Agency history, 1923-

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  • Zetek, James 1886-1959
  • Rubinoff, Ira 1938-
  • Koford, Carl B
  • Moynihan, M
  • Bermingham, Eldredge
  • Larsen, Matthew
  • Sanjur, Oris
  • Tewksbury, Joshua J
  • United States Canal Zone Biological Area, Barro Colorado Island
  • Institute for Research in Tropical America
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Earl Silas Tupper Research and Conference Center
  • National Research Council (U.S.)


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives, 1996
  • Smithsonian Year
  • STRI Staff Directory, accessed June 6, 2012
  • Curriculum Vitae, accessed June 11, 2012
  • In 1923 the Institute for Research in Tropical America, a group of private foundations and universities under the auspices of the National Research Council, first established a research laboratory on Barro Colorado Island, Panama Canal Zone, in order to investigate the flora and fauna of tropical America. In 1940 an act of Congress placed the facility under control of a board composed of the heads of certain executive departments and prominent scientists. In 1946 the operation of the laboratory was transferred to the Smithsonian and was named the Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA). It was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in 1966.
  • James Zetek, an entomologist on the staff of the United States Department of Agriculture, served as Resident Manager of the CZBA (before 1946, the Barro Colorado Island research laboratory) from 1923 to 1956. He was succeeded by Carl B. Koford, Resident Manager, 1956-1957; Martin H. Moynihan, Resident Manager, 1957-1963, and Director, 1963-1973; Ira Rubinoff, Director, 1973-2007; Eldredge Bermingham, Acting Director, 2007-2008, and Director, 2008-2014; Matthew Larsen, Director, August 2014-June 2020; Oris Sanjur, Acting Director, June 2020-June 2021; and Joshua J. Tewksbury, Director, July 2021- .
  • Under Moynihan's direction, STRI grew from a biological preserve and small field camp on Barro Colorado Island to a research facility with a worldwide reputation. A marine science program was established with laboratories on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Panama; professional staff grew fifteen fold; and research expanded to other parts of the Tropics. Growth at STRI continued under Ira Rubinoff who oversaw the construction of several new facilities, culminating in the opening of the Earl Silas Tupper Research and Conference Center in 1989. STRI continued to expand its work in the tropics and by the early 1990s was conducting research throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa. In 1992, STRI became involved with administering the Smithsonian's interest in the Mpala Wildlife Research Trust in Kenya, which was created to support research on wildlife, global change, and biodiversity.

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1923
  • 1923-


  • Tropical biology
  • Research


  • Panama
  • Mpala Ranch (Kenya)


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00017

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