For nearly a century, access to Culebra Point was restricted to military personnel. Incidentally, this security practice protected Culebra’s marine organisms from fishing and other activities that have decimated their populations at unprotected locations throughout the upper Bay of Panama. Untrampled by recreational visitors, the sand beach has healthy populations of crabs, isopods, amphipods, intertidal beetles, worms, clams and the diatoms, and the fungi and bacteria that they eat. In turn, these invertebrate populations attract shorebirds, including migrants that visit during the north-temperate winter. Untouched by shellfish collectors, the rocks are rich with encrusting algae, snails, limpets, chitons, barnacles, and crabs and the natural tide pools, some the size of small swimming pools, which are havens for a diversity of fish, sea slugs, echinoderms and marine worms. All in all, the general health of the intertidal and shallow water marine communities at Culebra makes the area especially attractive for research.
Historically, many of the excellent research projects done at Culebra under STRI’s sponsorship resulted in scholarly publications that provide a valuable knowledge base for our academic programs and public exhibits. We continue to promote these kinds of studies among STRI scientists, but especially among local and visiting students at the high school level and above.
In addition to its healthy natural communities, Culebra offers a better link between basic research and our academic and public exhibition programs. In forging these links, we hope to convey information and to give non-scientists the opportunity to experience the excitement of the scientific process that leads to discovery.