Skip to main content


The Jorge L. Arauz Research Center, Fortuna field station, is in Western Panama’s province of Chiriquí, near the border with Costa Rica. The quickest way to get there from Panama City is via a flight to David, which is 70 km south of the Fortuna station by road. The drive from Panama City is almost 500 km and takes about seven hours. The Fortuna field station facilities an excellent access to the largely unspoiled wilderness of the 19,500-hectare Fortuna Hydrological Reserve and the adjacent Palo Seco Forest. Trails beginning at the highway provide access to forest on diverse soil types.


Fortuna’s field station offers simple living. It has bedrooms with four beds, a large main room for classes, workshops or meetings, a washer, a dryer and a covered outdoor work area.  Potable water is available, but visitors will need to bring in their own food and plan ahead.

There is a greenhouse, a large walk-in storage and dry room with an herbarium. Equipment includes an electronic balance, a small drying oven, one stereo microscope and one optical microscope. There are 110v electrical outlets and a couple of 220v outlets.

Criminal activities

  • Robberies and other criminal activities are rare but keep your belongings secure.  In the unlikely event that you encounter poachers, keep calm and avoid confrontations. Keep your flashlight/lantern on.
  • Call the station caretaker or/and STRI Security Control Room (212-8911, 212-8211)

Transportation Limitations

The David- Changuinola route offers bus service every day, every half hour at the following times:

  • David to Bocas de Toro, from 3:00 am to 7:00 pm.
  • Bocas del Toro to David, 6:30 am to 10:00 p.m.

Another option is the rental of vehicles in the lessors in David.

Key security recommendations

  • Check with the station caretaker (Carlos Espinosa, e-mail:, Ph. 6998-7712) and with your sponsor or supervisor, the conditions of the areas you plan to visit and discuss all the potential emergencies that could encounter (e.g. getting lost, injuries, wildlife attacks, etc.).
  • Inform your estimated departure and return time.  Avoid going out in the field alone. Have at least two different means of emergency communication devices (i.e. radio, cell phone, GPS-SPOT device and satellite phones).
  • Carry your STRI ID and your passport or copy of your passport including the page with the entry stamp.
  • Essential safety and survival equipment must always be carried e.g. torches, first aid kit, emergency food supply, maps, whistles, survival bags, etc.

In case of an accident or security incident contact the local authorities and inform your supervisor and STRI emergency phones 212-8911/8211. Consult STRI’s Security Office (212-8025) and ask them about the places you plan to visit and the safest routes to take.

Field work recommendations and requirements

You must register each trip to the field in the Field Trip App (FTA)

Upon arrival, report your visit to the security guard/caretaker of the area and provide a printed copy of the FTA. Remember to close the Field Trip App after returning from your trip. If the field trip is not closed at the specific time of return, the system will generate emails in the Control Room, Security, etc. indicating that the person / boat / car has not returned. This will first activate verification with security and emergency response if there is no news from the group.

Aquatic activities – Care should be taken when carrying out aquatic field work and going out into the field during rain to avoid flooding of the river. It is also common that the Fortuna hydrological Reserve company, releases water when the reservoir level is exceeded to avoid ruptures. This is dangerous since the cause of the river increases significantly in a few minutes. Usually this company sounds a siren or alarm a few minutes before, warning that water from the reservoir will be released.

Terrestrial fieldwork A 4×4 pick-up truck is available for fieldwork. It can be booked in advance with the station caretaker, Carlos Espinosa. The closest gas station is in Gualaca, 30km from Fortuna towards David.

Note: No one can drive on of the STRI vehicles if is not authorized. Ask to your supervisor about process to request a STRI driver license. Read the STRI vehicle policies.  Be aware that you can only legally drive a vehicle in Panama for up to 90 days after arriving in the country using a foreign-issued driver’s license. Always wear a seatbelt.

For more information contact to

Weather threats

Strong windstorms, thunderstorms, lighting storms. Find shelter is there is less than 30 seconds between lighting and thunder. Wait at least 30 minutes after hearing the last thunder before going out again.

Drinking water

Potable water is available

Dangerous fauna

Some examples are snakes, felines, African bees and insects that carry tropical diseases. Consult with the station caretaker about any dangerous fauna that could be encountered close by your work area.

Medical facilities

  • There is a first aid kit and an automatic external defibrillator (AED) at the station.
  • Any medical situation shall be reported to the STRI-OPS Control Room (212-8911/8211).
  • Patients and/or caregivers can consult a doctor by calling 279-3111 identifying themselves as a STRI collaborator.
  • Radio Tupper by saying: “Garita, Garita, Garita over…” or call for help (212-8911 or 212-8211).
  • In the event of snake bites, scorpions, bees and other situations:
    • Avoid unnecessary movements (i.e. Do not walk, nor run, nor do any strenuous movements that will speed your blood circulation). If there is a need to walk, you may apply a constrictive bandage above the byte w/o cutting blood circulation.
    • wash the wound with plain water and cover it with a loose bandage to avoid infection.
  • To receive medical attention, you need to travel to David:
  • Hospital Regional de David: 775-2161/2162.
  • Hospital Mae Lewis: 775-4616.
  • Hospital Chiriquí: 774-0128/775-8999.
  • Hospital J. de Olbaldia: 775-4221/4222.

Emergency Information