Field Course: Comparative Applied Field Marine Mammal Physiology - Virtual

Accepting applications for 2024. To secure your spot for this very popular course, please complete your application with a non-refundable bank draft.  For details see below. 

Act now to take advantage of this unique, covid free opportunity and get a credit in the process!

Coordinator: Dr. C. Wittnich

***requires a minimum of 12 students to run this course***

Date: ~April 29 to May 10, 2024

Location: Quercus - Virtual Course (Various Species of Dolphin & Seals)

Description: Come join us and have the experience of your life – virtually enjoy up close and personal videos interacting with seals like sea lions, and various species of dolphins; all the while getting a University of Toronto and Physiology half credit. Experience physiology of these beautiful and awesome creatures. First week is spent on Zoom virtually visiting our marine mammal friends in Florida with daily activities such as in-water interactions with these amazing animals seeing their amazing anatomy and physiology. During the second week we will have virtual daily class meetings to discuss our individual projects, and group discussion of the information learned and applied. Space is limited for this unique one of a kind opportunity and it is filling up fast.

Applications should be done immediately as there are limited spaces available.  Note this course counts towards fulfilling physiology credit requirements.

Cost: Fees for PSL379H online virtual course is $2,200 USD. The fees covers the technical personnel, trainers, staff, marine mammal facilities, cost of video acquisitions, processing and animal interactions during said video sessions. Students are responsible for university course fees/tuition.

Contact: Dr. Wittnich immediately at to be sure not to miss this experience!

Evaluation: Field notes 30%, Participation 30%, Final essay 40%

To Register: Please fill out the Course Application Form for PSL379H-2023 virtual with a $500 CDN non-refundable deposit payable to the University of Toronto.  Drop application to the Department of Physiology,  Undergraduate Assistant, Jay Bhat, Medical Sciences Building, 1 King's College Circle, Room 3368, Toronto, ON M5S 1A8 OR drop off via drop-box by room 3368.

Virtual Field Marine Mammal_ application_form_2024_5.pdf

Summer 2019 Training Activities in the Department of Physiology: Never a dull moment.

Unique Physiology field course gives students hands on comparative physiology opportunity in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
Every year for the past 8 years, after final exams in April, an enthusiastic group of undergraduate students participate in a very unique field course opportunity offered by the Department of Physiology (PSL 379) to see first-hand the importance of physiology to how various species adapt to their environment and get a half credit in the process. This is co-ordinated through the Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, who provides all the logistics for this opportunity. The location is in the most beautiful of settings in the Riviera Maya, a nature reserve in Mexico, where the students spend time having personal interactions with a variety of marine mammal species, including sea lions, manatee and dolphins. Students not only conduct their own physiology-based research but also get to spend time in the water with these amazing creatures and come away with a new found appreciation of how the facts learned in the classroom have relevance to daily life!

PSL379H 2014 image of students

In early May 2019, we hosted the largest class ever, with 24 University of Toronto students from diverse backgrounds including physiology specialists as well as those from Human Biology and other departments within the Faculty of Arts and Science participating. Everyone took advantage of all this course has to offer and overcame their worries about being in the water with these large yet gentle creatures and it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the animals or the students. This is learning at its best both experiential and applied.

Associated Links:

Slideshow PSL379 slide 2015-1.pdf


"It (PSL379) is rare and extremely valuable opportunity for one to start on field data collecting and the many aspects of it one would not have known unless actually being there. Above all, it is exceptionally fun and enjoyable!" - Anonymous 2016

"I am writing to thank Dr Wittnich for her excellent course PSL379. Her extensive knowledge, enthusiasm and organization made the seminars and field course a pleasure to attend and study for. I also loved the experience of seeing those precious creatures. Being able to swim and interact with them was the greatest experience of my life.  In the past two weeks, I have learned to not to fear about being wrong and despite of my weakness in English I have to try harder and not to be disappointed. This course thought me how to be confident and helped me to find new friends. It is an honour and pleasure for being your student. Thank you." - Mahdis 2015

"The PSL 379 field course is a unique experience not found elsewhere! Get ready to be surrounded by picturesque scenery, amazing food, enthusiastic professors and most importantly, intelligent marine mammals! You can read textbooks about anatomy and physiology all you want, but nothing compares to actually having real life interactions with these animals, and seeing what you learned in action! My most memorable moments would definitely be feeding my manatee babies the food that I have prepared for them, and swimming with my dolphin buddies!  The fun aside, this experience also allowed me to develop self-directed research skills and knowledge of manuscript write up, both of which significantly contributed in my 4th year research project. I highly recommend this course for anyone who wants a perfect balance of work and fun! Trust me, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!" - Lucy 2015

"It was a great pleasure for me to take the PSL 379 course, and to be able to get hands-on experience with the marine mammals and about field course research. I have learned a lot from the course, and everything learned would really help me in my future courses and career. This experience has been very unique and will always be very valuable to me. Thank you, Dr Wittnich, for organizing everything, and I am looking forward to being in your class again, and recommending this course to my friends." - Ida 2013

"This course was, quite simply, an incredible experience. Not only do you get the chance to travel to Mexico, but you also get to interact with sea lions, manatees, and dolphins, and see how they live and interact. This is a unique, once in a lifetime chance that takes students away from the textbooks to really learn about and understand these mammals and their physiology in a natural environment. This is the kind of richly rewarding and inspiring learning experience that every class should offer, but sadly, does not. I came away from it grateful for what I’d experienced, and also more passionate about my studies and aspirations. Highly recommended." - Jin Hyok Jang 2012