About Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Fellow participating in field course

Last year, more than 3.1 million migratory raptors were recorded in the first annual "Raptors Ocean-to- Ocean" count held in Panama in October and November

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution based outside of the United States, is dedicated to understanding biological diversity.

What began in 1923 as small field station on Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal Zone, has developed into one of the leading research institutions of the world. STRI’s facilities provide a unique opportunity for long-term ecological studies in the tropics, and are used extensively by some 900 visiting scientists from academic and research institutions in the United States and around the world every year. The work of our resident scientists has allowed us to better understand tropical habitats and has trained hundreds of tropical biologists.

STRI aims to offer research facilities that allow staff scientists, fellows, and visiting scientists to achieve their research objectives. The 38 staff scientists reside in the tropics and are encouraged to pursue their own research priorities without geographic limitations. The continuity of their long-term programs enables in-depth investigations that attract an elite group of fellows and visitors. Active support for fellows and visitors leverages resources further and attracts more than 900 scientists to STRI each year.

Although STRI is based in Panama, research is conducted throughout the tropics. STRI's Center for Tropical Forest Science uses large, fully enumerated forest plots to monitor tree demography in 14 countries located in Africa, Asia and the Americas. More than 3,000,000 individual trees representing 6,000 species are being studied. STRI's Biological Diversity of Forest Fragments project created experimental forest fragments of 0.01, 0.1, and 1.0 km 2 to study the consequences of landscape transformation on forest integrity in the central Amazon region. STRI marine scientists are conducting a global survey of levels of genetic isolation in coral reef organisms.


STRI's primary advantages

Access to the Barro Colorado Nature Monument

The Barro Colorado Nature Monument includes the 1,600-hectare Barro Colorado Island, which is covered with tropical forest and boasts a nearly intact mammal fauna. With an unparalleled store of background information reflecting 80 years of increasingly intense research in a protected setting, as well as accommodations and modern laboratories, BCI has long been a major center for tropical research. The Barro Colorado Nature Monument –which adjoins Panama 's 22,000-hectare Soberania National Park —also includes 4,000 hectares of surrounding mainland peninsulas covered by forests in various stages of succession, serving as a site for manipulative field experiments.


Marine laboratories

STRI has marine laboratories on both coasts of Panama, including a new Caribbean laboratory at Bocas del Toro, and a modern research vessel, giving access to two very different oceans that are only 80 km apart. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans were divided by the Isthmus of Panama about three million years ago, creating a superb "natural experiment" in evolution.

Research Vessel Urraca

Galeta Point Marine Lab


Canopy Cranes

A tower crane in a dry forest near Panama City and another in a rainforest near the mouth of the Chagres River on Panama's Caribbean side, provide access to two very different types of canopies.


Other advantages

Other facilities include: