21 April 2012 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Barro Colorado, Republic of Panama The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) has a 90-year history, dating back to the construction of the Panama Canal (The Smithsonian Institution)…
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The goals, achievements and some of the exotic flora and fauna of the institute have also been described. History and Current Status of STRI, Barro Colorado The history of STRI begins with the construction of the Panama Canal during which the Barro Colorado Island was formed (National Research Council). The damming of the Chagres River for the construction of the Panama Canal led to a rise in its water levels, causing the formation of the Gantun Lake. Following this, a small mountain about 476 feet high was isolated from the mainland, thus forming an island that was named the Barro Colorado Island (The Smithsonian Institution). James Zetek is one among the many scientists who foresaw the importance of setting this island aside for scientific research. In 1923, the Governor of Canal Zone designated the island as a biological reserve, and a research laboratory was set up collectively by the Smithsonian Institution, universities and private organizations for the purpose of investigating tropical flora and fauna (The Smithsonian Institution). Smithsonian’s fourth Secretary, Charles Doolittle Walcott, initiated a massive survey of the Panama Canal Zone (National Research Council). By 1946, the Barro Colorado Island became an integral part of the Smithsonian Institution. ...
In 1966, its name was changed to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Its scope was expanded to other parts of the tropics and marine science centers were also established on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the Panama (The Smithsonian Institution). Barro Colorado, in 1979, was declared a Nature Monument in compliance with the terms of the Convention for Nature Protection in the Western Hemisphere, 1940, and under the Torrijos-Carter Treaty (The Smithsonian Institution). Panama took STRI’s facilities under its custodianship and granted it the status of an International Mission. The Panama Canal Treaties were signed between Panama and STRI’s host nation. STRI signed an agreement with the Interoceanic Region Authority (ARI), formalizing its custodianship of the Barro Colorado Natural Monument before the expiration of the Panama Canal Treaties. In 1997, the institute came into an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Panama for continuing its research activities. Up to the present day, STRI has been host to scientists from all over the world. Barro Colorado is now one of the most studied tropical areas and boasts of about 102 mammal species, 381 bird species, and 1,316 plant species ranging over an area of 1,500 hectares and containing a vast network of trails (The Smithsonian Institution). Long-term studies on biology and natural history are being conducted on both terrestrial and marine field stations that are equipped with high-end laboratories along with dormitories. STRI has expanded its scope to other tropical areas and research is now conducted throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. Every year, about 250 to 300 scientists visit STRI at Barro Colorado from all over the world (The Smithsonian Institution). Goals and Achievements of the
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