Smithsonian Videohistory Collection

Conservation of Endangered Species
(RU 9553)


Scientific efforts to preserve endangered species have focused on either maintenance of a controlled population that ensures genetic diversity or protection of habitat that ensures viability of a population in the wild. The Smithsonian Institution has sponsored programs using both methods in the study and exhibition of the plant and animal kingdoms.

Pamela M. Henson, historian for the Smithsonian Institution Archives, conducted videotaped interviews with scientists and researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and the National Zoological Park (NZP) at its Washington, D.C. park, and Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Virginia, to document two of the Institution's endangered species programs.

In 1923, the Institute for Research in Tropical America established a research laboratory on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in the Panama Canal Zone to investigate the flora and fauna of tropical America. In 1946, the laboratory was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. Under Smithsonian aegis, STRI developed an extensive program of terrestrial and marine research on the tropical environment and special projects to find alternatives to tropical rainforest destruction and to study the effects of oil spills on the environment. In 1979, STRI assumed responsibility for the Barro Colorado Nature Monument, an extensive nature preserve which includes BCI and several surrounding peninsulas. STRI also built research facilities in Panama City and on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The NZP was founded in 1889 in Washington, D.C., "for the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people." Under the administration of director Theodore H. Reed, a major renovation of the park was begun in 1963. Also during the 1960s, in response to rising concerns over endangered species, the NZP established a research department to study exotic animal physiology and behavior. In 1975, a separate facility for research, and animal breeding and rearing was established at Front Royal, allowing the NZP to become an important part of the international Species Survival Program.

The project consists of thirteen video sessions that are organized into two collection divisions. Collection Division 1 consists of eleven sessions recorded at STRI, and Collection Division 2 consists of two sessions recorded at NZP and CRC.


Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Participants from STRI included researchers who employed a variety of approaches to the study and preservation of tropical biosystems. John H. Christy received his B.S. in biology from Lewis and Clark College in 1970, and his Ph.D. in population ecology and animal behavior from Cornell University in 1980. From 1978 to 1983 he served both as a research assistant and assistant professor at the University of South Carolina. He came to STRI in 1983 as a visiting research scholar and remained as a researcher until 1987, when he assumed the position of biologist. In 1988, he was appointed assistant director for marine research. At STRI, he focused his research on the reproductive behavior of crabs.

After receiving his B.S. in biochemistry and zoology in 1972 from the James Cook University of North Queensland (JCUNQ), Australia, Norman C. Duke worked as a technical officer for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Branch. From 1974 to 1989 he worked with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, first as a technical officer and later as an experimental scientist, overseeing the design and implementation of studies about mangrove plants. During this time he completed his M.S. and Ph.D. in botany at JCUNQ, in 1984 and 1988 respectively. In 1989, he accepted the position of mangrove ecologist for STRI's Oil Spill Project to study the effects of recent oil spills on Panamanian mangrove forests.

Robin Foster became a biologist with STRI in 1978, and also held concurrent positions as senior ecologist at Conservation International and research associate in the Department of Botany at the Field Museum of Natural History. He was awarded his B.A. in biology from Dartmouth College in 1966, and his Ph.D. in botany from Duke University in 1974. From 1972-1980 he served as an assistant professor of biology at University of Chicago. In 1980, with Stephen Hubbell, Foster embarked on a long term study of forest dynamics on a fifty-hectare plot on BCI.

After receiving a B.S. in biochemistry from Michigan State University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in ecology from The Johns Hopkins University in 1976, Brian D. Keller served as a research oceanographer for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography from 1976 to 1979. From 1980 to 1984 he was a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biology at Yale University. In 1984 he accepted the position of acting head of the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and served as assistant head from 1985 to 1986. In 1987, Keller joined STRI as project manager for the Oil Spill Project.

Gilberto Ocaña joined STRI in 1980 as superintendent of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument. He was awarded his B.S. from the Ecole Nationale d'Agriculture in Alger, Algeria, in 1955, and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of California, Riverside, in 1967. Prior to his STRI appointment, he was a professor of plant pathology in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Panama. At STRI, he began an experimental farm to develop alternatives to cattle ranching and slash and burn agriculture.

