Barro Colorado Island (BCI), a 1,560-hectare island, is STRI’s primary site for the study of lowland moist tropical forests. Together with five adjacent peninsulas, BCI forms the 5,600-hectare Barro Colorado Nature Monument (BCNM).
Barro Colorado has first-rate facilities on the doorstep of an isolated tropical ecosystem. Visiting researchers have comfortable dorms, air-conditioned labs and a dining hall where three hot meals are served every day.
The station has laboratory resources available to ensure researchers can process, store and analyze samples. A fleet of small boats is available to move researchers from the island to the adjacent peninsulas, where manipulative field work is permitted. A wealth of long-term forest and climate data help both new arrivals and long-time visitors frame their research in an environmental and historical context that is practically unrivaled anywhere else in the tropics.
Criminal activities in the area
Robberies are rare but keep your belongings secure and room and laboratory doors locked. Game Wardens and the Ecological Police conduct joint patrols to control poaching. In the unlikely event that you encounter poachers, keep calm and avoid confrontations. Keep your flashlight/lantern on. Call the STRI Security Control Room (212-8911, 212-8211) and inform the Game-warden Leader/Supervisor (6496-9340 or 6151-3408).
Access to BCI is by regularly scheduled STRI boat service from the Gamboa dock, 45 minutes away. You must reserve space by sending a request to: https://stri-sites.si.edu/bciboatreservation/. You must show your valid STRI ID to enter the Gamboa dock area.
Field work recommendations and requirements
- Any time your go to the field you must register each trip to the field by using STRI’s Field Trip Registration App http://www.stri.si.edu/ss/. The App automatically alerts STRI Security, the Scientific Coordinator (SC) and your STRI host where you will be visiting, your estimated time of departure (ETD) and estimated time of return (ETR). In addition, if you fail to sign-in after your ETR, the App sends out a general alert.
- Avoid going out in the field alone.
- Have at least two different means of emergency communication devices (radio, cell phone, GPS-SPOT or satellite phone). Ask the SC or Gamewarden whether there is radio and/or cell-phone coverage in your research area.
- Take a first-aid box with essential elements, including any prescription medicine you may need.
- Wear bright clothing that can be visible day and night (bright colors such as orange, for example). If possible, use reflective ribbons on your chest and back, or a reflective vest.
- Take a flashlight, map and/or GPS.
- Carry drinking water and electrolyte-type salts to add to the water in case of profuse sweating.
- Take your STRI ID, and a Panamanian photo ID or copy of your passport.
- Aquatic fieldwork – Swimming in the nearby ponds, lakes or rivers is prohibited due to boating activities, the presence of crocodiles and dense aquatic vegetation.
- Carry a personal flotation device for each person, fire extinguisher, bailing pails, anchor and line, first-aid kit, emergency flares, tools, a pair of oars and a whistle.
- Verify proper condition and operation of boat systems: radio, battery, oil level, bilge pumps, propeller, navigational lights (green, red and white), and spotlight.
- Fish sampling: Trips must be done following the buddy system due to the presence of many crocodiles.
- Aquatic activities: Recreational boating, swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing and other related aquatic activities in the BCNM are not permitted. This policy is in place to be consistent with ACP regulations and to avoid hazardous interactions with crocodiles and aquatic vegetation.
Drink water from the Cristalina Water Bottles Dispensers, located in Dinning Hall, Laboratories and Visitor Center.
Consult with the SC and Gamewarden. Be aware of possible encounters with snakes, felines, African bees and other insects that carry tropical diseases (leishmania, Chagas, etc.).
- Snakes bites, scorpions and bees:
- Stay calm. (There are cases when the snake bites but it does not inoculates venom).
- Call for help (212-8911 or 212-8211).
- Avoid unnecessary movements (i.e. Do not walk, nor run, nor do any strenuous movements that will speed your blood circulation).
- Wash the wound with plain water and cover it with a loose bandage to avoid infection.
- You will need to get transported by stretcher (if in a remote area) or by ambulance to the nearest public hospital: Hospital Santo Tomás (Panamá 507-5600).
BCI is remote from medical facilities. To get medical attention, you need to travel by boat to Gamboa, and then to Panama City. Furthermore, most field sites on the island are accessible only by trail or boat. Thus, precautions need to be taken to avoid injury, especially in the field.
The Game Wardens and some other staff have been trained in first aid and should be contacted to coordinate any medical emergency response. If you suffer severe allergies or have any other health condition that first responders should know about, please call for help (212-8911 or 212-8211).
Portable Defibrillation Machine are located at
- Gamewarden Office by the dock.
- Visitor Center
- Scientific Coordinator’s Office (South Lab 234)
- Gamboa Pier (Guard Booth)
- Primary meeting place: Green area next to the BCI entrance sign.
- Secondary meeting place (to be used if the primary is affected by the emergency): Heliport.
Areas of Refuge
- Internal hallways in all buildings away from windows
- Dormitory bathrooms.