CTPA Slide
CTPA Slide 2
CTPA Slide 3
CTPA Slide 5
CTPA Slide 4

You are here


Center for Tropical Paleoecology 
and Archaeology

8.96°, -79.54°

Exploring the tropical peoples
and ecosystems of the past

Seminars & Events

Currently, we have no upcoming seminars. For more information click here.

Housed in Panama Canal Zone-style building in the former zone’s hospital district, the Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archaeology convenes geologists, archaeologists and paleoecologists who piece together the history of tropical peoples and habitats. With a wide repertoire of techniques, some pioneered at STRI, CTPA scientists study changes in tropical communities over long time-scales and ask how the earliest known peoples of the tropics understood and used natural resources to survive.


Researchers at the CTPA study changes in terrestrial communities over geologic time scales and human occupation and manipulation of tropical forests over millennia. Many fundamental questions in biology and anthropology require a comprehensive understanding of the past. The tropics’ magnificent diversity of plants, animals, human cultures and languages has a history that is rich in lessons as we seek to protect this diversity for future generations. 


The CTPA staff includes scientists and administrators who help with all aspects of scientific research at the center.

Raineldo Urriola

Raineldo Urriola

Senior Scientific Coordinator 

Felix Rodriguez Mejia

Felix Rodríguez

Scientific Coordinator

Irene Holtz

Irene Holtz

Research Manager

Enrique Moreno

Enrique Moreno

Pollen Lab

Services and Resources

CTPA’s facilities allow for the processing of fossil and sediment samples and include microscopes, fossil storage, a walk-in-freezer, computer room and a seminar/conference room.

Fossil Collection

Fossil Collection

Collected by paleontologists and archaeologists over decades, the CTPA fossil includes finely preserved leaves and wood from tropical forests that stood millions of years ago to vestiges of the earliest known humans to live in Central America thousands of years ago. Flora and faunal collections help researchers compile a comprehensive history of tropical habits and their organisms, and how these underwent profound changes over time. The paleoecological records from archaeological sites help understand how early human settlers interacted with the tropical environment.

Pollen collection

Pollen collection

STRI’s collection of more than 25,000 pollen grains and spores, each mounted on a labeled microscope slide provides worldwide coverage with an emphasis on plants of the Americas. Alan Graham, a professor emeritus at Kent State University and curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden, began the collection in 1954, gathering pollen from plants in the field and from dried specimens in large herbarium collections. A card catalog accompanying the collection is cross-referenced to the slides and contains information on each plant species represented.

Resources Phytolith Collection

Phytolith collection

Tiny, often distinctly shaped bits of opaline silica form within plant cells and remain in archaeological sites thousands of years after the original plant material has decayed. STRI’s Dolores Piperno, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, built a reference collection of phytoliths from more than 600 species of New World tropical plants. The collection has led to significant discoveries about corn and squash domestication as well as contributing to studies of land-use history.


Laboratories and Equipment

As well as housing STRI’s pollen, phytolith and fossil collections, the Ancón building has a laboratory for processing fossil samples. The facility provides four tanks for washing and an oven for drying samples. There is some general use equipment available for common use. Please contact the scientific coordination office for more information.



The Ancón Dormitories are conveniently located adjacent the CTPA. The dormitories have eight shared apartments for up to 20 visiting students or researchers. There are six two-bed studio apartments and two four-bed apartments. The cost per person is $230 per month. All dorms include beds and linens, towels, desks and chairs, a dining table, hot water, Wi-Fi and a kitchenette with a refrigerator, stove, microwave, cookware and utensils.

Field vehicles

Field Vehicles

There is a 4WD vehicle pool at Tupper for field use.  Please contact the visitor services office for information regarding vehicle policy.

Maps and Directions

The CPTA Ancon building is located in Panama City’s Balboa neighborhood, opposite the Supreme Court. It is a 10-minute walk from the Tupper Research, Library, and Conference Center. It has a limited amount of parking.


CTPA Lab Map


Contact Us

Visiting Scientists

For information and facilitation of research at CTPA please contact our scientific support staff

Raineldo Urriola

Senior Scientific Coordinator
+507 212.8124 or 6614-9831

Felix Rodriguez

Scientific Coordinator
+507 212.8134 or 6771-9138


Report all emergencies to STRI security

+507 212.8911
+507 212.8211
Back to Top