A. Stanley Rand received his B.A. from De Pauw University in 1955 and his Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University in 1961. He served as assistant herpetologist at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard from 1961 to 1962, and as zoologist for the Secretary of Agriculture, Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 1962 to 1964. Rand came to STRI in 1964 as a herpetologist. From 1974 to 1979 he served as STRI assistant director, and was appointed senior biologist in 1979. His interest in the behavior and ecology of reptiles and amphibians led to pioneering studies of frog communications.

After receiving a B.S. from Queens College in 1959, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in biology from Harvard in 1961 and 1963, respectively, in 1965 Ira Rubinoff served as assistant to the curator of ichthyology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Rubinoff arrived at STRI in 1965 to assume the positions of biologist and assistant director for marine biology. He was appointed director of STRI in 1973. His research interests include sea snakes, the biological implications of interoceanic canal construction, zoogeography of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and preservation of tropical forests.

Alan P. Smith was awarded his B.A. from Earlham College in 1967, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University in 1970 and 1974, respectively. He joined STRI in 1974 as a staff scientist. Concurrently, from 1974 to 1981, he served as an associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, and from 1981 to 1988 he served in the same position at the University of Miami. In 1988, while continuing to serve as an adjunct professor of biology at the University of Miami, he assumed the position of assistant director for terrestrial research at STRI. Interested in the dynamics of tropical forests, Smith introduced the use of crane towers to study the forest canopy.

Nicholas D. Smythe joined STRI in 1970 as a biologist to study tropical mammals. He received his B.A. from University of British Columbia in 1963 and his Ph.D. from University of Maryland in 1970. His research at STRI focused on the paca and peccary, animals that are widely distributed in Latin America. In 1983, with a grant from the W. Alton Jones Foundation, Smythe began investigating the behavior and physiology of pacas in captivity with a view toward domesticating them to provide an alternative to cattle grazing.

In 1975, after receiving his Ph.D. in neurobiology and animal behavior from Cornell University in 1972, Donald M. Windsor joined STRI as a computer programmer and data analyst for the Environmental Monitoring Program. In 1990, he was appointed research biologist and coordinator of the Environmental Sciences Program. He has conducted extensive research on the ecological and genetic factors influencing the reproductive success of the wasp.

Rolando Perez, Dilia Santamaria, and Eduardo Sierra, students from the University of Panama, Hamilton W. Beltran Santiago and Ernesto Yallico, students from Peru, Zenith O. Batista, coordinator of the Tropical Forest Dynamics Project, Kaoru Kitajima Okada, STRI predoctoral fellow, Kevin P. Hogan, STRI visiting scientist, and Mirna Samaniego, a graduate in forestry from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, demonstrated scientific techniques used to study tropical plants. Todd Underwood, a student, demonstrated procedures for crab behavioral studies. Elias Gonzales, a Panamanian farmer participating in the experimental farm program, Arturo Cerezo, a faculty member from the School of Agriculture at the University of Panama, and Juvencio Trujillo, an agricultural assistant, showed how the Las Pavas experimental program actually operated.

National Zoological Park and Conservation and Research Center

Interviews conducted at both the NZP and CRC included staff members who participated in various programs to ensure species survival. Larry R. Collins received his B.A. in biology from Columbia Union College in 1965 and his M.S. in zoology from University of Maryland in 1973. He began his tenure with the NZP in 1967 as an animal keeper in the Scientific Research Division, and was appointed supervisory zoologist in that division in 1969. In 1972 he became assistant curator of the Department of Living Vertebrates at NZP, and from 1973 to 1975 he served as the associate curator for the Office of Animal Management. In 1975, Collins was appointed mammal curator at CRC.

Scott R. Derrickson completed his B.A. in biology in 1970 from Gettysburg College and his M.S. and Ph.D. in ecology and behavioral biology from University of Minnesota in 1975 and 1977, respectively. In 1977, he began work as a research behaviorist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and continued there until he was appointed assistant curator of ornithology at CRC in 1984. Later that same year, he was appointed curator of ornithology. Since 1987, he has held that position concurrently with the position of deputy associate director for Conservation and Captive Breeding.

