Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9553
Conservation of Endangered Species Videohistory Collection, 1990
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.
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 and was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in 1966. 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 National Zoological Park 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, Virginia, allowing the NZP to become an important part of the international Species Survival Program.
The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.
Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.
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.
This collection consists of thirteen interview sessions, separated into two collection divisions, totaling approximately 13:10 hours of recordings and 225 pages of transcript. There is also a supplementary set of interview sessions, comprised of 4:00 hours of recordings. There is no transcription for these supplemental sessions.
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 Ocana 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.
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.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Collins, Larry R.
- Derrickson, Scott R.
- Reed, Theodore H.
- Williamson, Linwood
- Christy, John H.
- Duke, Norman C. (Norman Clive), 1952-
- Foster, Robin B.
- Keller, Brian D., 1948-
- Ocana, Gilberto
- Rand, A. Stanley (Austin Stanley), 1932-
- Rubinoff, Ira, 1938-
- Smith, Alan P.
- Smythe, Nicholas D.
- Windsor, Donald M.
- Perez, Rolando A.
- Santamaria, Dilia
- Sierra, Eduardo
- Yallico, Ernesto
- Batista, Zenith O.
- Okada, Kaoru Kitajima
- Hogan, Kevin P.
- Samaniego, Mirna
- Underwood, Todd
- Gonzales, Elias
- Cerezo, Arturo
- Henson, Pamela M., interviewer
- Trujillo, Jurencio
- Belton Santiago, Hamilton W.
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Barro Colorado Island
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Canal Zone Biological Area
- Conservation and Research Center (National Zoological Park)
- National Zoological Park (U.S.). Species Survival Program
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Tropical Forest Dynamics Project
- Tropical biology
- Invertebrate zoology
- Barro Colorado Island (Panama)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9553, Conservation of Endangered Species Videohistory Collection