As a visitor carrying out animal behavior research at STRI you will join a vibrant community engaged in research with deep historical roots in Panama.

Credit: Martin Moynihan

First primate studies in the wild

The study of animal behavior in nature was a key reason to establish Barro Colorado Island (BCI) as a reserve for science 100 years ago. Early BCI researchers studied the behavior and natural history of the resident fauna, including the first study of primates in nature by Clarence Ray Carpenter. The BCI trails are named for many of these pioneers in animal behavior. Martin Moynihan, STRI’s founding director, completed his dissertation research under Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen, with highly original behavioral studies of birds, primates and cephalopods. Many of the scientists who founded the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute studied the evolution of animal behavior, initiating what they called “the longest-running conversation in evolutionary biology.”

Research groups

New way of working: STRI-LAB

Today, a core group of staff scientists continues this conversation, complemented by a large community of visiting researchers, STRI interns, fellows and Research Associates.

We recently reconfigured and reimagined our laboratory facilities, mentoring roles and responsibilities, and management of shared research infrastructure and personnel, to redress inherent power asymmetries in academia and to actively promote shared access to field sites, natural history knowledge, equipment, facilities and institutional support for research across STRI.

Credit: Sean Mattson
Credit: Chelsea Ritter
Credit: Inga Geipel

We established STRI’s Laboratory for Animal Behavior (STRI-LAB), merging resources from research laboratories from the three staff scientists whose primary focus is animal behavior:

STRI-LAB aims to culture a diverse community in which both staff and visiting scientists work in a supportive and intellectually rigorous environment, fostering excellence in research through mutual aid.

STRI-LAB’s immediate research interests center on investigations of mutualisms, social behavior, sensory and cognitive biology, and natural history, primarily focusing on ants and their associated plant species; bats; bees; and frogs; and all their associates, from microbes to macrobes. We welcome and encourage those working on diverse questions and taxa. Our goal is to provide commensurate intellectual and infrastructure support for those working on behavior.

Research equipment

Credit: STRI Microscopy Lab

Research instrumentation and research support

  • Scanning electron microscope
  • Olympus confocal microscope
  • Olympus compound microscope.
  • Gas chromatograph/MS
  • Gas chromatograph electroantennogram
  • Various dissecting microscopes
  • Faraday cages, micromanipulators, and neurophysiology recording equipment
  • High speed video camera
  • Laser vibrometer
  • Micromanipulators and neuro-physiological recording set-up

Join us

Fellowships, internships and training

Fellowships, internships, and training: Under STRI’s current application procedures, all fellowship applications require a primary advisor and two co-advisors, but when you join STRI-LAB, you will have three co-advisors instead, to help coordinate access to equipment and facilities. Please contact us for advice and consultation during the application process. A large number of STRI Research Associates also have primary interests in animal behavior, and we encourage you to contact them in planning and providing guidance if you think their interests match yours. They can also support fellowship and internship applications.

Statement on Research Support and Co-authorship

According to Smithsonian policy, all fellows retain intellectual property rights to their data. As deemed appropriate by the fellow, STRI-LAB members may be invited to be co-authors on research publications if their contributions are deemed meritorious by fellows. There are no expectations of quid pro quo authorship in exchange for material support and use of equipment. We aim to be fair and transparent regarding authorships, so do not hesitate in discussing this topic with us at the beginning of your visit.


Sabrina Amador

Tropical Behavior Ecology

William Wcislo

Evolution, Behavior and Neurobiology

Rachel Page

Sensory and Cognitive Ecology