Smithsonian Voices

From the Smithsonian Museums

Santiago León

Santiago León is a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institue in Panama, where he is conducting the project entitled "Evaluation of the magmatic and stratigraphic record of a changing convergent margin: Neogene evolution of northwestern Colombia an eastern Panama". His research focuses on the tectonic mechanisms involved in the construction of mountain chains such as the Colombian Andes, by combining geochemical, geochronological and stratigraphic methods. Santiago is currently a PhD candidate from the National University of Colombia, where he graduated as Geologist Engineer, and holds a MSc. in Geochemistry and Geotectonics from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Unraveling the “Hidden” Secrets Below One of the Most Biodiverse Regions on Earth

The spectacular biodiversity of the northern Pacific region of South America has drawn our attention since early botanical expeditions to the tropics conducted by European naturalists mostly during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Chocó region in northwestern Colombia, one of the rainiest places on Earth with a mean annual rainfall exceeding 10000 mm (1) is a remarkable example, which is home to an incredibly biodiverse tropical forest with ca. 3% and 6% of all known species of plants and vertebrates, respectively (2). However, a protracted history of social conflicts and sociopolitical isolation, dating back to the Spanish colonial period, has plagued the local afro and indigenous communities. As a result, our ability to carry out scientific research in this astounding region has been hindered, and in consequence, our knowledge on the evolution of this biodiversity hotspot and its hosting landscape is still limited.