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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Panama City and Bocas del Toro

The trip down to Panama went smoothly  and we spent the first day in Panama City, where we visited the Tupper Center, which is the main administrative and research facility of the Smithsonian. The photo below shows students at the cafeteria.

After spending the night in Panama City, everyone boarded a chartered flight to Isla Colon, an island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean side of Panama. STRI has a wonderful marine station located just north of of the main town on the island. The station’s lab is covered by a large solar roof, and features excellent lab space. The lab is surrounded by a lagoon that is home to much wildlife, including caimans like this one.  At night their eyes glow red in spotlights and are easily distinguished from the thousands of green eyed spiders.

We will be conducting research there on bats with scientist Maurice Thomas. We are using ANABAT recorders that record and translate the high frequency sounds bats used to echo-locate into sounds we can here.   Dr. Thomas catches individual bats in mist nets and then records the sex, weight and other information about the bat.  The bats are then released and the students record the high frequency sounds the bats make as they fly away. Each species of bat has a unique sound signature, and we are using the recorders to build a library of these signatures, so that we can identify when and where different species of bats are foraging. This bulldog bat is being held by bat researcher Maurice Thomas.  It was trapped at Bocas on Tuesday night, data was collected and the bat was released.

Our other research project at Bocas is to compare the invertebrate fauna of developed and pristine underwater habitats.  Like many coastal areas Bocas is being rapidly developed.  As areas are cleared more sediment is being washed into the surrounding coaral and sea grass habitats.  Many marine invertebrates like the tubeworm shown below are sessile filter feeders that can be impacted by increasing siltation of their habitats.  We are conducting underwater surveys of invertebrates using STRI’s glasss bottommed boat to determine whether there are any differences in the types and numbers of common marine invertebrates found in different locations around the islands.

Photos by UWGB botanis Gary Fewless.

More photos coming soon!