Theodore H. Reed received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Kansas State College in 1945. He taught veterinary pathology there before working as assistant state veterinarian for Oregon from 1946 to 1948. Between 1948 and 1955 Reed maintained a private veterinary practice in Idaho and Oregon. While practicing with the Rose City Veterinary Hospital in Portland, Reed was called upon to work with the Portland Zoo's animal collection which led to his career in exotic animal studies and zoo administration. Reed was appointed as a veterinarian for NZP in 1955. He became acting director of the NZP in 1956 and director in 1958. Reed retired from the directorship position in 1983.

Linwood R. Williamson received his B.S. in wildlife management from Virginia Polytechnic and State University in 1972. He came to CRC in 1978 and began working with birds, small mammals and hoofstock, as the biotechnician in charge of the Ungulate Research Facilities.

Video Sessions

This collection consists of thirteen interview sessions, separated into two collection divisions, totalling approximately 13:10 hours of recordings, and 225 pages of transcript. There are three generations of tape for each session: originals, dubbing masters, and reference copies. In total, this collection is comprised of 39 original videotapes (39 Beta videotapes), 18 dubbing master videotapes (18 U-Matic videotapes), and 14 reference copy videotapes (14 VHS videotapes). There is also a supplementary set of interview sessions, comprising 4 U-Matic dubbing master videotapes at 4:00 hours of recordings. There is no transcription for these supplemental sessions.

Collection Division 1: STRI

Session One (June 12, 1990), at the Tupper Center at STRI, Panama City, Panama, featured Nicholas D. Smythe discussing the history and purpose of the paca domestication project, c. 1970-1990, including:

  • tropical deforestation as a result of raising meat animals;
  • initial conception of project;
  • funding and start-up of project at STRI;
  • breeding success of pacas within the farm community;
  • problems with imprinting and grouping the pacas;
  • importance of pacas as a food source in South America.

Visual documentation included:

  • Tupper Center facilities;
  • various social groupings of pacas in cages;
  • close-ups of pacas.

Original Masters: 2 Beta videotapes
Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
Transcript: 15 pages
40 minutes

Session Two (June 12, 1990), at the Rodman Naval Base, Panama, featured John H. Christy and assistant Todd Underwood discussing studies on fiddler crabs, c. 1983-1990, including:

  • sexual selection and the evolution of reproductive and courtship behavior in fiddler crabs;
  • role of burrowing and pillar building in courtship;
  • description of procedures for scientific observation of fiddler crabs;
  • analysis of the data.

Visual documentation included:

  • movements of fiddler crabs on an intertidal mud flat;
  • use of a video camera and blow darts to record the movements of individual crabs;
  • removal of wax casts from fiddler crab burrows.

Original Masters: 3 Beta videotapes
Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
Transcript: 14 pages
1 hour

Session Three (June 12, 1990), at the Naos Laboratory, STRI, Naos, Panama, featured Brian D. Keller discussing scientific experiments being conducted on corals in conjunction with Oil Spill Project, c. 1986-1990, including:

  • history of the oil spill and establishment of the Project;
  • collecting and sectioning corals to observe growth patterns;
  • effects of the oil spill on coral growth.

Visual documentation included:

  • coral collections;
  • thin sections of corals;
  • X-ray images showing coral growth patterns.

Original Masters: 1 Beta videotapes
Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
Transcript: 4 pages
20 minutes

Session Four (June 13, 1990), at an experimental farm in Las Pavas, Gigante Peninsula, Panama, featured Gilbert Ocaña, with Elias Gonzales, Arturo Cerezo, and Juvencio Trujillo discussing the Agriforestry Project, c. 1980-1990, including:

  • improving South American agricultural practices;
  • selection of plants best suited for South American agriculture;
  • plants chosen to effectively feed livestock;
  • breeding of ducks and goats;
  • importance of goat's milk;
  • goat shed construction.
  • Visual documentation included:

    • Agriforestry Project plots;
    • close-ups of specific plants chosen for the Project;
    • goat house and duck yard.

