Tourism, Education and Conservation in Panama: STRI

Panama has to be considered as one of the leading destinations for students interested in tropical biology and rainforest preservation. As a land bridge between the two continents, Panama is a meeting place of over 970 species of birds from North and South America. Its tremendous biodiversity and the accessibility of its tropical forests make Panama a paradise for nature and ecological studies. Panama itself is a flower garden with more than 1500 species of trees and more than 10,000 species of plants. With two oceans washing its shores, Panama is rich in marine life.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution based outside of the United States, is dedicated to understanding biological diversity.

What began in 1923 as small field station on Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal Zone, has developed into one of the leading research institutions of the world. STRI’s facilities provide a unique opportunity for long-term ecological studies in the tropics, and are used extensively by some 900 visiting scientists from academic and research institutions in the United States and around the world every year. The work of our resident scientists has allowed us to better understand tropical habitats and has trained hundreds of tropical biologists.

STRI is the perfect partner for Academic and Educational Tours in the Tropics:

Panama’s remarkable biodiversity and the accessibility of its tropical forests make it a paradise for nature and ecological studies. Our trip will expose participants to the natural wonders of lowland tropical forest, cloud forest and coral reef ecosystems. Culturally, students will have the opportunity to interact with and learn about our local communities and to experience city life in the developing world.

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Celebrate Green Friday with EcoCircuitos Panama

This November 28th when everyone will be rushing to the malls to shop, EcoCircuitos Panama will be supporting a local school by promoting environmental education.  We want to encourage the Panamanian youth on the importance of taking care of our environment.  By simple tasks as recycling, garbage disposal and other responsible practices that everyone can benefit from. Instead of being caught in traffic and the hustle and bustle in the city, join your community to turn Black Friday into Green Friday and plant a tree.  For those interested in a different adventure on the weekend, ask our office for the green tours including kayaking, biking, hiking and birding day tours.

Mercenary ants defend agricultural society

From Stri.org

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Often superior to citizen soldiers, mercenaries have played an important role in human conflicts since ancient times. A research team working at STRI discovered that a species of agriculturalist ants, Sericomyrmex amabilis, hosts a species of better-armed mercenary ants, Megalomyrmex symmetochus, who come to their rescue when their fungal gardens are invaded.

“Newly mated queens of the parasitic mercenary ants stealthily enter and establish their colonies in the gardens of the fungus-growing host ants,” said Rachelle Adams from Jacobus Boomsma’s lab at the University of Copenhagen. Adams is lead-author of the report published last week in PNAS.

With co-authors from Copenhagen and from the Department of Chemistry at the Virginia Military Institute, she found that the parasitic mercenary ants use their potent chemicals called alkaloids to defend host colonies against the raiding predatory ants, Gnamptogenys hartmani. The raiders can take over Sericomyrmex fungal gardens and nests.

During an attack, the mercenaries proved to be much more efficient than the host ants at killing the raiding predators. Even a moderate number of parasitic guest ants can provide protection against predatory attacks, effectively reducing host ant mortality.

However, the host ants pay a high price for the help. The mercenaries hamper host colony growth by feeding on the brood–the eggs and larvae–and by clipping the wings of host virgin queens, possibly to retain them as an additional work-force rather than let them disperse.

In addition, the authors show that raider ant scouts prefer to recruit to the colonies of the fungus-farming ants whose odor indicated that no mercenary ants were inside.

The inspiration for this project was a direct outcome of the University of Copenhagen and STRI supported graduate course, Tropical Behavioral Ecology and Evolution, offered in 2011, 2013 and planned for 2015. Two Copenhagen students from the 2011 course are junior authors on the study.

Adams, R.M.M., Liberti, J., Illum, A.A., Jones, T.H., Nash, D.R. and Boomsma, J.J. 2013. Chemically armed mercenary ants protect fungus-farming societies PNAS http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1311654110

4,000 YEAR OLD SHAMAN STONES DISCOVERED NEAR BOQUETE

ImageArchaeologists from Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama have uncovered a cache of unusual stones in a prehistoric Rock shelter known as Casa de Piedra.

The twelve stones were found buried and clustered tightly together in a way that suggests they were stored in a bundle or basked which has decomposed since.

The cache consists of a small Dacite stone fashioned into a cylindrical tool; a small flake of white, translucent Quartz; a bladed Quartz and Jarosite aggregate; a Quartz crystal aggregate; several Pyrite nodules that showed evidence of use; a small, worn and abraded piece of Chalcedony; a magnetic Andesite flake; a large Chalcedony vein stone; and a small magnetic Kaolinite stone naturally eroded into an unusual shape, similar to a flower. This unusual selection and careful storage strongly suggests that these stones were once used by a Shaman or healer.

Indigenous groups who lived in the area during the time the stones were stored there include  Ngäbe, Buglé, Bribri, Cabécar and the now-extinct Dorasque peoples. Healers and Shamans of these and other cultures are known to feature unusual or special stones and crystals in their rituals.

The rock shelter itself has been known to archaeologists since the 1970s, who established that it was used for cooking and stone tool manufacture, possibly as early as 9,000 years ago and that it had been used by humans for thousands of years since then. The newest research shows that the people who would have benefitted from the shaman’s knowledge  practiced small-scale farming of manioc, maize and arrowroot, and collected palm nuts, fruits and roots. They also probably hunted and fished in the nearby hills and streams, but the humid soils in the shelter destroyed any evidence of animal bones.

From: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Photos from STRIImage

Biomuseo celebrates Biodiversity day in Panama

The Biomuseo design by Frank Gehry  is currently under construction on the Amador Causeway, but it is already celebrating international Biodiversity day with an outdoor fair called “El Suelo Está Vivo” (The Soil is Alive) on Sunday, May 22 from 10.00AM to 4.00PM

Location:

Old Officers Club, Amador Causeway, Panama City, Panama.

For children from 2 to 99 years old will have many fun activities with which you will learn how you can support the natural cycles of nutrient recycling:

The secret life of ants
Take advantage of the recent rioting that scientists have discovered the Smithsonian about these extraordinary insects.

The worms that make soil
The Boys in the Chinese-Panamanian School will show us the work they do with composting worms.

Painted with colors of nature
… Literally. We use flowers, leaves and seeds instead of crayons.

Tales of bugs
With the storytellers of the Panamanian Red storytellers in our beloved Corotú.

Organic market
Where you all kinds of organic products: soaps, herbs, ointments, vegetables, ginger candy, chocolate, pastries, eggs and fertilizer from regions as Zapayal (Darien), Cuculo (Los Santos), the waggish (Veraguas). Darien will also have crafts Tuira region and Jaque.

What is all this fuss of organic?
If you do not know what all the fuss with the organic, do not miss our talks about where you explain how it relates to our biodiversity.

Have we broken the cornucopia? What is wrong with the way we produce food. – José Manuel Pérez (UNDP).
Time: 11:00 am and 2:00 pm

Organic, sustainable and local. – Eylon Israel (Coriander Red).
Time: 1:00 pm

The Museum
Finally, take the opportunity to visit Biomuseo construction, a unique opportunity to work in this class, and participate in our presentations to find out what you’ll find inside.  Even Brad Pitt and Al Gore are some personalities that already visited, what you are waiting for?

Biomuseo is the first building design by Frank Gehry in Latin America.

For more information:  http://www.biomuseopanama.org/