Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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STRI special events, July 2022

July 29, 2022

What Do You Love About Forests? STRI Rocks ATBC, Interpreting Clues to Ocean Health and more.

What Do You Love About Forests?

As part of festivities organized by #earthoptimism, team members from STRI’s Agua Salud reforestation project asked the public at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2022 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Some of their answers formed a heart-shaped word cloud: Shade, fresh air, mushrooms, sloths, leaves and freedom…Agua Salud project director, Jeff Hall participated in a panel on watersheds, Katherine Sinacore in a panel @smithsonianWLS (working land and seascapes) and Adriana Tapia on a Women in Conservation panel. STRI director, Josh Tewksbury shared the stage at a narrative session: Creativity for the Planet.

STRI Rocks ATBC and ABS Meetings

Summer professional meetings are the place to strut one’s academic stuff: everyone from students giving their first poster presentation to seasoned old-timers met at both the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting in Cartagena, Colombia (July 10-14) and the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica (July 20-23).


Two STRI Research Associates, Lissy Coley and Liza Comita, gave keynote speeches at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, which is always like old home week for STRI researchers—there were presentations by about three-dozen current STRI staff and fellows, and lots of alumni. STRI paleontologist Carlos Jaramillo and T. Mitch Aide were named Honorary Fellows, the highest award presented by the ATBC and STRI staff organized a happy hour


Organized with the help of Ximena Bernal, associate professor at Purdue University and STRI research associate (RA), the Animal Behavior Society meeting featured plenary talks about acacia ant behavior by Sabrina Amador, STRI staff scientist, and about the social lives of vampire bats by Gerry Carter, assistant professor and STRI RA. Staff scientist Bill Wcislo spoke at a symposium organized to pay tribute to emeritus STRI scientists Mary Jane West-Eberhard and Bill Eberhard. Katydid sound expert Laurel Symes, assistant director of the bioacoustics center at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and STRI RA presented one of several symposia. Alex Trillo, assistant professor at Gettysburg College and STRI RA offered the very well-attended talk: “Demystifying the application process to graduate schools in North America for Latin American students.”

The Plot Thickens

ForestGEO wrapped up the first in-person workshop of the NSF-AccelNet grant in Cartagena, Colombia, involving a dozen tropical forest plot networks. The first product is a grass-roots effort to build a pantropical map of tropical forest mortality rates.

$$$ for Deep Reef Fish Studies

STRI is launching the D. Ross Robertson Research Awards Fellowship for Field Studies of Neotropical Deep-Reef fishes, will support fieldwork on deep-reef fishes, including travel to and from the research site and living expenses.

One of the Most Powerful Women

Forbes named STRI research technician and oceanographer Alexandra Guzmán Bloise one of 100 most powerful women in Central America in 2022. 

Interpreting Clues to Ocean Health

The fossil ear bones of fish may look like sand grains to most of us, but to the trained eyes of Brigida de Gracia, otolith expert from Panama’s Ngöbe indigenous group, they provide clues to the history and health of tropical coral reefs. In addition to developing the first free tri-lingual otolith identification guide, Brigida, with Kimberly García Méndez, lab manager in STRI paleontologist Aaron O’Dea’s lab, hosted a workshop (June 20-21) to train students and fellows to dissect, process and analyze otoliths, which will contribute to Andrew Seller’s project within the Rohr Reef Resilience group’s work on climate-change-resistant corals in zones of ocean upwelling. Three distinguished invited speakers from Taiwan, Spain and Chile shared their otolith expertise through Zoom. The group thanks Panamanian students Maybelline Ureña and Ximena Shaw for their support.

Children’s Day

Punta Culebra Nature Center celebrated National Children’s Day in Panama on July 16 and 17, with special activities such as a paleontological excavation simulation and a rally to search for clues in the exhibit.

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