    Original Masters: 3 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 20 pages
    1 hour

    Session Five (June 13, 1990), at the Tupper Center, STRI, Panama City, Panama, featured Ira Rubinoff discussing the history of the Institute and touring the current facilities, c. 1973-1990, including:

    • history of design and construction of Tupper Center facilities;
    • STRI's research agenda.

    Visual documentation included:

    • Tupper Center buildings and grounds.

    Original Masters: 1 Beta videotape
    Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 5 pages
    20 minutes

    Session Six (June 14, 1990), at an Oil Spill Project Site, STRI, Galeta, Panama, featured Norman C. Duke discussing the effects of an oil spill on mangrove forests, c. 1986-1990, including:

    • survival of mangrove trees exposed to the oil spill;
    • effects of oil on animal communities associated with mangrove forests;
    • description of scientific process for observing mangroves;
    • relationship between crabs and leaf litter;
    • mangrove adaptation and growth patterns.

    Visual documentation included:

    • boat ride from Galeta Point to mangrove forest;
    • oil saturated beach and mangroves;
    • crab burrows;
    • mangrove forest unaffected by oil spill.

    Original Masters: 4 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 2 U-Matic videotapes
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 24 pages
    1 hour, 20 minutes

    Session Seven (June 14, 1990), at the Galeta Laboratory, STRI, Galeta, Panama, featured Brian D. Keller discussing monitoring of a reef flat as part of the Environmental Sciences Program, c. 1970-1990, including:

    • history of reef flat monitoring program;
    • effects of oil spill on reef;
    • uses of data collected.

    Visual documentation included:

    • reef flat off Galeta Point;
    • meteorological monitoring equipment located on reef.

    Original Masters: 1 Beta videotape Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 5 pages
    20 minutes

    Session Eight (June 15, 1990), at the Barro Colorado Research Station, STRI, Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama, featured Donald M. Windsor discussing the use of the Environmental Monitoring Tower to study the tropical forest, c. 1970-1990, including:

    • history of the Environmental Monitoring Program on BCI;
    • types of plant phenology data collected;
    • rainforest seasonality studies; soil condition monitoring;
    • rainforest canopy monitoring.

    Visual documentation included:

    • Environmental Monitoring Tower;
    • meteorological instruments on top of the Tower;
    • views of rainforest canopy.

    Original Masters: 3 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 13 pages
    1 hour

    Session Nine (June 15, 1990), at the Barro Colorado Research Station, STRI, BCI, Panama, featured Alan P. Smith, Kevin P. Hogan, Kaoru Kitajima Okada, and Mirna Samaniego discussing the plant physiology research conducted in the forest under normal conditions, and in the laboratory under controlled conditions, c. 1985-1990, including:

    • importance of understanding the effects of environmental variables on tropical plants;
    • carbon dioxide exchange studies on specific plants in the rainforest understory;
    • methods of measuring carbon dioxide exchange in plants;
    • potential use of construction tower cranes to conduct experiments in the upper forest canopy;
    • use of controlled laboratory experiments to study plant physiology.

    Visual documentation included:

    • tropical forest understory;
    • plant physiology monitoring field station; demonstration of a student measuring a leaf's carbon dioxide exchange in the field;
    • BCI plant physiology laboratory area;
    • laboratory plant growth chamber;
    • carbon dioxide exchange measurements inside a plant growth chamber.

    Original Masters: 2 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
    Reference copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 10 pages
    40 minutes

    Session Ten (June 15, 1990), at the Barro Colorado Research Station, STRI, BCI, Panama, featured A. Stanley Rand discussing the history of the Station and describing the current facilities, c. 1960-1990, including:

    • design and construction of residences and laboratories;
    • construction of tramway to top of the island.

    Visual documentation included:

    • residential and laboratory buildings;
    • tramway.

    Original Masters: 2 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 1 U-Matic videotape
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 12 pages
    40 minutes

    Session Eleven (June 18, 1990), at the Barro Colorado Tropical Forest Dynamics Project Fifty Hectare Plot, STRI, BCI, Panama, featured Robin Foster, Zenith O. Batista, Rolando A. Perez, Dilia Santamaria, Hamilton W. Beltran Santiago, Eduardo Sierra and Ernesto Yallico discussing their work with the tropical forest census, c. 1980-1990, including:

    • funding and startup of project;
    • structure of census and study of tropical forest dynamics;
    • plant measuring and mapping procedures;
    • census data analysis.

