The idea that STRI and McGill University could develop an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional graduate program based in Panama emerged in between 2000 and 2001. The McGill Senate approved the program, known as the Neotropical Environment Option (NEO), in October 2001. Its first students had already registered "in advance" in September.
McGill students in banana plantation
The complexity of NEO lies in its "on site" nature in Panama and in the number of McGill departments and Faculties involved. Catherine Potvin was appointed Director of NEO in Panama in 2001 and in 2007 Andrew Hendry replaced Potvin. Both are professors from McGill and from the Biology Department. In Panama administrative support has been given from STRI to the program and from Montreal, through the School of Environment (MSE).