Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Established in the 1970s as a remote research outpost on Isla Colon, a small island off the Caribbean coast of Panama, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s (STRI) Bocas del Toro Station is now one of the Caribbean’s most active and important sites for marine and terrestrial biodiversity studies.
The region’s important geologic and fossil history as a crossroads between continents and oceans has been well-documented by Smithsonian scientists, making this research station an ideal venue from which to trace the evolution of biodiversity through time scales covering major changes in both climate and human activity.
In addition to hosting a diverse group of scientists from around the world, Bocas del Toro also provides educational and outreach training to school groups, hosts international graduate students in special training seminars, and is home to an extensive and growing biodiversity database of over 6,500 plants and animals from the Bocas del Toro archipelago, mainland Panama, and surrounding Caribbean waters.
Its unique position in the Caribbean, including its proximity to one of the most diverse coral reef systems in the region, also makes Bocas del Toro an important MarineGEO site. Here, scientists have been investigating the impact of ocean warming and deoxygenated waters—known as “dead zones”—on the health of organisms and ecosystems, including the vulnerable larval stages; the impact of excess nutrients produced by human activity on tropical wetlands; and the effects of diseases and warming on the region’s coral reefs; as well as working to better document biodiversity and describe the many species still new to science.