|Rubinoff: the visionary founder of the modern STRI
To estimate the carbon stocks of an entire country, even a country as small as Panama, is an audacious task, but audacity is nothing new to Ira Rubinoff. During his tenure as STRI Director from 1974-2008 he hired more than 30 staff scientists and supervised the construction or modernization of every STRI facility. He shepherded the Institution through the reversion of the Panama Canal Zone and the U.S. Invasion of Panama. He encouraged the late Alan Smith to "hang graduate students from construction cranes" to reach forest canopies, a major innovation for forest ecologists and plant physiologists.
STRI’s contribution to the LiDAR carbon estimation project is just one of the payoffs of another of Rubinoff’s Big Bets−to allow Steve Hubbell and Robin Foster to establish the first large-scale, long-term forest dynamics monitoring plot on Panama’s Barro Colorado Island in 1980. "Visitors ask if our researchers see the effects of global climate change. The answer is yes, but only because we began to monitor forest diversity long ago," Rubinoff says. "Suddenly people are in desperate need of high quality scientific information in order to choose our future, in the hopes that we can mitigate global warming, restore degraded lands and ensure fresh, clean water. Because STRI has been studying tropical forests for nearly a hundred years, we are able to contribute."
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