Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Eldredge Bermingham is the director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute a unit of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Panama City, Panama, since September 2008. He joined the institute’s scientific staff in 1989 and has served as deputy director since 2003 and acting director since 2007.
As STRI’s director, Bermingham oversees the world’s premier tropical biology research institute, dedicated to increasing the understanding of the past, present and future of tropical biodiversity and its relevance to human welfare. STRI’s focus is basic research conducted primarily in tropical forest and coral reefs. STRI scientists discover new organisms, test scientific explanations for ecological adaptation and evolutionary innovation, develop methods to restore degraded ecosystems, train students and promote conservation of tropical ecosystems. One of STRI programs, the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories [SIGEO], which evolved from STRI’s Center for Tropical Forest Science, encompasses more than 20 forest plots in 17 countries around the globe, and represents the best observational platform in the world for evaluating how forests respond to global climate change.
Bermingham’s research has advanced knowledge of the movement of organisms across the land bridge formed as the Isthmus of Panama rose to connect North and South America 3 million years ago and sheds light on processes of contemporary biological invasions. His analyses of bird populations on the islands of the Lesser Antilles contribute to the understanding of extinction. He has been a strong proponent of cross-unit and intergovernmental collaborations at the Smithsonian, encouraging the development of projects through the Smithsonian Marine Science Network, the Smithsonian Barcode of Life Initiative, and the Smithsonian Global Earth Observatories.
Bermingham has published over 135 peer-reviewed articles; edited the book Tropical Rainforests: Past, Present and Future published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005; has sponsored over 18 postdoctoral students; advised over 31 predoctoral students, and served on the committee of 17 of the latter. Bermingham earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University in 1977 and a doctorate degree in genetics from the University of Georgia in 1986.