Exploration in Panama

The annual trip to Panama and the Cocobolo Nature Reserve is always an adventure. In 2017, our avid bird watchers spotted 150 different species in ten days! Highlights of the trip included Fort San Lorenzo (photo right), high above the mouth of the Chagres River on the Caribbean side of the canal, a day with the Embera Drua Tribe in their village further up the Chagres River, a boat tour of the wildlife along the canal and in Gatun Lake, hiking on Pipeline Road, the Biodiversity Museum, six days of field research at Cocobolo Nature Reserve, and visiting with school children in the village of La Zahina. This year, our student drone team captured some amazing footage, including a waving sloth, the demarcation line between the lush rainforest of the Reserve and its neighboring clear-cut cattle farm, a remote waterfall, and Marvelwood students swimming in the Memoni River with children from La Zahina.

Now in its 13th year, Building Migratory Bridges focuses on establishing on-going, cross-cultural scientific and educational programs with children and local farmers from underserved rural communities in Panama, where we partner with Dr. Michael Roy of CREA (Conservation through Research, Education and Action), and other researchers, including Dr. Twan Leenders from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, and Clay Bolt of the World Wildlife Fund. At the Cocobolo Nature Reserve, we conduct research on birds, bats, insects, and amphibians, and photo-document the incredible biodiversity that exists in the area. Some of the ongoing amphibian research at Cocobolo (photo, right) was featured in the August 2015 issue of New Scientist magazine, in the publication's first photo-driven feature in its 60-year history: Meet the Lazarus toads that bring hope for amphibians. In addition to scientific research and exploration, community outreach with students from the nearby village of La Zahina is an important part of the trip. In Panama, public education in rural, economically disadvantage communities such as La Zahina essentially ends at the age of 12. Each year, we organize and sponsor scientific and art related activities for the students, and are working to establish an environmental science lending library for everyone in the community. The next group of explorers will be in Panama January 25-February 5, 2018.

-Laurie Doss
Science Department Chair and Panama Trip Coordinator

Additional information can be found on the website and more photos can be seen on SmugMug