his year a group of 20 Lycoming College students led by Dr. Mel Zimmerman and his wife Gail,
traveled to the Roatan Islands off the coast of Honduras in conjunction with a May Term course
in marine biology. Nineteen of the students were certified Professional Association of Diving
Instructors (PADI) who completed their dive instruction at Lycoming College.
During their trip, the students conducted their research at the Roatan Institute for Marine Science
(RIMS), which is a private teaching and research lab housed at Anthony’s Key, Roatan Island. The
island of Roatan is along the southern edge of the second largest barrier reef in the world. The
MESO-American Barrier Reef extends from Yucatan (Mexico) south to the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Each day, the students took two-to-three snorkeling and dive trips along the reefs and explored coral
diversity and reef health. They also studied the ecology of organisms ranging from sponges, squid, octopus,
sea turtles and various types of fish including groupers, wrasse, parrotfish and even butterfly fish.
While at the lab, the students also go to work at the dolphin training and research facility. Fifteen
bottlenose dolphins reside at RIMS and, after lectures on their ecology and physiology, students are able to
snorkel with the dolphins.
When they weren’t submerging themselves in research, the students were able to take advantage of the
other opportunities that the island provided. During their stay, they participated in a tropical forest and
garden ecology tour, a zip-line canopy tour from the central-highland of the island to the sea, a late night
dive and snorkel where they could witness a different type of marine life, and a shark dive where they
encountered 15 Caribbean Reef Sharks.
Dr. Mel Zimmerman has been teaching Tropical Marine Biology as part of the May Terms at Lycoming
College since 1984. He has made 25 trips to the Caribbean, Gulf and Central America with more than 200
students from Lycoming.
ROATAN ISLAND, HONDURAS
M A R I N E B I O L O G Y M A Y T E R M :
BY DARRIAN MCCLELLAN
LYCOMING COLLEGE 2014 FALL MAGAZINE
T H E CO L L E G E