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Surrounded by mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs, Galeta became STRI’s first Caribbean marine lab in 1964. The protected island near the entrance of the Panama Canal was the site of an extensive study of a marine oil spill. Today, the station is especially well-situated for the investigation of urban and industrial encroachment on coastal ecosystems in the tropics. The station is an important outreach facility for Colón, Panama’s second-largest city.


Data on marine biota and the physical environment have been collected for more than four decades at Galeta. Long-term work includes studies of Caribbean mangroves, invasive species, termites and social wasps. More recently the site has been used to monitor and study the arrival of the invasive lionfish to the southern Caribbean. STRI scientists also helped create a management plan at Galeta that encompasses research, education and ecotourism that will allow joint use of land in the area by STRI, Panama's environment ministry and universities.


The team at Galeta helps keep scientific research projects on track and guides visitors around the site. The staff also hosts groups for regular teacher training courses.

Stanley Heckadon

Stanley Heckadon

Staff Scientist and Station Director

Lourdes Vargas

Lourdes Vargas

Scientific Coordinator Assistant

Jairo Castillo

Jairo Castillo

Educational Program Coordinator


Galeta station provides quick access to mangroves, reefs and intertidal Caribbean environments. The site has resources to host school groups, and courses and workshops for teachers. The main building consists of offices, well-stocked library, kitchen, conference hall/classroom and a small laboratory. A dock provides access to sites for diving, snorkeling and exploring mangroves.

Long-term Data

Long-term Data

Intensive monitoring of the flora and fauna of the intertidal zone at Galeta began in 1970. Precipitation, solar radiation, and sea level data has been collected since 1974, and humidity and water temperature since 1975. An oceanographic monitoring tower was installed at Galeta in September 2001. It monitors water level, water temperature and conductivity and barometric pressure, relative humidity, air temperature, rainfall, solar radiation, solar radiation available to plants, and wind speed and direction.

Lab and Seawater System

Lab and Seawater System

Galeta’s recently renovated laboratory and seawater system and aquaria are designed for researchers to take full advantage of the lab’s seaside, mangrove-surrounded location. New equipment acquired 2017 include an autoclave, oven, incubator, freezer, scales and new furniture. The lab also has computers and Internet.

Research Vessels

Research Vessels

Two boats with outboard motors allow researchers to access coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves near the station. The boats also support research in the Smithsonian’s scientific diving program.

Nature trails and Education facilities

Nature Trails and Education Facilities

A boardwalk and nature trails takes visitors through the mangroves and surrounding forests. There are interpretive signage and exhibits. There is a large observation deck on the station’s roof, a large covered outdoor meeting area, and touch pools that offer temporary refuge to rescued sea turtles.



Three converted shipping containers serve as dorms to house up to 20 people. Each consists of two air-conditioned rooms, each with bunk beds and a shared bathroom with a hot shower. Sheets, pillows and towels, washer and dryer are provided. Galeta has a fully equipped kitchen and meals can either be prepared by residents or arrangements can be made in advance for a cook.

Maps and Directions

The Galeta Marine Laboratory is located on the Caribbean Coast of Panama, in the Province of Colón, about an 80 kilometer drive from Panama City.

From Panama City, drive to Colón on the Transisthmian Highway (Transístmica) or the toll road. Turn right at the intersection Cuatro Altos (Avenida Randolph). Go about four kilometers, until reaching a road where you will find a sign that welcomes you to Galeta Point. Drive for five more kilometers, and you will find the sign for STRI Galeta Marine Lab. A national park guard may charge an entry fee to the park, which is waived for people with valid STRI identification.

Galeta Map

Isla Galeta

Galeta directional Map

Directional map

Contact Us

Visiting Scientists

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

Lourdes Vargas

Scientific Coordinator Assistant
+507 212.8194

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

STRI Visitor Services Office

+507 212.8082

General Public

To visit Galeta on a guided tour, please contact.

Dr. Stanley Heckadon or Jairo Castillo

Public Programs and Educational Program Coordinator
+507 212.8191
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