    Visual documentation included:

    • portions of the BCI Fifty Hectare Plot;
    • demonstrations of students tagging, measuring, and mapping plants;
    • Yellow House laboratory;
    • Tropical Forest Dynamics Project data analysis area;
    • close-ups of charts, graphs, and maps generated from the census data.

    Original Masters: 4 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 2 U-Matic videotapes
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 24 pages
    1 hour, 20 minutes

    Collection Division 2: NZP/CRC

    Session Twelve (September 25, 1990), at the National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C., featured Theodore H. Reed discussing the history of the zoo, as well as specific modernization and breeding programs undertaken during his directorship, c. 1889-1990, including:

    • founding of zoo;
    • renovations completed in the 1930s with Works Progress Administration funding;
    • condition of zoo at time of Reed's arrival in 1955;
    • safety improvements;
    • renovation of the Small Mammal House to the Monkey House;
    • design and construction of William M. Mann Lion/Tiger exhibit;
    • establishment of white tiger breeding program;
    • 1975 renovation of Elephant House and Yard;
    • acquisition of two giant pandas presented to President Nixon as gifts of state from the People's Republic of China in 1972;
    • construction of giant panda facilities;
    • giant panda behavior;
    • 1955 Bird House renovation; construction of outdoor Great Flight Cage;
    • captive breeding of endangered birds at NZP and CRC;
    • use of the International Species Information System (ISIS);
    • renovation of seal pond.

    Visual documentation included:

    • Monkey House and Reptile House exteriors;
    • Mann Lion/Tiger Exhibit;
    • close-ups of white tiger and lions; outdoor gibbon cages;
    • close-ups of howling Siamang gibbons;
    • Elephant House exterior;
    • close-up of elephants and giraffes in Elephant Yard;
    • panda exhibit;
    • close-up of panda feeding;
    • exterior and interior of Bird House;
    • Great Flight Cage;
    • Beaver Valley seal pond;
    • photos of structures prior to renovations.

    Original Masters: 7 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 3 U-Matic videotapes
    Reference Copies: 2 VHS videotapes
    Transcript: 39 pages
    2 hours, 30 minutes

    Session Thirteen (September 27, 1990), at the Conservation and Research Center, Front Royal, Virginia, featured Theodore H. Reed, Larry R. Collins, Linwood R. Williamson, and Scott R. Derrickson discussing the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Center, and breeding programs undertaken there, c. 1974-1990, including:

    • acquisition of grounds;
    • establishment of Center;
    • oryx and sable antelope breeding programs;
    • history of Przewalski horse;
    • Przewalski horse breeding program;
    • participation in Species Survival Plan cooperative breeding program;
    • success of hoofstock breeding; design and construction of the Small Animal Facility; marsupial tiger quoll and Matschie's tree kangaroo breeding;
    • Pere David deer breeding; endocrinology study of Eld's deer;
    • breeding of Eld's deer; lesser panda breeding program;
    • lesser panda behavior;
    • establishment of the rail breeding program;
    • success of Guam rail breeding;
    • Micronesian kingfisher breeding.

    Visual documentation included:

    • overview of the CRC campus;
    • grazing areas for the oryx and sable antelopes with close-ups of animals;
    • Waller barn and Przewalski horse yard;
    • exterior and interior of the Small Animal Facility;
    • marsupial tiger quolls in cages;
    • Matschie's tree kangaroos in cages;
    • exterior and interior of the Rivinus barn;
    • Pere David deer in outdoor pens;
    • corn cribs used to house lesser pandas;
    • bird wing of the Small Animal Facility;
    • Guam rails in cages;
    • close-up of Micronesian kingfisher.

    Original Masters: 6 Beta videotapes
    Dubbing Masters: 2 U-Matic videotapes
    Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape
    Transcript: 40 pages
    2 hours

    Additional Information

    For additional information on Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, National Zoological Park and Conservation Research Center, see the records of each bureau and oral history interviews of STRI researchers, administrators, game wardens, and neighbors, and of NZP administrators, located at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.


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