Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

After a year of strict Covid-19 lockdowns which brought a severe economic standstill, Panama is awaiting the return of visitors and the restart of the tourism industry.

For Panama's Fall Whale-Watching Season, Scientists Offer Tips for Safeguarding These Magnificent Creatures of the Deep

For humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins and coastal manatees, tourism is a mixed bag, making vigilance ever more important

Many terrestrial birds disappeared in Barro Colorado Island, in the Panama Canal, despite their abundance in adjacent mainland forests, because they could not cross Gatun Lake to maintain populations on the island.

Smithsonian Voices

Despite a Century of Protection, This Island Suffers Critical Loss in Biodiversity

The Barro Colorado bird community has lost about a quarter of its species over time

From the surface, the havoc caused on a coral reef by a layer of low-oxygen water was barely evident.

Smithsonian Voices

Watch What Happens When a Coral Reef Can't Get Enough Oxygen

In September 2017, divers observed a massive "dead zone" rising to envelop Caribbean coral reefs in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Two-toed sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni) live in the canopy layer of the Panamanian rainforest. Find out why in a family program streaming July 17.

Smithsonian Voices

Five Free Natural History Programs Streaming in July

From permafrost to the rainforest canopy to the protection of pollinators, the online events are perfect for beating the summer heat

Ana K. Spalding and 23 other women scientists from around the world, advocate for a shift in the value system in science, to emphasize a more equal, diverse and inclusive academic culture.

Smithsonian Voices

Women in Science Propose Changes to Discriminatory Measures of Scientific Success

The scientists advocate shifting the current value system, which is biased against women and minorities, towards a more diverse and inclusive model

The Algodón River flows through a forest of the Amazon Basin in the remote northeastern corner of Peru. Scientists collected and analyzed a series of ten roughly 3-foot-long soil cores from three sites, each located at least a half-mile away from river courses and floodplains.

Future of Conservation

In a Remote Amazon Region, Study Shows Indigenous Peoples Have Practiced Forest Conservation for Millennia

Smithsonian researcher Dolores Piperno says native people have always played an important role in sustainability

Orange scalefin anthias fish swarm in front of a fire coral in the Red Sea's Ras Mohammed Marine Park, Egypt.

Smithsonian Voices

Will the Oceans of 2030 Brim With Reef Robots and Other Fancy Stuff?

Imagine a world where an Indigenous fisher can get forecasts of local marine life from a smartphone, or robots offer real-time data on coral reef health

Each year, Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute hosts 1,400 scientists from across the world at its Panama facilities.

The Global Reach of the Smithsonian

Expanding the Institution's reach and relevance requires collaborating with museums and researchers around the world

Hillary Hughes, Panamanian actress, visits the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Agua Salud Project during the filming of videos in Spanish and English to share hope for the success of tropical forest reforestation informed by the largest experiment of its kind in the tropics.

Smithsonian Voices

Watch These Two Videos and You Will Feel More Hopeful About the Future of Tropical Forests

Agua Salud's new bilingual videos share the results of tropical reforestation experiments at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama

A new study suggests the lush, hyper-diverse rainforests of South America were shaped by the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs.

How the Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Spurred the Evolution of the Modern Rainforest

New evidence from fossil plants shows today’s South American rainforests arose in the wake of Earth’s fifth mass extinction

Illustration from the graphic novel 'Martina and the Bridge of Time' by Aaron O'Dea and Ian Cooke Tapia.

Smithsonian Voices

Time Travel Into Panama's Deep History With This Richly Illustrated New Graphic Novel

'Martina and the Bridge of Time' tells the story of the Isthmus' formation and evolution through the adventures of a young Panamanian girl

Foster mother, BD, feeds her adopted vampire bat pup in a captive bat colony at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama.

Smithsonian Voices

Baby Vampire Bat Adopted by Mom's Best Friend

The strong relationship formed between two female adult vampire bats may have motivated one of the bats to adopt the other’s baby

Bryophytes in the tropics are threatened due to lack of information and research.

Smithsonian Voices

Step Into the Mossy World Where Tiny Plants Play an Outsized Role in the Environment

Bryophytes are an important part of our environment, but in the tropics, there's still much to learn about them

A male wrinkle-faced bat (Centurio senex) seen dangling from his perch. Beneath his chin is a furry skin fold that he pulls up to cover the lower half of the face like a mask during courtship.

New Research

These Bats Mask Up to Woo Mates

Male wrinkle-faced bats use a furry neck flap to cover their faces while serenading the opposite sex in never-before-seen behavior

A new study from scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center analyzed about 35,000 bone and shell fragments from the Maya city of Ceibal.

Bones Tell the Tale of a Maya Settlement

A new study tracks how the ancient civilization used animals for food, ritual purposes and even as curiosities

The face of a sweat bee (Megalopta amoena) that is half female (viewer's left, bee's right) and half male (viewer's right, bee's left)

Meet the Bee With a Body That’s Half Male, Half Female

So-called gynandromorphs are rare, but they can teach us a lot about development and evolution

Vampire bats, a highly social species, will continue interacting with each other even when they're feeling sick.

When Illness Strikes, Vampire Bat Moms Will Still Socialize With Their Kids

Studying how bats behave when they’re feeling ill could help researchers better understand how pathogens move through close-knit populations

Bees from the nest structures: A) Head, side, top and bottom views of bees found inside the cells, B) drawing of Eufriesea surinamensis and photograph of the head of a modern bee taken by David Roubik

Cool Finds

150-Year-Old Mummified Bee Nests Found in Panama City Cathedral

The nests, covered in gold leaf and paint, act as a time capsule for the surrounding environment circa 1870

Coyotes are about to enter South America, a move that could soon make the species, native to North America, one of the most widespread carnivores in the western hemisphere.

Coyotes Poised to Infiltrate South America

The crab-eating fox and the coyote may soon swap territories, initiating the first American cross-continental exchange in more than three million years

Heliconius charithonia is one of the species of butterflies whose wing patterns scientists scrutinized to better understand the evolutionary process. This butterfly is wild-type; the genetically edited H. charithonia wings have wider swathes of yellow.

What Butterflies' Colorful Wing Patterns Can Teach Us About Evolution

Smithsonian scientists used genetically-engineered butterflies to learn that evolution can take a different path to achieve the same thing

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