Barro Colorado Island Field Station Celebrates 70th Anniversary, by Hansen, Carl C, 1993, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, Aerial view of Barro Colorado Island shows the docks with boats tied up to them, and new dormitory facilities for students and visiting scientists. For 70 years, the 3,600-acre island has been one of the leading field stations for research in tropical biology. In 1924 the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory officially opened in the Panama Canal Zone. More than thirty scientists from the United States worked at the island laboratory during its first year of operation. The laboratory later came under Smithsonian Institution aegis as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute..