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The Galeta Marine Laboratory facility is located on the Caribbean coast of Panama in the province of Colon within the Galeta Protected Area, near the city of Colon.

It is necessary to travel along the France Field road. This road is in poor repair, due to heavy truck traffic to the Colon Free Zone, warehouses and ports. Furthermore, after leaving the France Field road, you must pass through a Mi Ambiente checkpoint, which closes at 7:00pm. Access through the checkpoint after this hour must be pre-arranged with the station manager.


The station has one private security guard on duty 24 hrs./day, 365 days/year and in addition, at least one member of the Panamanian Ecological Police is always present at the station. The station has electricity, a fire alarm system for the laboratory building, battery-operated smoke detectors in the dorms, potable water, emergency generator, first aid equipment, communication via Internet (just at the Laboratory building), limited cell phone capability not more than 7 km offshore and an IP telephone system. The station has a radio – only the 25W base works well. Portable 5W radios do not work past the visitor’s center.

Ecological police officers might accompany researchers or patrol the research area when out in the field previous coordination with the station Scientific Coordinator assistant.

Criminal activities

  • Proximity to Colón city – The Galeta Marine Laboratory facility is 7 kms from Colón city which is the city with the highest crime rate in Panamá. Therefore, exercise appropriate precautions when visiting Colón city, especially at night.
  • The station is surrounded by high crime areas both on the land and shore sides; therefore, stay alert to the following:
    • Vandalism – abandoned structures and shipwreck invite scavenging and some of those scavengers could represent a threat, if encountered.
    • Drug trafficking – fleeing drug traffickers might become a threat when escaping or avoiding law enforcement personnel. If you find any abandoned drug package, do not touch it and report it immediately to the security guard and the ecological police officer.
    • Assault/theft – there have been some assault incidents outside the Galeta protected area; be careful when traveling to and from the station. If involved, do not panic and cooperate with the assailant.
    • Crab poaching – crab harvesting is prohibited in the protected area. In May, crabs reproduce making them more visible; poachers could become a threat.
  • The following areas must be avoided during heavy rains because you might get stranded in a dangerous area: Sabanitas – 4 Altos, 4 Altos, France Field Road and Galeta Road after the bridge.  At night, France Field road has many risk factors; homeless camps, big pot holes, lack of illumination and a history of assaults, rock throwing; therefore, do not stop under any circumstances. It is highly recommended that travel to and from Galeta takes place in the daytime, and that you do not stop on this road, especially at night.
  • Physical security – Lock your doors and use the safe box inside your room. Personal belongings are your responsibility.
  • Emergency provisions/supplies – 3 – 5-day supplies for 3 – 5 persons.

Transportation Limitations

Visitors must be aware that there is only one vehicle at the Galeta Station. Therefore, visitors must utilize their own transportation.

Field work recommendations and requirements

In order to reach the site, you must be registered. Upon arrival, report your visit to the security guard/caretaker and to the Scientific Assistant Coordinator of the area. Before going to the field please register each trip in the Field Trip App (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 – Weather permitting, swimming is usually safe around the reef and the sea-grass. Though, be aware that there is dangerous marine life all around the station. Prior to swimming, check with the station personnel to ensure your swimming plans are adequate. ESTO LO PODEMOS HACER?
  • Night Work – Any night work must be coordinated with the station Scientific Coordinator assistant so that the security force is informed.
  • Boating – If you require the use of a boat, please coordinate with Lourdes Vargas, Scientific Coordinator assistant at 212-8194 / 6330-2820 or Xenia Saavedra, 212-8061 /6619-4665

Weather Threats

Strong wind storms, flooding, 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

Station water comes from Colón which is known to experience shortages. The station has 3-2600-gal water tanks that should ensure enough water for station needs. However, exercise restraint and don’t waste water. Tap water is safe to drink at the station

Dangerous Fauna

There are crocodiles in the Galeta protected area; make sure you use your flashlight when going to and from the laboratory. Crocodiles have also been found sunbathing in the surrounding shore area and station facilities, including paved surfaces.

In addition, Lion fish, sea urchin, fire worms, sting rays, fire coral, seasonal jelly fish, etc. are in the coral reef and the sea-grass bed around the station. Be careful when swimming and snorkeling around the station.

Snakes Bites, scorpions and bees – Venomous and non-venomous snakes have been reported around the mangrove and the station facilities. In case of an event stay calm and contact the caretaker. Also, make sure you check your shoes before putting them and mattresses before going to bed. (Note: There is one bright yellow Pelican case in the house with anti-venom that needs to be taken to the hospital with the patient. This anti-venom is to be used ONLY by medical personnel and if the hospital ran out of anti-venom).

Medical facilities

There is one regular first aid kit in the station, a diving first aid kit and an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

STRI has a contract with a private ambulance service (Grupo Vive) that covers Galeta. In case you need an ambulance, call 212-8911 or 212-8211 for ambulance assistance. Be aware that during heavy truck traffic, the ambulance might take between 15-30 minutes to reach the station.

There are two private hospitals (Hospital 4 Altos and the Centro Médico Caribe) and one pubic hospital (Hospital Amador Guerrero) near Galeta. For the private hospital attention, you will need to show a valid credit card.

  • 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.
    • You will need to be transported by stretcher (if in a remote area) to the nearest PUBLIC hospital or medical facility: Hospital Amador Guerrero (Colón 475-2214, 475-2211, 475-2212).

Meeting Places

  • Primary meeting place: Visitor’s center at the entrance of site.
  • Secondary meeting place: Outside the main building.

Areas of Refuge

Bathroom in the main building

Emergency Information

  • STRI Headquarters Security Guard Booth 212-8911/212-8211
  • Incident Commanders:
    Luis López, 212-8163 / 6613-1509
    Lourdes Vargas, 212-8194 / 6330-2820
    Xenia Saavedra, 212-8061 / 6619-4665