Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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Book Fair

U.S.Embassy-Sponsored Stand
Takes Science to the People

August 31, 2022

What do frogs, jaguars and bird food have in common? They all inspired imaginative activities for kids at this year’s International Book Fair in Panama.

More than 100,000 people attended this year’s International Book Fair, held Aug. 17-21 at the Megápolis Convention Center in Panama City. The U.S. Embassy shared space with STRI, Fundación Yaguará and Ciencia en Panamá where they captured the public’s attention with hands-on games and in-person talks featuring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

At the opening ceremony, a TVN reporter interviews Stewart Tuttle, U.S. Embassy, Panama, Chargé de Affaires and Josh Tewksbury, STRI Director. Credit: all images by Jorge Aleman, STRI.

A jaguar skull roars silently in the hands of Alvaro Gonzalez, guide at Punta Culebra Nature Center’s Q?rioso learning space. 

Jimena Pitty, STRI’s Science Education Manger, welcomes Stewart Tuttle, U.S. Embassy, Panama, Chargé de Affaires (right) and Joe Witters, press attaché (left) to  the activities her team will present at the book fair.

Kids try out their CSI detective skills to identify replicas and remains of animals from the Smithsonian’s tropical forest research station on Panama’s Barro Colorado Island with the help of docent, Francis Torres.

One of the visitors at the book fair, Jean Paul Sucre worked with STRI staff scientist, Yves Basset on Barro Colorado Island as a student at the University of Panama. Here, he tells Linette Dutari, STRI’s Associate Director for Communications and Public Programs that he won a scholarship to attend Oregon State University. “His grandmother told me how the whole family is joining together to help him take advantage of this opportunity,” Dutari said.

A Q?rioso guide hosts young dinner guests at a unique eatery where birdfood is served they must choose the correct tools to eat it…an activity designed to show how birds’ beaks have adapted to their specific diets.

Nancy Fairchild and Orlando Garces from STRI’s Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project speak to an appreciative crowd about their experiences saving amphibians from the chytrid fungal disease that wipes out frog species around the world.

Nancy Fairchild shows kids how the team cultivates crickets to feed the frogs.

Francis Torres, guide at Punta Culebra Nature Center, asks kids if they can tell the difference between frogs and toads.

Rachel Foster, former Panamanian fellow from the Girl-Up WiSci Camp offered by the U.S. State Department, shared her experiences and information about “Our Internal Pandemic.”

Ricardo Moreno, director of Fundación Yaguará and Research Associate at STRI, shares stories about tracking Panama’s big cats. Jaguars are endangered in Panama, where they are frequently killed when they venture outside reserves to prey on livestock.

Alexandra Guzmán Bloise, technician in STRI’s Physical Monitoring Program, speaking enthusiastically about her experience as a scientist and oceanographer, was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in Central America in 2022.

STRI Anthropologist and author, Stanley Heckadon-Moreno, shares his writing at the Hombre de la Mancha stand at the book fair. His newest book is an account of ornithologist and explorer Alexander Wetmore, former Secretary of the Smithsonian in Washington,D.C..

Staff scientist Aaron O’Dea was at the book fair to present and sign copies of his comic book “Martina and the Bridge of Time” a time-travel adventure through Panama’s geological history illustrated by Ian Cooke-Tapia. Culebra guide, Anna Frogge, read the book out loud to a standing-room-only crowd.

Andreina Ríos, Coordinator of Q?rioso, at the 2023 Book Fair with students at the United States Embassy booth shared with the Smithsonian. Andreina coordinated activities for children that connect the Smithsonian sciences to an interactive and dynamic teaching where curiosity and questions take center stage.

The Smithsonian and the US Embassy Staff joined forces to bring science to the people.

Visit the new Q?rioso space at Punta Culebra Nature Center: as of August, 2022, the center is open from 1-4pm on Thursdays and 9am to 4pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For more information about the book fair see #EstamosUnidos, FiLPanamá2022 and #PanamáSíLee Camara Panameña del Libro.

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