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Biomuseo Talk, Stanley Heckadon’s Medal, Tribute to Richard Cooke’s Legacy, Princeton Course at STRI, and more

May 29, 2019

Smithsonian Institution has a new Secretary

In mid-June, the Smithsonian Institution (SI) will have a new leader. Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and one of the most recognized figures in history and museology fields in the United States, will be the first African-American to serve as its Secretary. He will oversee 19 museums, 21 libraries and nine research centers, including the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI). From the humid tropics, we extend our warmest congratulations to Lonnie for his new role within the Smithsonian!

Matt Larsen at Biomuseo

Dr. Matthew Larsen, director of STRI, was the Biomuseo's visiting expert on the last Saturday of April. He talked about STRI’s 100 years of research in Panama, starting on Barro Colorado island and how this work contributed to the exhibits and stories of one of the museum’s new galleries ‘The Living Web’. A huge interwoven structure, at once plant, animal, insect and microorganism, The Living Web represents the ways in which living beings are linked in the natural world, as well as the complex –and often invisible– interactions between them. STRI scientists also contributed their knowledge to the content development of the other two new galleries that the Biomuseo inaugurated this month.

Richard Cooke’s Legacy

Richard Cooke’s valuable contributions to Isthmo-Colombian archaeology, since the early seventies until today, were highlighted during the XI Congress of the Central American Anthropology Network in 2017, and are now being published as part of the most recent volume of the University of Costa Rica’s Anthropology department journal, Cuadernos de Antropología.This issue of the journal included articles by collaborators from Panamá, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, and Canada, who paid tribute to the great researcher who we are fortunate to have as a colleague.

Joaquín J. Vallarino Medal

The Inter-American Council of Commerce and Production (Cicyp) awarded the Joaquín J. Vallarino merit medal to Dr. Stanley Heckadon-Moreno, the director of STRI’s Punta Galeta Marine Laboratory. Cicyp highlighted Dr. Heckadon-Moreno’s commitment to the environment, during his career spanning half a century, and the importance of his research as a tool for measuring the conditions of the natural world and its main challenges. During his speech, Dr. Heckadon-Moreno emphasized the role of science as an instrument for analyzing our current problems –such as those affecting our natural resources–, coming up with possible solutions and pressuring decision makers.

Princeton Course

During a 12-week field course that ended in May, 17 undergraduate students in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program at Princeton University, explored STRI’s tropical science in Panama. The program, designed to introduce students to some of the most incredible ecosystems on Earth, and explore their natural history, ecology and conservation, took them to the hot and humid lowland tropical forests, chilly and misty montane forests, as well as Panama’s Caribbean and Pacific research stations. During this time, they learned key concepts in tropical ecology and conservation, and about coral reefs, parasitology, and anthropology.

El Trueque Restoration

The large mosaic mural that adorns the facade of the STRI library was restored during the month of May. This work of art, created from the painting ‘El Trueque’ by renowned Panamanian artist Brooke Alfaro, was installed more than 25 years ago. The original painting, currently exhibited in the Interoceanic Canal Museum, was digitalized in Mexico and replicated in the Venetian mosaics that now embellish one of the walls of the Institute.

Visit by MET students

A group of 35 three and four-year-old students from the Metropolitan (MET) School of Panama visited Dr. Annette Aiello’s insect collection at STRI, where they learned about insect predators and food sources. They also participated in a scavenger hunt in the Tupper campus and walked by its colored fence, designed by artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, while learning about the role of colors in nature, including mimicry. An older group of 11th grade students from the MET school also visited Dr. Aiello’s insect collection, where they learned the basics of being an entomologist. Then, they visited the STRI library and learned about its collections, and how to search electronic journals and databases. They left excited to know that the library is open to the public from M-F, 9am-5pm, that they could access Smithsonian Libraries electronic resources on site for their school projects and that the library staff is available to help guide their research.

Spencer Wells Visit

Renowned geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells visited STRI and spent a few hours in informal conversation with scientists, students and staff about his work in human genetics, including his project Genographic, which uses cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world, with the purpose to better understand our shared genetic roots. He also talked about his research endeavors around the world and discussed the possible future of the human genetics field.

National Journalism Award

During the 2019 National Journalism Awards in Panama, STRI copywriter Leila Nilipour and journalist Melissa Pinel, won the ‘Best Radio Journalism – Fernando Eleta Casanovas Award’ for the first episode of their podcast Indomables. The radio piece, ‘Si desaparezco, no me busquen’ narrates the story of Hector Gallego, a Colombian priest that disappeared in the highlands of Panama in 1971, while the country was under a military dictatorship. The international jury of journalists described it as a ‘detailed, natural and authentic portrait about an event that marked a community’ and a ‘masterpiece’.

Minera Panamá visits the PARC

The Board of Directors of Minera Panamá visited STRI’s Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project in Gamboa. During their tour, they not only saw the different endangered frogs that are part of the project, but also the area for the production of insects that are used as feed.

Ana De La Espada retires

After thirty-three years of career at STRI, Ana De La Espada retired from her post in Smithsonian Facilities. In a goodbye message, she wished success to all her colleagues in their professional functions and personal lives.

Tupper Postdoctoral Fellowship

STRI is accepting applications for its ‘Earl S. Tupper’ three-year postdoctoral fellowship until August 15, 2019. Candidates in disciplines such as ecology, anthropology, paleontology, paleoecology, evolutionary biology, molecular phylogenetics, biogeography, animal behavior, neurobiology, soils sciences, and physiology of tropical plants and animals are strongly encouraged to apply. Applicants should consult with the STRI scientific staff member who will serve as their main host and advisor before submitting an application. To apply, visit the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system.

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