Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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Farewell
Dr. Larsen

Director Emeritus
Matthew Larsen retires

June 19, 2020

The entire STRI community shares its gratitude with Dr. Larsen for his six years of service, for his leadership, kindness and the positive changes he has overseen.

Dear Matt,

You have left your mark in Panama and in our hearts.

Matt Larsen leaves his mark on the cement in Gamboa, Panama.

You brought your love of Latin America from your time in Puerto Rico and your dedication to public service from years at the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA, quickly making Panama your home, and becoming an unofficial ambassador for the Casco Viejo neighborhood as well as STRI’s number one fan and ambassador.

STRI Director Emeritus Matthew Larsen in Isla Colón, Bocas Del Toro.
View of Casco Viejo, The Old Quarter of Panama City.

When you began in June, 2014, your first goal was to restructure STRI internally, creating a more diverse leadership team and giving more responsibility to women.

Under your guidance, science administration was streamlined. The Finance and Administration team was strengthened; accounting processes and payroll systems were vastly improved, a new web page was designed, developed and launched in-house using cutting edge design and web technology.

Matthew Larsen gives some welcome words during a Town Hall meeting.
Matt Larsen during a Town Hall meeting.

You got to know us all by name.

Dr. Matthew Larsen and STRI fellow, Nicole Smith-Guzmán
Associate Director for Communications, Linette Dutari with Jimena Pitty, Culebra Manager, Matt Larsen and the education and outreach staff during a Book Fair in Panama.

Our research platform grew during your time here. You inaugurated the new Gamboa Laboratory, and completed the process confirming our custodianship of the island of Coibita, with access to the islands and pristine marine habitats of Coiba National Park.

Gamboa Laboratories.
Scenic view of Coibita Island.

These are resources shared by scientists from 50 countries around the world as they strive to understand how the intricate, life-support systems of our planet work.

Your commitment to share the excitement of discovery and contribute to environmental education is evident in STRI’s public outreach programs, especially the new Q?rioso center in Culebra, which will open soon.

Matt at the Panama Book Fair, promoting STRI to the public.
During the innauguration of the permanent exhibit, Fabulous Frogs of Panamá, Matt gives welcome words to visitors.
Matt and visitors of the Punta Culebra Nature Center.

During your time at STRI you have carefully tracked and shared our scientific publications. You love to tell people that STRI scientists and students publish new information about the tropics every 16 hours. And that life-saving antibiotics were discovered in microbes in sloth fur, stressing the connection between conservation and our own health.

Three-toed sloth at the Punta Culebra Nature Center

Reporters from both the international and local press have interviewed you.

You promoted our communication projects, supported the completion of our new bilingual website and our growing social media presence. And you continue to hold the record for positive Tweets about STRI!

Dr. Jorge Motta, SENACYT, and Dr. Matthew Larsen cut the ribbon on a shared booth between SENACYT and STRI at the Panama International Book Fair.
Matt at the launch of the book, A History of the World in 100 Fossils, by STRI Paleontologist, Dr. Aaron O'Dea.

We can’t do our science without a strong group of friends who believe in us.

You represented us to private backers, the US Congress and to our friends in Panama by hosting the Smithsonian National Board, the Provost, the Legacy Society, our own Advisory Board and members of the Fundación Smithsonian.

STRI Director Emeritus, Matthew Larsen, former Secretary of the Smithsonian, Dr. David Skorton and his wife Robin Davisson at the Gamboa Laboratories.
Members of the STRI Advisory Board, scientists, donors and staff at the Agua Salud Project.
Members of the STRI Advisory Board, and the Smithsonian Foundation of Panama and scientists with Matt at the Punta Culebra Nature Center.
John Davis, Smithsonian Provost for Science of the Smithsonian, Matt Larsen and Luz Bonadies, director of the Contemporary Art Museum of Panama.

Our friends and supporters contributed significantly to support the Agua Salud reforestation project in perpetuity,  a Tony Coates Post-doctoral fellowship in perpetuity and studies of microbiomes in the tropics.

Dr. Matthew Larsen with STRI donors at Barro Colorado Island.
First screening of the movie, Mysteries of The Rainforest, with STRI friends.
Matt unveilling the Tony Coates Endowment Fund at Bocas Del Toro Research Station

When you came, you also promised to strengthen the connections between STRI and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Not only did you travel back and forth from Washington more times than anyone else here, you hosted former Secretary Skorton and the Smithsonian National Board.

Dr. David Skorton and Dr. Matthew Larsen in conversation in the Los Tamarindos Room in Panama's presidential residence, Palacio de las Garzas.

You made plans to host the Smithsonian’s new Secretary Lonnie Bunch in March of this year. And you encouraged our staff to visit and create ties with their counterparts at SI.

Matt and the STRI communications team, alongside Julissa Marenco, Director for Communications of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

You forged important relationships between Panama and the United States, on a very personal and lasting level as a bridge between governments and as a 100 percent supporter of an international project to conserve Panama’s Golden Frog, the Rana Dorada.

STRI Director Emeritus Ira Rubinoff, Smithsonian Foundation President Gladys Gerbaud, STRI Director Emeritus Matthew Larsen, former Minister of Environment Mirei Endara, and Agua Salud Proyect Director Dr. Jefferson Hall.
Mirei Endara, David Skorton, President Juan Carlos Varela, Matt Larsen and Smithsonian Board Members.
Matt Larsen y Jacky Yaffe owner of La Rana Dorada Brewery.

You believe strongly in the importance of learning from nature how best to ensure clean water and a healthy environment for generations to come.

You worked with local environmental and scientific institutions in Panama to support Agua Salud as a model for a sustainable future.

You championed the use of science for the establishment of a new marine corridor to protect whales and helped Panama to establish a new, deepwater marine reserve.

Dr. Matthew Larsen and STRI staff scientist Héctor Gúzman.

Dear Matt,

We will miss your sense of humor, your appreciation of art and culture, and your love of music.

We wish you the best in your new life in San Francisco. Thanks for all you have done for science in the tropics and especially in Panama. And congratulations on your new appointment as Emeritus director!

You are always welcome here.

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