Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama was founded in 1923 as the Barro Colorado Island Laboratory to study tropical biology. In 1946, it was placed under Smithsonian aegis as the Canal Zone Biological Area. Although still based in Panama, today its researchers study biodiversity and human culture throughout the tropics.

Aerial View of STRI's Tupper Center, by Guerra, Marcos, 2006, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2001-00895. Aerial View of Tupper Center, 2006
Aerial view of the Earl S. Tupper Center, headquarters for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama.
Scientists Leaving Barro Colorado Island, by Hitchcock, A. S (Albert Spear) 1865-1935, 1923-1924, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, SIA2009-2919 and Hitchcock 1102. Scientists Leaving Barro Colorado Island, c. 1923
A group of scientists leaves Barro Colorado Island in a small boat, during 1923. Smithsonian staff were in Panama with the Institute for Research in Tropical America, a group of private foundations and universities under the auspices of the National Research Council, who first established a research laboratory on Barro Colorado Island, Panama Canal Zone, in order to investigate the flora and fauna of tropical America. It was called the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA). Biological Survey of the Panama Canal Zone. The boat is in Gatun Lake. Barro Colorado Island eventually became the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Barro Colorado Island Opening Day, by Unknown, March 29, 1924, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 95-20294. Inauguration of Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory, 1924
At the inauguration of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory, this first group of scientists and guests visit the nature preserve and biological laboratory established on Barro Colorado Island. BCI was created when the Chagras River was dammed to create Gatun Lake as a watershed for the Panama Canal. The mountaintop island was set aside as a preserve for visiting North American naturalists. It was funded by a consortium until 1946 when the Canal Zone Biological Area, later (1966) renamed Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, was transferred to the Smithsonian.
Staff House on Barro Colorado Island, by Unknown, c. 1930, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-15288. Staff House on Barro Colorado Island, c. 1930
One of the houses for staff of the Canal Zone Biological Area, now the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, on Barro Colorado Island, Panama.
Construction work on Barro Colorado Island, by Unknown, 1939, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-15287. Reconstruction of Main Lab Building, 1939
Three unidentified construction workers at the Canal Zone Biological Area located on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) are reconstructing the main laboratory using concrete blocks for the siding and for posts. The building was raised about 6 inches to make it more convernient for taller people. BCI was created when the Chagras River was dammed to create Gatun Lake as a watershed for the Panama Canal. The mountaintop island was set aside as a preserve for visiting North American naturalists. It was funded by a consortium until 1946 when the Canal Zone Biological Area was transferred to the Smithsonian and later renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Building Water Tank on Barro Colorado, by Unknown, c. 1940s, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-15290. Building a New Water Tank, 1940
James Zetek, director of the Canal Zone Biological Area, Francisco "Chi Chi" Vitola, chief of the labor force, and Smithsonian Secretary Alexander Wetmore standing in front of construction of a new water tank on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal watershed. The CZBA is now the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Aerial View of Canal Zone Biological Area, 1950s, by Unknown, c. 1950, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 45278 or MAH-45278. Aerial View of Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory, c. 1950s
Aerial view of the Barro Colorado Island laboratory of the Canal Zone Biological Area located on Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal watershed in Panama. The CZBA was made part of the Smithsonian in 1946 and later renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. This view shows the dock and facilities from Gatun Lake.
F. Vitola & Deer on Barro Colorado Island, by Unknown, c.1940, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-16786. Chi Chi Vitola Feeding a Deer, c. 1940s
Francisco "Chi Chi" Vitola, chief of labor force on for the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA), feeds a deer on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal Zone. The CZBA was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1924 and in 1946 was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
The Boat "U.S. Snook" at Its Dock, Barro Colorado Island, by Unknown, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-15286. U.S. Snook at Dock, 1950s
The "U.S. Snook" of the Canal Zone Biological Area, now known as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, ferried staff and supplies from the main land to the tropical field station located on Barro Colorado Island, Gutan Lake, Panama.
Frijoles Station on Gatun Lake, CZBA, by Unknown, 1964, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 90-10887. Dock at Frijoles Train Station, 1964
Staff of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute took a train from Panama City to Frijoles and left from this dock at Frijoles in the Panama Canal Zone to travel by boat to Barro Colorado Island to conduct research of the flora and fauna of tropical America.
Panama Canal from Barro Colorado Island, by Wetmore, Alexander 1886-, June 30, 1953, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-15291 or Wetmore 5253. Ship Traveling through Gatun Lake, 1953
Looking down from the Main Laboratory on the mountain top of Barro Colorado Island (BCI) Biological Area, now known as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, to a ship travelling through Gatun Lake, created when the Chagras River was dammed to create a watershed for the Panama Canal. Slothia Island can be seen in front of BCI; the town of Frijoles is visible in the distance. Tree tops can be seen in the water when the Chagres River was dammed and flooded the area.
A. Gomez and C. Koford at New Office in Canal Zone, by Unknown, c. 1956-57, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-8872. Gomez and Koford at Diablo Heights Office
Adela Gomez, administrative officer, and Carl Koford, director, of the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA), now the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, during Koford's brief tenure as director during the 1950s. They are standing in front of their new office at 5145 Diablo Heights, Canal Zone, under a sign for the CZBA.
STRI Staff Holding Snake, by Unknown, c.1960s, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 90-10886. Staff Holding Snake on Barro Colorado Island, 1960s
Three staff members of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute holding a large snake on Barro Colorado Island. Fausto Bocanegra is in the center. Bocanegra was the assistant to the director, taking care of animals under ethological study.
A. S. Rand & Family on Barro Colorado Island, by Unknown, 1964, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 90-14489. Rand Family on Barro Colorado Island, 1964
Biologist A. Stanley Rand, wife Patricia Rand, and son Hugh, on Barro Colorado Island, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama. The Rands lived on the island.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, by Unknown, 1965, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 90-14500. Ancon Administrative Headquarters of Tropical Research Institute, 1965
Administrative offices of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancon Building, Panama City, December 1965. Housed in the old Ancon courthouse building, the Panama City office provided administrative and logistical support to the scientists conducting research on Barro Colorado Island located in Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal watershed. This tropical laboratory, called the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA), and later renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1946.
STRI Census of Biological Diversity, by Hansen, Carl C, 1988, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 88-6852-33A or 88-6852.33A. Biodiversity Census on Barro Colorado Island, 1988
A project participant uses calipers to measure a tree on Barro Colorado Island during Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute census, similar to the one in Malaysia, on the biological diversity of tropical rain forests.
Earl Silas Tupper Research and Conference Center, by Guerra, Marcos, 1989, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2003-19512. Earl S. Tupper Center, Panama City, 1989
A Corotu tree, left, towers near the entrance to the Earl Silas Tupper Research and Conference Center, completed in 1989, at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Panama City, Panama. The Center is used by STRI scientists and visiting researchers from around the world.