The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute was founded with the purpose of increasing and sharing knowledge about the past, present and future of tropical ecosystems and their relevance to human welfare. This work began in Panama in 1910, when the Smithsonian led one of the world’s first major environmental impact studies, which surveyed and catalogued the flora and fauna of the lowland tropical forests that would be flooded with the creation of the Panama Canal. A century later, the Smithsonian in Panama is a standard-setting global platform for groundbreaking research on tropical forests and marine ecosystems and their astounding biodiversity.

Today, STRI employs 40 staff scientists and hosts some 1,400 scientific visitors every year, from undergrads and interns to postdoctoral investigators and tenured research associates. Together, they collaborate on 350 running research projects and publish more than 400 peer reviewed articles in scientific journals every year. The research is not only shared widely around the global scientific community, but also reaches policymakers in Panama and beyond, receives media coverage around the globe, and is the foundation of an outreach and training program that reaches hundreds of teachers and tens of thousands of schoolchildren every year.


Staff scientists


Visitors every year


Research projects


Peered reviewed articles on scientific journals every year

Our platform: The isthmus of Panama

STRI has research facilities and field stations across the Republic of Panama. Most of STRI’s facilities are located along the Panama Canal and provide easy access to the highly contrasting ecosystems separated by the narrow Isthmus of Panama.

Leadership team

Matt Larsen

Matthew Larsen


Larsen completed his Ph.D. in geography at the University of Colorado. Prior to joining STRI, Larsen was Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey. Fluent in Spanish, he conducted long-term hydrological studies in Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Larsen oversees STRI employees and research sites in Panama, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

William Wcislo

William Wcislo

Science Advisor to the Director

Wcislo completed his Ph.D. in entomology at the University of Kansas. He uses natural history observations, field experiments and detailed laboratory work to better understand the evolution of animal behavior — usually in bees and ants — in changing environments. As a science advisor to the director, Wcislo advises the director on STRI research programs.

Oris Sanjur

Oris Sanjur

Associate Director for Science Administration

Sanjur graduated from the University of Panama in 1991 and completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology at Rutgers University in 1998. She served as the president of the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science from 2006 to 2009. Her duties include maintaining a high standard of operational support for STRI researchers.

Corina Guardia

Corina Guardia

Associate Director for Finance and Administration

Guardia completed her B.S. at Boston University and her MBA at Nova University in Miami. Before joining STRI, Guardia held positions at Chase Manhattan Bank, Dell, Pedregal Power Company (El Paso), and Panama’s Banking Oversight Board. Guardia oversees the following STRI’s functions: finance, accounting, human resources, IT, procurement, safety, visitor office and administration of facilities.

Jenny McMillan

Jennifer S. McMillan

Associate Director of Advancement

McMillan has spent more than 15 years fundraising for nonprofit organizations. Before joining STRI, she was a senior advancement officer for the Smithsonian Under Secretary of Science. Splitting her time between Washington and Panama, McMillan helps build STRI’s international advisory board, increases fundraising and expands STRI’s long-term advancement goals.

Rodrigo Ramirez Blasquez

Rodrigo Ramirez-Blasquez

Associate Director for Legal and External Affairs

Ramírez-Blásquez has a legal and political science degree from Panama’s Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua, a masters degree in law from Tulane University and an MBA from the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencias y Tecnología. He joined STRI as legal counsel in 2004 and currently oversees legal and external affairs.

Linnette Dutari

Linette Dutari

Associate Director for Communications

Dutari holds a bachelor’s in science and chemical engineering from Louisiana State University and a Master’s in International Business Management from the University of London. Before joining STRI, she was a global communications advisor at ExxonMobil in Washington, D.C., and was marketing, corporate affairs and retail manager at Puma Energy in Panama. Dutari heads STRI’s communications and public programs teams.

Alejandro Arze

Alejandro Arze

Director of Protection and Security

Arze is a civil engineer who graduated from the Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil and received an M.S. in geotechnical engineering from the University of Illinois. He also did a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Panama. Before joining STRI, he worked in the government and private sector. Arze oversees all STRI’s security and protection operations.

Advisory board

The Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute was established by the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents to provide advice, support and expertise to STRI. The board supports STRI’s mission by advising the director on major issues, making recommendations for public relations and external affairs, assisting with fundraising and acting as advocates and ambassadors for STRI by developing relationships with the institute’s various constituencies.

Members of STRI’s Advisory Board, the Fundación Smithsonian and scientists meet at the Punta Culebra Nature Center.

Fundación Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Foundation of Panama (Fundación Smithsonian en Panamá) is a volunteer group consisting of prominent Panamanian and foreign businesspersons and public figures. The foundation acts as an advisor on external affairs, public relations and general operations in Panama. The foundation also actively promotes STRI science and outreach in Panama and cultivates new resources and support to advance the mission.

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