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The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: Ecological and applied research

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Wright, SJ

NA

2020

BIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION

252

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The mission of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) is to increase ...knowledge about the past, present and future of tropical biodiversity and its relevance to human welfare. Scientists pursue their own research interests within this broad mandate. This review concerns the history of STRI and recent ecological and applied research conducted at STRI, emphasizing research that extends across decades due to sustained efforts of single investigators or multiple investigators working across generations. STRI began as a rustic field station established in the forests of Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama in 1923 that prospered without outside funding setting the stage for the subsequent development of a major research center. Today, STRI employs 34 scientists, maintains nine field stations and six laboratories and hosts 1,200 visiting scientists and students each year. BCI provides examples of modern research being informed by results published up to 95 years earlier. Baselines recorded more systematically starting 50 years ago will be even more valuable in the future. The same will be true for each field station and research network described in this volume. As the natural world changes, data from these field stations and research networks will provide irreplaceable insights into how tropical forests and coral reefs once functioned and how function changed through time.

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