Friday., Oct 11, 2019.

Check out the Iowa State Daily article highlighting the 2016 field trip.

Informational Meetings

Informational meetings will be scheduled early in the fall semester of 2019.



Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) at Anthony's Key Resort on Roatan - Bay Islands, Honduras.

Roatan is approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) long, and less than 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across at its widest point.

Roatan is on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere (2nd largest in the world), stretching over 1,000 km from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down to the Bay Islands of Honduras.

The primary objective of RIMS is preservation of Roatan's natural resources through education and research.



RIMS guests are housed in quad occupancy louvered wooden bungalows overlooking the lagoon reefs.

Each has a ceiling fan, 24-hour electricity, and a bathroom, including hot water shower; three ample meals a day are served (food has been described as excellent by past participants).

RIMS sign

RIMS Services

Dry and wet laboratories.

A large air conditioned classroom with A/V equipment.

Specimen collections and reference library.

Tours and use of Roatan Museum that chronicles and displays the cultural and archaeological history of the region.

One all purpose dive boat with guides, use of tanks, weights and belts.

Vehicles for transport with guides to terrestrial sites (1 trip).

Recompression chamber and medical clinic (doctor on call 24-hours).

Recreational services and facilities of adjacent AKR.

Escorted round-trip transfer from airport to Institute.


BIO 394 Informational sheet - available as a pdf.

BIO 394A Syllabus (from spring 2018).

BIO 394B sample schedule at Roatan Institute for Marine Science (RIMS)(from spring 2018).

Some hints for preparing an application for BIO 394.

Challenge yourself with the Reef fish quiz. A great way to begin learning reef fish identification.

Helpful Links

National Oceanic and Atmosphereic Administration - Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS)

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)

International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN)


Reef Check

Project AWARE Foundation

Information about Roatan Island

Anthony's Key Resort and Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences

CDC Home Travel Information Page

CDC Travel Information: Mexico and Central America

Information on sea temperature around Roatan

Information on the weather in Bay Islands