Posted: November 28, 2016
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Reflecting on the Experience of a Lifetime in Panama


Last week at the SFS Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (TIBS), we said goodbye to one of our faculty members. Dr. Alastair Smith, our now former Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values professor, has left Panama to pursue a job in his home country, where he will be closer to his family and loved ones. His early departure made me reflect on my time here at SFS. It has already been two years since I first joined this wonderful experience at TIBS in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Alastair’s departure also coincided with having my DR group gathering data for their individual research projects on Solarte Island. We spend most days collecting different data on birds, frogs, butterflies, leaf cutter ants, plants and mushrooms, and assessing the anthropogenic impacts on such biodiversity. Two years ago, SFS Panama had its Center on Solarte Island. I taught my first Principles of Resource Management course for SFS in Fall 2016.

While getting to our DR sampling site, we passed by the old SFS Center. I talked to the students a little bit about how different day to day life was at the old Center compared to how it is today on Isla Colón. Having my DR students at Solarte brought back some memories, and intensified my reflections on the past two years.

TIBS has become a more solid, strong team. In two years we have faced different challenges that have made us stronger. Also, on a personal level, I feel I have become a much more confident professor, and more knowledgeable of the biodiverse life of Panama. Being a biologist interested mostly in invertebrates, in particular insects and spiders, when I joined SFS I looked around the forest and saw so many things I did not know much about. Two years later, and after several courses, such as avian ecology and neotropical herpetology, I have more knowledge and tools to teach my students. After four semesters I feel that my knowledge about the rainforest and its magical inhabitants is stronger than ever.

In summary, being part of TIBS has been the most enjoyable, satisfying, and gratifying experience of my life, not only as a professor but as a person. I look forward to continuing teaching and exploring the wonders of the tropical rainforest with the future SFS generations to come.

→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

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