Special events February

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March 1, 2019

2019 Fellowship Meetings and Fellows Symposium, Library visit, Gamboa window treatment, Angela Calderon Presents Seminar at STRI, Pat and David Jernigan visit Galeta, Bocas Teacher training and more

2019 Fellowship Meetings and Fellows Symposium

Thanks to the Academic Programs Office: Owen McMillan, Adriana Bilgray and Paola Gomez for another amazing event!

Day 1: Arduous Process: Amazing Result

Everyone who crafts a proposal for a STRI fellowship knows s/he will be up against tough competition. Success means a chance to join a thriving scientific community and to work in some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Staff scientists take decision-making seriously, sifting through far more proposals than can be funded in fields from archaeology to animal behavior. They meet a number of times every fiscal year, first in November to choose the new Tupper Fellow (Mike Logan, featured in the news story Darwin Double Time), several more times a year to choose interns (see our Women in Science story) and now, in February, to choose the remaining set of short-term, pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows (see guest writer and intern Katie Griswold’s article about Charlotte Steeves, A Colorful World). Winners will be announced in a few weeks after they consider options and choose their futures.

Day 2: The Soft Side

Running a big project, getting a program funded or a job, depend on soft skills as much as on math or writing. This year the folks in the Academic Programs Office planned the first day of the fellows symposium to make this point. Oris Sanjur, Associate Director for Science Administration kicked off the day by presenting What Grad School Didn’t Teach You: leadership skills for scientists, with advice about people skills and power followed by a group discussion to share experiences.

After the first coffee break, Emily Zhukov asked symposium participants to form groups of three and to draw or write what came to mind as their groupmates briefly explained their research projects. Everyone experienced a first-hand example of techniques the NGO, Estudo Nuboso (Cloud Studio), develops to bring artists and scientists together during “speed-dating” FlashLABs designed to foster innovative communication skills and tools to reach new audiences.

And in the afternoon session, Ana Endara and Beth King from the communication office’s content team office showed a set of recently produced videos featuring STRI fellows and staff. They asked the audience to close their eyes and envision story elements that create connections between emotions and ideas—the best way to make thoughts stick in the minds of an audience, be it a family member wondering what it’s like to be at a remote field site or an academic web page designed to attract new students.

Finally, we had a chance to see the finalists in this year’s student photo and video contest.

Day 3: Speed Talks, Posters and Grilled Arepas

On Friday, each of 20 fellows gave a ten minute talk followed by five minutes of questions. For some, this was one of their first talks before a packed audience of peers. Coffee breaks between talks and the poster session and BBQ at the end of the day are a rare chance for students who work at distant field sites to come together to build friendships and organize trips to the beach or to Panama’s old city—the long-term connections that underlie future collaborations. Congratulations go to Mario Bretfield, University of Wyoming, who won the Jackson/Knowlton Award for best student paper: Bretfeld, M., Ewers, B.E., Hall, J.S. 2018. Plant water use responses along secondary forest succession during the 2015/2016 El Niño drought in Panama. New Phytologist doi:10.1111/nph.15071, and Photo Contest winners.

Crowds Descends Upon STRI Library

During her first presentation delivered in Spanish STRI Library, A Space for Everyone to The First Seminar of Librarians, Archivists and Museum Professionals at the University of Panama, STRI librarian Carrie Smith invited the group to visit.

“What we thought would be a group of 30-50 turned out to be 3 busloads of 122 guests, all arriving on time for a 1 hour show!” Carrie said. “This was the first visit by 90 percent of the guests, mostly librarians, and we were all very excited to pull this off.”

The library staff quickly organized four rotating groups: a viewing of the library’s copy of Biologia Centrali Americana organized by Elizabeth Sanchez with Sr. Santos’ help; a tour of the Library Annex with Apolinar Guerrero; a table of Emergency Response Kit materials with Carrie; an overview of Electronic Resources with Angel Aguirre, and an Insect Collection visit with Dr. Annette Aiello.

“Huge Kudos to Dr. Matt Larsen, Dr. Oris Sanjur, and the ADSA team Felix Rodriguez, Melissa Cano y Alethea Abrego, staff scientist Dr. Annette Aiello, and photographer Jorge Aleman! Also huge thanks to the STRI Communications Team, Sonia Tejada and Lina Gonzalez for translation and slide assistance, the Library colleagues for content advice, and Oris Sanjur for accompanying Carrie for moral support!”  The SI Legacies group also enjoyed their visit to the library on Feb. 19.

Bird Friendly Windows

Birdwatchers on Pipeline Road in Panama’s Soberania National Park have reported up to 385 bird species during a 24-hour bird count. STRI’s new lab in Gamboa, inaugurated in September, 2016, is nestled right up against the park. Students working in the building reported large numbers of birds crashing into the huge glass window panes of this award-winning, energy-efficient structure. The Smithsonian Facilities Panama office, headed by Luis Guardia, responded by installing a window treatment of adhesive dots approved by the American Bird Conservancy and designed to reduce surface reflection. We hope that this will work and will inspire architects in the area to do the same.

Angela Calderon Presents Seminar at STRI

On February 5, Angela Calderon, associate professor and member of the department of Drug Discovery and Development, Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University, presented the seminar: Mass spectrometry based natural products Drug Discovery before STRI staff, and university students followed by a Q&A session.

Pat and David Jernigan visit Galeta

Pat and David Jernigan’s generosity was vital for the construction of Galeta’s new mangrove boardwalk. Last Friday, 22th, they visited the Lab and the boardwalk. Here they stand next to one of the new signs made by Paulette Guardia.

Photo by Galeta guide Stephen Solis

Bocas Teacher training

From February 25 to March 1, a group of 15 teachers from Panama’s Ministry of Education in Bocas del Toro met at the STRI research station in that province to participate in the seminar-workshop "Learning and Preserving: A Science Adventure with the Smithsonian".

The annual activity, which is part of the Institute's educational programs and the MEDUCA training cycle, has been carried out since 2007. One of the purposes of the seminar is to strengthen teachers' knowledge of the main natural ecosystems in their environment -such as mangroves, tropical forests and the sea- as well as the threats they face and the type of research carried out by STRI in the area.

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