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A Group of Naturalists at Barro Colorado Island, Panama. 1924.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Left to Right: Gordon Stanhope Dodds, James Zetek, Ignacio Molino, Nathan Banks, George C. Wheeler, Graham Bell Fairchild, Frederick Burgess, David Grandison Fairchild, and William Morton Wheeler, shortly after the biological field station opened. The station is now part of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Many of Barro Colorado Island’s trails bear the name of the research station’s founding fathers. Find out more about several of the naturalists in the photo, and for more information see this pamphlet prepared by Joan Siedenburg (a wonderful friend of STRI) for the 85th Anniversary of the research station.

Some of the Naturalists

James Zetek

Entomologist and first Island Naturalist: In 1911 James Zetek arrived in Panama to work for the Panama Canal Commission studying the mosquitos that carry yellow fever. Zetek was instrumental in establishing the research station on Barro Colorado Island.  He was the sole manager of the island from 1923 through 1956, when he retired.

Ignacio Molino

James Zetek’s right hand man, a Panamanian lawyer, who helped set up the laboratory.

Nathan Banks

His specialty was mites, a group known to all field biologists on Barro Colorado because of the abundance of chiggers there. He wrote Spiders from Panama.

George C. Wheeler

Received his doctorate from Harvard in entomology and later became professor at the University of North Dakota. He arrived in Panama to study ants on Barro Colorado Island in 1924.

Alexander Graham Bell Fairchild

Son of David Fairchild (botanist and plant explorer) and Marian Bell (daughter of Alexander Graham Bell) first visited Barro Colorado Island in 1924 at the age of 15. Later he wrote his doctoral thesis at Harvard about the Tabanid flies of Panama and got a job at Panama’s Gorgas Memorial Laboratories.

David Grandison Fairchild

Plant explorer, worked with the US Departent of Agriculture’s Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction Plan.

William Morton Wheeler

Professor of Entomology, Harvard University, specialized in the social behavior of ants and other social insects. He coined the term ethology, the study of animal behavior, in 1902. He was a major force behind the establishment of the research station on Barro Colorado Island.

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Everyday we publish the latest discoveries at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Learn more about us and the science we do at Barro Colorado Island.