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MC Scots in Bonaire (BIO 403) header


Course Goals:

  • 12-day Field-based component of a semester-long course on Tropical Ecology.
  • To familiarize students with the biota (plants and animals) and their relationships with the tropical environment of a different country (Bonaire).  Specific focus: coral reef ecology.

Course Description:

Bonaire is the premier diving site in the western hemisphere. It is the only island globally in which the entire reef is national park. The diversity offered by its reef and the diversity on land (ranges from desert to sub-tropical jungle) provides a haven of learning for students.  The island is small, the facilities are safe, the history and culture of the island is deep, rich and fascinating.  The course is primarily ecology/conservation/natural resources based, but will also have a specific historic and cultural component designed to expose students to an entirely different culture.  ANY MC student will be able to go on this program, but must be enrolled in the SPRING semester-long BIO 403 course.


This trip will carry 4 credits. Selected students will be enrolled in a 4-credit semester-long spring course called BIO 403.  The Bonaire program is the lab for this course and the travel will be in May 2021.  Fee is the travel/lab fee for the course.  Tuition for the course is included as part of spring tuition.  Travel will be in May.  Students must do both components of this course.

Why consider this course abroad?

  1. It offers both major credit in Biology  (or elective credit for non Biology majors)
  2. Lifetime NAUI certification in scuba diving
  3. Field experience in Biology & experience in content not offered on campus
  4. Work on a key competency employers are looking for:



Unger head

Dr. Dave Unger | Sutton Science Center 106 | (865) 981-8009 |

Duncan head

Dr. Nathan Duncan | Sutton Science Center 225 | (865) 981-8279 | 


May 10-22, 2021


A quick word about this itinerary:  The island of Bonaire is 8 miles wide at its narrowest and 15 miles wide at its widest point.  It is approximately 20 – 30 miles long.  Thus, on any given day, saying we’re “on Bonaire diving” means we’re in a pretty small area (for example, Bonaire is about 1/5th the size of Blount County, TN).  Also, due to the “island time” mentality of the place we are going, expecting us to follow the listed itinerary with no changes or modifications is not realistic.  With that background in mind, see below the tentative itinerary for Bonaire 2021: 

Day 1  Travel to Bonaire. Check in at Buddy Dive Resort.
            Get settled into housing, dive orientation, rent dive gear, possible first dive. Senior Study Research Discussion

Day 2   Shore Diving, Sea Turtle Survey (3 students).  Afternoon: Shore diving.  Evening: Fluorescent Night Dive

Day 3  Morning: Boat Diving, Fish survey for senior study research.  
           Afternoon:  Boat Diving, Fish survey for senior study research. 
           Evening:  Rest and Recover as needed 

Day 4  Morning:  Birding in the morning along with a Tour of Lac Bay.   
           Free Afternoon/Evening – Possible Night Dive 

Day 5  Morning:  Bonaire Cave EcologyAfternoon:  Boat DivingNight Dive

Day 6  Morning:  Bonaire Cave EcologyAfternoon:  Boat DivingNight Dive

Day 7  Dawn Dive.  Northern Island Tour, Blow Hole, National Park, Lizard Research 

Day 8  Free Day – Do what you want (Inform Dr. Enz and Dr. Unger by Saturday)

Day 9  Dawn Dive.  Trip Downtown for tour for shopping, touring, etc.

Day 10  Boat diving all day, possible night dive

Day 11  Last full day of diving, students shore dive wherever they wish  

Day 12 Depart Buddy Dive, arrive in Knoxville that evening.

U.S. State Department Consular Information Sheet »

Bonaire Tourism »

Lonely Planet Bonaire Guidebook »

Links to Student Videos:

1st place winner:  Lauren Bonee and Jenny Baker

2nd place winner: Allison Peeler and Ravyn Thompson

1st place winner:  Chase Condrone and Hunter Moore:

2nd place winner: Casey Gentile and Julia Vineyard: – Prepared by Dr. David Unger

Bonaire Map

Approximate Costs: $3,000.00 (estimate)

The price includes: 

  • Roundtrip airfare
  • Local transportation
  • Accommodation
  • 1 meal/day
  • Excursions
  • International travel insurance
  • Scuba gear rental
  • $200 Deposit

Not included: 

  • $100 application fee
  • Passport ~ $145
  • DAN Insurance  - $100
  • Immunizations ~ visit the CDC website for info ~ up to $138 

    COST DOES NOT INCLUDE SCUBA CERTIFICATION – students must get certified by April 1st
    Meals during program $400
    Personal expenses ~ up to you

*Please note that prices are tentative and may fluctuate based on variation in exchange rates, number of participants, price fluctuations in actual airfares and fuel surcharges, or administrative overhead

How it Works:

  • Travel with two expert MC faculty members 
  • Travel with a group of Maryville students on a short term study abroad program
  • 4 Academic Credits
  • This is an interactive learning experience. You are not sitting in a classroom abroad, but learning about the course topic with the international destination as your classroom.
  • Spring course + 14 days travel in May

Who can participate?

You! Travel Study programs are open to sophomores, juniors and seniors.  This program will admit 13 students.

Registration & Application:

Please follow the below instructions to apply for a Travel Study program.  Do not miss our application deadlines!

You may list up to 4 preferences on the travel study program application. You are encouraged to select more than one site as this improves your chances of being placed on a travel study program.  Only list programs you would be happy to be selected for.  You will be considered first for your first place site.


Selection will be conducted by the faculty leaders. Selection decisions are based upon the entire application packet: application, essay, references, GPA, student conduct, etc. In addition, faculty leaders look for a match between the student's goals and the goals of the programs.  The selection process varies by program, however applicants should be prepared for an interview as part of the acceptance process.

Note from Drs. Unger and Duncan: This program will be open to any student at Maryville College. Students will be required to submit an essay as to why this trip is of importance to their professional and personal goals. Students will be selected based on merit. GPA, class load, previous acts of academic dishonesty and general knowledge of the student’s maturity and group interaction will also be considered in making decisions. In the case of multiple selections beyond the 14 person limit, Natural Science students will likely be given seniority due to the nature of this particular program.

Special Considerations: 

You must be eligible to be scuba certified.

All student divers complete a brief scuba medical questionnaire that asks about medical conditions that could be a problem while diving. If none of these apply, sign the form and you’re ready to start. If any of these apply to you, your doctor must, as a safety precaution, assess the condition as it relates to diving and sign a medical form that confirms you’re fit to dive. In some areas, local laws require all scuba students to consult with a physician before entering the course.  See NAUI contraindications to diving here.

Basic water skills, including:

  • Swim 200 metres/yards (or 300 metres/yards in mask, fins and snorkel) without stopping. There is no time limit for this, and you may use any swimming strokes you want.
  • Float and tread water for 10 minutes, again using any methods you want

Get More Information:

  • Travel Study Program Information Meeting: Meetings will take place virtually starting Spring/Summer 2020 (Watch Today@MC for information)
  • Talk to Faculty Leaders about the program you are interested in.


  •  Travel Study faculty-led program application form 
  • Due:  ONLINE by Monday, August 31 by 12noon with a $100 application fee.  This fee DOES NOT count towards the cost of the program. 
  • Travel Study scholarship applications will be due to the Center for International Education (International House) with your application.  Scholarships will be awarded in October.

Tentative Timeline:

Application Available


Apply Online

Application Deadline

August 31, Noon

All online materials, including scholarship application must be submitted by noon. 

Interviews Begin

August 31 - September 4

All students will interview with the faculty leader(s) 

Notification of Acceptance (and scholarship)

September 7

Via email before 5:00pm

Confirmation of Acceptance Due 

September 25, noon

Confirmation of acceptance with $200 deposit due by 12noon

Scholarship Notification 

October 26


Payment 1 Due

December 1, noon

50% of Payment due (Full balance may be paid at this time) before 12noon.

Final Payment Due

February 1, Noon

Remaining balance due

Mandatory CIE Pre-Departure Orientation


Required for all participants.  Quiz due by Feb 15th

Program Specific Pre-Departure Orientation


Part of Spring 2021 course


Applications received without a $100 application fee will not be considered.  The $100 application fee does not go towards the program fee, but the deposit does.

REFUND POLICY: Students who are not selected will receive a refund of this application fee. Otherwise it is non-refundable. If you decline a place offered to you it is non-refundable.  Visit here for more information on our Travel Study Withdrawal Policies

*Sample Confirmation of Commitment Paperwork you will be asked to sign when you make a deposit.

Worried about your program investment - check out Cancel for Any Reason Trip Interruption insurance (not included)

Apply Now!


Travel Study Application + $100 Fee:   Due August 31  *** NOTE - Bonaire deadline is earlier than other program deadlines in order to participate in scuba certification in the fall.

Deposit of $200 Fee with Confirmation of Acceptance:    Due September 25

Application for Faculty-led Programs

Scholarships Available