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STRI special events,
September 2023

October 3, 2023

Advisory Board Meeting, Visiting Committee, STRI at Job Fair, National Contest of Scientific Journalism and more

STRI Advisory Board met during NYC Climate Week

The STRI Advisory Board, chaired by Steven Hoch, met at the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York City on Sept. 22 to welcome new board members and celebrate a wildly successful year for STRI’s research, outreach and engagement under Josh Tewksbury’s leadership. 

The board enthusiastically onboarded well-known American designer and sculptor Maya Lin, who graciously offered a tour of her studio to board members following the meeting, and Mirei Endara, conservationist and President of Marea Verde Panama, who represents the board’s Panamanian counterpart, Fundación Smithsonian. Board member Sarah Nash generously received the board in her home the evening before the meeting, hosting a dinner salon to introduce STRI to new audiences. 

STRI advancement director Lisa Barnett reported that fundraising vastly exceeded goals set for the year. Stuart Davies, head of the ForestGEO program, described the potential impact of a major gift from the Bezos Earth Fund to support the develop of an international system, GEOTREES, to verify satellite-based estimates of forest carbon stocks, a necessity to make forest conservation and restoration and meaningful tool to combat climate change.

As part of Climate Week, new STRI staff scientist Ana Spalding spoke at a number of events. Ana heads the new Adrienne Arsht Community-Based Resilience Solutions Initiative, based at STRI but in collaboration with several Smithsonian-wide programs. This Initiative was launched last year thanks to a significant gift from business leader and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht.

Visiting Committee

As part of the information-gathering process for a new STRI strategic plan, a visiting committee of scientists spent four days evaluating the Institute's scientific operations. The committee included Dr. Stephanie Hampton, deputy director of Biosphere Sciences and Engineering at Carnegie; Dr. Daniel Rubenstein, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University; Dr. Daniel Suman, professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science at the University of Miami; Dr. Judith Bronstein, distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona; and Dr. Richard Grosberg, director of the Institute of Coastal and Marine Sciences at the University of California, Davis. They will provide a written report based on meetings with the leadership team, scientists, interns, and administrative staff; and visits to STRI facilities in central Panama.

Science Diplomat, Lissy Coley, honored by APANAC

Tears flowed on Sept. 27 at the XIX Panamanian National Science and Technology Congress, when the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science, APANAC, honored STRI Research Associate Phyllis “Lissy” Coley, for touching the lives of countless scientists in Panama and beyond. Her discoveries with her husband, chemist Tom Kursar (1949-2018), about how plants in tropical forests defend themselves from being eaten, inspired the establishment of a major drug-discovery initiative, the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group, which was later incorporated as part of Panama’s Scientific Research Institute (INDICASAT-AIP).

Speakers at the event included Eduardo Ortega-Barría, Secretary of Panama’s Office for Research and Technology (SENACYT), Carmenza Spadafora (INDICASAT) and Erika Garibaldo, event organizer who created a video tribute from many of the scientists who worked on the project. Luis Cubillo, chemistry professor at the University of Panama estimated that the careers of at least 20 faculty members there had somehow benefitted from their association with Coley. Earlier this year, Lissy was selected as a member of the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

David Roubik Retirement

STRI staff scientist, David Roubik, gave a talk about his professional experience as he retires after half a century of experience as an entomologist specializing in tropical bees. Hired at age 27, in 1979, to study the impact that the imminent arrival of Africanized bees would have in Panama, he stayed for several decades, during which he did long-term bee studies in Neotropical forests, discovered new species such as “vulture” bees that feed on dead animals, and described the behaviors of little-known bees, such as parasitic stingless bees living inside Cecropia trees in the Yasuní, in Ecuador’s Amazon region.

