Barro Colorado Island Declared Reserve

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Governor Jay J. Morrow of the Panama Canal Zone declared that Barro Colorado Island in Gatun Lake, part of the Panama Canal watershed, would be set aside as a nature reserve. A laboratory was built on the island, funded by a consortium of North American universities and museums, and BCI became the first protected tropical rain forest in the New World. James Zetek, a U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology, entomologist stationed in Panama was appointed "resident custodian" in charge of the nature reserve. The island was created when the canal watershed was flooded, creating Gatun Lake and making the former hilltop an island. BCI later became the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.


  • Morrow, Jay J
  • Zetek, James b. 1886
  • Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory)
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
  • United States Dept. of Agriculture Bureau of Entomology


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Hagen, Joel B. Problems in the Institutionalization of Tropical Biology: The Case of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory. History and Philosophy of Life Sciences, 12 (1990), 225-247, p.229.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


April 17, 1923


  • Rain forest ecology
  • New Bureaus)
  • Panama Canal (Panama)


  • Panama
  • Barro Colorado Island (Panama)

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