The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute


Barro Colorado Natural Monument & Isla Barro Colorado
Three of STRI's physical environmental monitoring stations are located within the Isla Barro Colorado. The island reserve is in manmade Lago Gatun and is part of the Barro Colorado Natural Monument that includes five mainland peninsulas. The island and the lake were formed by the damming of the Chagres River when the Panama Canal was built in 1914. A total of 1,316 plant species, some 381 bird species, and a bio-diverse array of other tropical wildlife including the jaguar, tapir, sloth, coatimundi, five monkey species, peccaries, insects, bats and snakes have been identified on the island. The reserve contains over thirty-five miles of marked trails and is open to the public on guided tours with the institute's permission. Visitors here may or may not see much wildlife on Panama tours since many of the island's species are nocturnal and only day-tours are allowed.

Other facilities operated by the institute in and around the capital include the San Lorenzo National Park Canopy Crane meteorological station, the Santa Cruz meteorological station at Gamboa and a canopy monitoring structure in Panama City's 650-acre Metropolitan National Park, a tropical forest known for its prolific bird species. In 1970, the Galeta Marine Laboratory research facility opened on the Caribbean coast of Panama in Colon Province near the northern entrance to the Panama Canal, an area of coral reefs and mangroves. The facility's public interpretative center offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the environmental impact of the canal on Panama's unique marine ecosystems.

Since 1973, the institute has operated a marine species monitoring program at Punta Culebra two miles from the start of the Calzada de Amador, a causeway that connects the Pacific side of the Panama Canal to the nearby islands of Naos, Flamenco and Perico. An open-air marine science center for the public, called the Marine Exhibition Center, is also located there. Until 1998, the institute also operated a monitoring station in the Kuna Yala.

In western Panama, the Institute maintains a field station on the island of Colon in Bocas del Toro Province near the border with Costa Rica and another in an area of coral reefs, mangroves and grass beds. Its research station in the western highlands monitors the surrounding montane forest near the Chiriqui River dam, an oil pipeline and a highway. It maintains two coral reef monitoring locations in the Gulf of Chiriqui in the Pacific.