STROUD Water Research Center visit

A delegation of 10 staff scientists, educators and top administrators from the Stroud Water Research Center visited Panama to tour the Agua Salud reforestation project and a few other STRI projects, to explore possible collaborations and research and education partnerships. The Center advances research, education about, and stewardship of freshwater systems through global research, education and watershed restoration. Among other research and sites, they are involved in watershed monitoring in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste tropical dry forest in Costa Rica, where they maintain the Maritza Biological Station.

STRI at Job Fairs

STRI participated in the first trans job fair organized at the Panama American Center, an activity for companies that value diversity and inclusive work environments. In addition, STRI was present at the Expo Konzerta job fair at the Atlapa Convention Center, in which more than 40 companies shared up to 4,000 vacancies in different types of industries in the country.

National Contest of Scientific Journalism

Panama’s National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (SENACYT) recently awarded Panamanian journalists and social communicators during the 2023 National Contest of Scientific Journalism. Journalistic excellence in the outreach of current affairs was recognized in the print, radio, television and digital press categories. Among the winners in the print press category, the first place went to María Alejandra Carrasquilla Reina, with the report Barro Colorado cumple 100 años al servicio de la Ciencia (Barro Colorado celebrates 100 years in the service of science), published in La Estrella de Panamá newspaper.

Photo from left to right: Beth King, STRI communications manager, María Alejandra Carrasquilla Reina, journalist at La Estrella newspaper, and Vanessa Crooks, copy writer.
Image courtesy of SENACYT.

Guide training at Punta Culebra

Since June the Punta Culebra Nature Center has been giving bi-weekly and monthly talks to Center guides featuring STRI experts who have shared their science: from shipworms to bats, physical monitoring, the reptile world and even marine parasites! These encounters feed the guides' knowledge of the science behind the scenes at STRI.

Vacation week at Punta Culebra

More than 4,800 local and international visitors checked out Punta Culebra Nature Center during Panama’s school vacation week from Sept. 12-17. They toured the rocky coastline learning about marine invertebrates, counted sloths to add to the data the center has been collecting for over 10 years, and visited the Q?rioso hands-on learning center, where marine-themed hands-on exhibits celebrate Oceans Month.

Marine drawing contest to celebrate Oceans Month

Children of different ages participated in a drawing contest to creatively represent marine ecosystems and their biodiversity. The activity took place every Saturday in September. The awards were presented on Saturday, September 30.

Teacher training at the Bocas del Toro Research Station

The Bocas del Toro Research Station carried out the first phase of the seminar-workshop for 15 teachers from Bocas del Toro called School projects and integral school: learning to transform towards Sustainable Development. This first phase was held at the station from September 12 to 14. It counted with experts such as Brígida De Gracia and César Gutierrez. The teachers returned to their campuses for the second phase of the workshop which focuses on planning an Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) project. This second phase will be conducted remotely and is expected to close with a videoconference where the results of the implementation will be presented.

STRI at National Mangrove Symposium

Tania Romero, manager of the Collin Laboratory at STRI, participated in the National Mangrove Symposium “Towards a blue economy in the region” organized by the Audubon Society of Panama in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment. In her talk titled “The Blue History of Panama,” she spoke about the value of mangroves as ecosystems for climate change mitigation, the studies that have been done to estimate the amount of carbon stored in these ecosystems in Panama, and the importance of delimiting mangrove coverage, its biodiversity, threats, tenure and governance, in an effort to comply with international certification standards for a potential blue carbon market.

Huellas del Istmo 2023 Award for STRI collaborator

The third edition of the Huellas del Istmo 2023 Award, Commitment to the Planet category, was awarded to Jorge Manuel Morales Saldaña, from the McGill-STRI NEO Doctoral Program, a research assistant in Dr. Héctor Guzman's laboratory, due to his professional career and commitment to achieving sustainable development goals. Jorge’s research was considered as actions to promote the conservation and care of the environment in Panama. The prestigious award, Huellas del Istmo, is a public recognition offered by the Universidad del Istmo with the purpose of distinguishing the career of people who in the exercise of their professions, contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations.

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