Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about

Education & Fellowships

Will my internship be considered in the deadline?

Placement depends upon the availability of a project or a match between the applicant's interest and an ongoing project. Those applications that will be considered are the ones that include a letter of support from the chosen STRI supervisor indicating the project description, duties and responsibilities of the intern.

What is the difference between an internship and a fellowship?

An internship is a prearranged highly structured learning experience that takes place within a specific time frame for a minimum of 20 hours per week. Interns are usually undergraduate students or recent graduates who receive practical experience under the supervision of a STRI scientist, a STRI Research Affiliate, a Visiting Scientist or a STRI employee. An internship is characterized by its instructional or tutorial character. All interns perform work directly under a supervisor who encourages the intern to analyze and reflect on the work and to use the internship to help accomplish his/her academic and professional goals. No independent research should be conducted during the tenure of an internship.

In contrast, fellows carry out their own project with a Staff Scientist or Research Affiliate as their advisor. Fellowships are offered to support independently conceived and designed research by a person at an advanced academic level working with Smithsonian staff members and making use of Smithsonian facilities and other resources. Fellowships are awarded for the primary educational benefit of the fellowship recipient, based on the merit of the scholarly research. The candidate must have a STRI advisor from among the research staff members for guidance, assistance, and consultation during his/her residence at the Smithsonian.


Scientific Visitor Information

Is there a good map of the city or specific areas in the Republic of Panama?

MapDownload Panama Map
LinkCourtesy of Focus Publications (Int), S.A.

MapDownload Panama City Map
LinkCourtesy of Focus Publications (Int), S.A.

You can also get very detailed maps in print at the Instituto Tomas Guardia, located at Transisthmian Highway, behind the University of Panama.

What price range of budget hotels do you have in Panama City?

You can get a single or double room in a budget hotel from $20.00 to $35.00 per night.

Can you make taxi arrangements on our behalf? What does it cost and what do you need for this arrangement?

Airport transfer by taxi is $20.00, with a surcharge of $5.00 for arrivals after 11:00 p.m. , and $5.00 for each additional person. The drive to Gamboa is $40.00, with a $5.00 surcharge for arrivals after 11:00 p.m. If you would like us to make taxi arrangements, we need your arrival date and time, and flight number.


Punta Culebra Marine Exhibition Center

Why is the place called “Punta Culebra”

The name was appointed because it has a peculiar form like the head of a snake, wide and triangular, when seen from the air.

Do you have free animals?

Yes. All terrestrial mammals, reptiles, and birds that live in Punta Culebra are free and have a natural habitat.

What else do you offer here?

“The Aquarium”, which is the little house at the end of the attractions, we offer an exposition of corals, marine conchs and fishes. We also count with two natural forest trails you can walk through and find sloths hanging from the trees and hear the different kinds of birds. Another bunker in which you will find an excellent exhibit that teaches about our Abundance of Fish, past and present.

Is it allowed to get in the water at “Crab Beach”?

It is not allowed because it is a research area for scientists.

What are those concrete piles that are observed in the mangrove forest in front of the bunkers?

Those are remains of the Quarantine station that was established during the Panama Canal construction. Those have historic value.

Why the species of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, do not cross from one ocean to the other?

This is due to the fact that the Panama Canal works with fresh water for the transit of ships from one ocean to the other, navigating through the Gatun Lake. This environment would be impossible for many marine species to survive. Although, there are some resistant species that have passed.

Which are the differences between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea?

In the Pacific Ocean, there is less biological biodiversity than in the Caribbean, nevertheless, there is much more abundance. There are different types of corals, the difference between tides is about 3 to 4 meters. In the Caribbean, water is warmer, there is a greater species diversity per distance, and more coral diversity as well. The difference in tides is about 60 cms. The Continental Platform is broader in the Pacific, and its waters are cooler.

How do you keep conditions in the aquaria?

The intake of water comes directly from the high tides. This goes to a treatment plan that gives the necessary conditions for the species shown accordingly. An aquarist takes care of all the chemical and biological conditions.

Why do you wash your hands with Sodium Bicarbonate before touching the animals?

In the touching pool, you must wash your hands with NaCl to clean and neutralize any artificial or natural substance that is in our hands. Since this is a closed system aquarium, if we washed our hands with soap, the components would remain in the tank affecting the species.

Do animals in the touching pool fight against each other?

In any aquarium, species can compete between each other, if they are enemy species or species that feed among themselves. For this reason, we should have an equilibrium in the quantity of species and study which species can live together inside a tank.

Do seastars bite? What do they eat?

The seastar has a mouth formed with five multiplates and triangular jaws situated ventrally in the center of the disc. They are carnivores and according to the species they can eat coral polyps, aquatic plants called seagrass and fish.

Do sea urchin sting?

They possess strong erectile spines that they use for their defense in case a predator tries to eat them. Nevertheless, their defense consists in the moment they are taken or squeezed, they do not shoot spines! The most dangerous one is Diadema antillarum.

Why doesn’t the shark move around? Why doesn’t he eat the turtles?

The Nurse shark of this tank, moves more at night due to its nocturnal habits. She doesn’t eat the turtles because she is conditioned to captivity and is fed daily.

Why that fish is called Surgeon fish?

This is due to a blade in its caudal fin, which it uses for defense.

How many years do turtles live?

Marine turtles live between 80 to 90 years. Nevertheless, they live less than land turtles that can live up to 150 years.

How much can turtles grow?

That varies according to the family they belong to. From 90 to 165cm, and can weigh from 80 to 500 kg.

Do turtles have teeth or bite?

They do not have teeth, but according to their families, they have powerful jaws that pressure strongly, and leave marks that look like bits. Hawkbill turtles, for example have a beak that resembles that of a Hawk.

Why do you show so few animals?

We show only a few animal exhibits due to lack of funding. Our operations, infrastructures, new exhibits, are funded by donations of private sectors.

What is that bad smell felt in certain areas?

That strong odor is the excrement of the brown pelicans that abound in the center.

What species of sloth can we see?

It is common to find Two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmani) in the dry season, and during the rainy season, the Three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus).


Barro Colorado Day Visit


How do I get to the Gamboa Dock to take the boat to Barro Colorado?

The road trip to the Gamboa docks takes about 40-45 minutes (without traffic jams). You can follow the Gamboa (Rainforest Resort) signs.

Are children allowed to take the tour?

For safety reasons, children visiting the island must be over 10 years old.

Is this trip recommended for senior citizens?

That depends primarily on the physical condition of the visitor. It is not recommended for people who have had major surgery (especially a heart condition) or knee injuries. The walk on the trail lasts at least 3 hours, and could at some point be considered a hike. Something else to consider is the tropical weather, especially if the visitor comes from a cold climate and this is his/her first visit to our country.

How long does it takes to get to BCI from Gamboa?

The trip takes from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Is this considered to be a Canal transit?

Barro Colorado is located in the middle of Gatun Lake , which is part of the Panama Canal . The boat offers a 45-minute to 1-hour view of Gatun Lake . It is not, however, a transit through the Canal.

Are there any hotels nearby?

The only nearby hotel is the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.

Can we collect on BCI?

Collections are not permited within the Nature Monument of Barro Colorado.