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Access Cranes

8.99°, -79°54 (Panama City, Pacific) 9.280172º, -79.975393º (San Lorenzo, Caribbean)

Studying the forest
from the top down


Inspired by the construction cranes a forest ecologist viewed from a Miami airport during a long layover, the Canopy Access Crane System revolutionized forest ecology. With one crane on either side of the Isthmus of Panama, the system puts scientists into the tropical treetops 40-50 meters above the forest floor. The crane in Panama City’s Natural Metropolitan Park reaches 80 tree and liana species in a seasonally dry forest, and provides a spectacular view of the Panama City skyline. The crane in the San Lorenzo National Park accesses more than 120 woody species in the much wetter evergreen forest on a ridge overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The Panama cranes were the first of 11 that are in forests on five continents. 

Note: The PNM crane is closed until further notice.


The forest canopy is where some of the forest’s most important ecosystem interactions happen. Before scientists could hop into construction crane gondolas and directly access the canopies, little was known about this critical interface between forests and the atmosphere. Researchers study the canopy’s role in ecosystem processes like photosynthesis and energy flows, the dynamics of regional and global climates, and climate change and biodiversity loss. Forest canopies, especially in the tropics, are homes to countless species of animals and plants, the understanding of which has greatly increased with front-row access to their unique microclimates.


Lourdes Vargas

Lourdes Vargas

Crane Program Coordinator

Edwin Andrades

Edwin Andrades

Crane operator


Beyond the crane structure, the canopy research sites have a limited research resources. 

Physical monitoring

Physical monitoring

Physical monitoring data is installed at each canopy crane location.



There are no accommodations at the Parque Natural Metropolitano but the site is just a short drive from STRI’s Tupper Center headquarters. San Lorenzo has a small, rustic field station with two bunk beds and a limited electrical supply consisting of two solar panels. There is first aid equipment, a radio for communications and limited cell phone service. 

Maps and Directions

Parque Natural Metropolitano is 4 km from STRI’s Tupper headquarters on Av. Juan Pablo II. The road to the crane entrance is 700 meters from the park’s administrative buildings.

The entrance road to the San Lorenzo National Park is an 84 km drive from STRI’s Tupper headquarters in Panama City. After crossing the Gatún Locks of the Panama Canal, drive 5.5 km south toward the town of Escobal where you will find the gated entrance to the crane site on the right.

Access to the facilities must be scheduled with the crane program coordinator.

Contact us

Visiting Scientists

For booking crane for research please contact:

Lourdes Vargas

Crane Program Coordinator
+507 212.8194
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