STRI is one of the world's leading centers for basic research on ecology, behavior and evolution of tropical organisms. Its international staff of more than 30 scientists conducts investigations throughout the tropics of the New and Old World. Scientists from around the world come to STRI to join the search for knowledge in fields that include animal behavior, plant ecology, canopy biology, paleoecology, archaeology, evolution, genetics, marine ecology, anthropology and conservation science.
Dr. Ben Turner in STRI's Soil Lab
STRI's research also addresses many of the compelling ecological questions that our society will face in the Twenty First Century. The tropics, with their rainforests and coral reefs, contain most of the planet’s biological diversity.
How did this diversity come about? What genetic, behavioral and ecological factors maintain this diversity? How stable is it in view of changes brought on by agriculture, industrialization and human population growth? How does the biosphere interact with the geosphere? How can a better reading of our planet's history help us separate the natural components of the changing global climate form human influences, so that we may make wiser public policies?
The Isthmus of Panama provides an extraordinary natural laboratory for studying the tropics. The rising Isthmus increasingly separated the Atlantic and Pacific oceans until it formed a complete barrier about three million years ago, permanently separating the marine organisms on either side. As a barrier between two oceans, the Isthmus enables biologists to examine how new species are formed through the evolutionary process. As a land bridge between North and South America , the Isthmus is a laboratory for studying the results of the merger of previously distinct floras and faunas from two continents.