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University of California Santa Barbara


¡ERES! SUMMER Program at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama!

July 16‐31, 2019

UCSB‐Smithsonian Scholars, research scientists from the Smithsonian Institution, and staff from the Office of Education Partnerships engaged in fieldwork, research and classroom activities.

After a 2‐week intensive field course in tropical ecology and data science, UCSB and local community colleges students are ready to take on the world! The field course was headquartered at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, in the Panamanian canal zone town of Gamboa, where students accessed research scientists, research facilities and equipment, and were strategically positioned to access the Smithsonian’s Barro Colorado Island, the Panama Canal, and the rainforest of Soberanía National Park. Panama’s biogeographical importance as the nexus of the Great American interchange, both in biodiversity and human culture provide a dynamic backdrop for cutting edge science. It is a unique site where students gained experience living and working in an international and multicultural setting.

The ¡ERES! Summer field course, a component of the UCSB‐Smithsonian Scholars program, is spearheaded by UCSB’s Office of Education Partnerships. The OEP staff worked closely with STRI researcher (and UCSB Adjunct Faculty) Dr. Mark Torchin, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s Drs. Scott Sillett and Jesus Maldonado, and Smithsonian Data Science Lab’s Drs. Rebecca Dikow and Alex White, to put on a comprehensive course that shared ecological principles, showcased research and conservation practices, and taught practical data science skills using R. In addition, the program promotes professional development and facilitates research opportunities for students who are first generation to attend college.

Program highlights include:

  • STRI facility tours and visit to the world famous Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal
  • Birding Pipeline road with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Dr. Scott Sillett and SCBI mammologist, Dr. Jesus Maldonado
  • Bioacoustics with UCLA Post-doc Dr. Ioana Chiver
  • Mapping data points in R-studio with Dr. Alex White
  • Research job shadowing with Bat Research Lab interns in Gamboa
  • Accessing the forest canopy via the San Lorenzo canopy crane
  • Coral reef guided tour Isla Mamey, led by marine biologist Dr. Mark Torchin
  • Visit to Panama Canal and Casco Viejo (historic section of Panama City)

We look forward to continuing our work with this year’s student Scholars cohort. If you want to learn more about our field course follow us on Instagram @ucsbsmithscholars.