Program requirements:

  1. Two required courses (3 credits each). These courses emphasize two poles of knowledge, Biology and Philosophy, as the fundamental building blocks of environmental work. "Foundations of Environmental Policy", grounded in the study of environmental thoughts, provide a clear link between NEO and the MSE. "Tropical Biology and Conservation" emphasize the role of natural sciences in environmental action and of STRI in the Option. Both core courses focus on environmental issues relevant to developing countries and must be taken in Panama during the winter term.
  2. One complementary course (3 credits). The complementary courses include courses taught at the 500 level aiming to broaden students learning and specialized 600-level courses that provide in depth knowledge of specific environmental issues. This complementary course must be chosen in consultation with and approval by the student's supervisor AND the Neotropical Environment Option Director.
  3. All newly admitted students. All new NEO students are strongly recommended to spend the months of January and February in Panama to take the core courses and familiarize themselves with Panama. This stay in Panama could be used to think about ideas for the thesis.
  4. One NEO Symposium presentation. All NEO students will have to give at least one symposium presentation at the end of their study. They will also be encouraged to make presentations of their results at McGill and STRI. This participation will not count towards course credit.
  5. All students will have a thesis advisory committee. This committee has to include a research supervisor, a co-supervisor and one McGill professor from the student's home department. If the main research supervisor is from STRI, the co-supervisor will be from McGill or vice-versa.
  6. Social Science seminars. In order to expose students to the idiosyncrasy of various disciplines in the Humanities, a guest speaker is invited, every month, to meet with the NEO students for a seminar followed by dinner and an informal discussion. The Social Science seminars are held in Montreal for the fall term and in Panama from January to August. Half of the guest speakers are Latin American scholars who share with the students their knowledge perspective.


I. Core courses (required) in Neotropical Environment (total: 6 credits)

ENVR 610 - Foundations of Environmental Policy (3 credits - Winter term)
Gordon Hickey

BIOL 640 Tropical Biology and Conservation (BIOL-640) (3 credits - Winter term)
Carlos Arias and Owen McMillan


Course number

Course Title

Dates of courses

BIOL 640

Tropical Biology and Conservation


ENVR 610

Foundation of Environmental Policy


*The two courses will run together. The  courses are organized by Professor Gordon Hickey, Kelly L. Bennett and Felipe Pérez Jvostov.  Course information and syllabi will be sent directly to the NEO students*

ENVR 610 International Policy and Politics of the Environment (3 cr)

Overview: Analysis of current environmental policies to reveal implicit and explicit assumptions regarding scientific methods, hypothesis testing, subject/object, causality, certainty, deities, health, development, North-South concerns for resources, commons, national sovereignty, equity. Discussion of implications of such assumptions for building future environmental policies

BIOL 640 Tropical Biology and Conservation (3 cr)

Overview: Long-term research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute will be organized and synthesized to examine historical assembly and ecological maintenance of tropical communities. This synthesis will draw on phylogenetic concepts for historical insight and will examine the probable resilience of these communities to global change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Information on these courses can be obtained either from danielle.lefebvre [at] (Danielle Lefebvre) for ENVR 610 or from ancil.gittens [at] (Ancil Gittens) for BIOL 640.

II. Complementary courses (elective) in Neotropical Environment (total: 3 credits)

Students must take one additional course, deemed suitable by his/her supervisor and pre-approved by the NEO Director.

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