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A tropical research community
on the edge of the Panama Canal

STRI’s newest laboratory is surrounded by Panama’s Soberanía National Park, 20,000 hectares of intact lowland tropical forest that is a critical biological corridor connecting two continents. Gamboa is home to our amphibian rescue center, insectaries, experimental greenhouses, bat behavior installations, a schoolhouse for field courses and housing for visiting scientists. Postdocs and scientists with young families are especially drawn to this small community on the east bank of the Panama Canal, only 30km from Panama City and a half-hour ferry ride from Barro Colorado Island research station.


Research at the Gamboa laboratories address some of the urgent issues facing terrestrial tropical ecosystems today. The experimental greenhouses test tropical plant response to elevated carbon dioxide and temperatures to better understand the impacts of climate change. The amphibian rescue center maintains breeding populations of amphibians that have been wiped out in the wild. The insectaries trace the origins and trajectories of evolution. Our newest laboratory is home to forest ecology and animal behavior programs, which build on decades of discoveries into how tropical ecosystems and their denizens function.


Gamboa’s support staff help visiting researchers and field course participants with logistics, housing and issues related to research.

Raineldo Urriola

Senior Scientific Coordinator

Isis Ochoa

Scientific Coordinator

Rivieth De Liones

Administrative Assistant

Services and Resources

Gamboa has state-of-the-art facilities surrounded by easily accessible tropical forest. There are comfortable laboratory and office spaces for working scientists, accommodations for field course participants and visiting scientists and their families, and a small fleet of 4x4 trucks to access Pipeline Road, which runs through Soberanía National Park. There are specifically designed facilities for bat research, an insectary teeming with butterflies, an artificial pond for frogs, and greenhouses for plant physiology.

Laboratories and Equipment

STRI’s newest research facility was inaugurated in 2016. At least six staff scientists — including animal behaviorists, forest ecologists and geneticists have labs in the new building. Other lab facilities in Gamboa include insectaries and experimental greenhouses.  There is some general use equipment available for common use. Please contact the scientific coordination office for more information.

Plant Physiology Greenhouse

Large glass domes and growth chambers allow researchers to control environmental conditions such as temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide to simulate future climatic conditions — or go back in time to cooler, less carbon-rich times. The one-hectare site has ample room for other plant physiology experiments.

Bat Lab

STRI’s bustling bat lab includes flight cages, lab space and access to bat-filled forests.

Amphibian Rescue Center

STRI and partner institutions have spent well over a decade saving critically endangered amphibian species from a lethal fungal infection that has decimate frog species around the world. The amphibian rescue center, built with refrigerated shipping containers, maintains viable breeding populations of about half a dozen species to aid research into a cure for the disease and reintroduction into native habitat.


The Panama Canal Zone-era schoolhouse provides lodging, classrooms and work space for visiting field courses. Its dorms sleep up to 24 students and include separate rooms for course instructors. The schoolhouse also has a spacious dining room and a fully equipped kitchen.

Soberanía National Park and Pipeline Road

Protected since 1980, central Panama’s 20,000-hectare national park surrounds Gamboa on the east bank of the Panama Canal. Access north of Gamboa is along Pipeline Road, a 17km dirt road that runs the length of the forest. To the south, the park is traversed by the two-lane Gaillard Highway. Panama’s National Environmental Ministry manages the park and permits are required to conduct research in the park.


Housing is available several STRI houses around Gamboa. These include six apartments in one building, two two-bedroom duplexes and two houses rented from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. The accommodations include telephone lines, kitchens, and laundry rooms.

Field Vehicles

STRI has manual transmission 4x4 trucks available at most research facilities. Some labs have their own vehicles as well. These vehicles are for authorizes research activities and need to be booked in advance. Drivers need valid licenses, a U.S. government license (issued at STRI), and experience driving manual transmission vehicles in off-road conditions.

Maps and Directions

Gamboa is 30 kilometers northwest of Panama City on the east bank of the Panama Canal, roughly 40 minutes by car from STRI’s administration building in the Ancon neighborhood of Panama City. Rush hour traffic can make the trip considerably longer. Consult the Visitor Services Office for information about STRI transportation options.


Directional map

Contact us

Visiting Scientists

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

Raineldo Urriola

Senior Scientific Coordinator
+507 212.8124 or 6614-9831

Isis Ochoa

Scientific Coordinator
+507 212.8453 or 6729-0436

For information related to logistics, housing and vehicles, please contact the visitor services office.

STRI Visitor Services Office

+507 212.8082


Report all emergencies to STRI security

+507 212.8911
+507 212.8211
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