Welcoming Students and Visiting Groups Again!

This year was difficult for ITEC as it was for everyone. But we have persevered and are ready and excited to begin a new year with all of our friends. See you soon!

ITEC’s Bocas del Toro Biological Station will be open for classes and groups in January, 2021.

You can contact ITEC at peterlahanas@gmail.com for more information about scheduling your stay at the field station for the coming year.

To All Our Friends In This Time of Global Challenges

Like the rest of the world, Panama and ITEC are dealing with the changes and challenges of the pandemic virus, COVID 19. To all of our friends, colleagues, students and visitors, we wish you the best as we all do our best to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus. We’re sorry we won’t get to see you all this year but as many of you have expressed, we’ll be back when the crisis has passed. In the meantime, Pete is spending his time working at the station and it should be an even better place to study, research and discover in the months to come.

So everyone stay well and stay in touch! Write and tell us how things are going.We look forward to meeting new friends and welcoming our old ones to compare experiences when we see you again. Rum may not kill the virus, but it can’t hurt, right?


Cathy Fields, General Manager

Joe Maher

My Thoughts of Joe.

by Peter N. Lahanas

Gregory Joseph Maher Jr.  Joe to his friends.  Adventurist, photographer, story teller.  He called himself “Joe Rogue”.  His greatest passion was to “go where no man had gone before”, to record the adventure on film, and later, to tell the story about it.  Joe was fond of saying “it’s the prerogative of the story teller to embellish his story in any way he wishes”.  And he often did to the delight of those listening (I believe this quote was originally attributed to one of Joe’s favorite authors, Mark Twain).  And many adventures and stories did Joe have.  Whether it was mountaineering in Ecuador, cave diving in Florida, photographing bears in Alaska, whitewater kayaking in North Carolina, climbing 200 foot redwood trees in California or being pushed out of an airplane at 6000 feet above Fort Benning, Joe was always doing something adventurous.  Tree climbing was his biggest passion.  He loved to climb trees, talk about trees, and especially to teach others how to climb trees.  Joe lived for teaching climbing to folks of all ages.  Whether it was college students in Hawaii, tree climbing enthusiasts in Georgia, or indigenous kids in Bocas del Toro, Panama, Joe simply loved teaching people how to climb trees.  And he was exceptionally good at it.  Joe enjoyed teaching young kids most of all.  He had a way with them.  Wherever he encountered kids, he would “high five” them, play “which hand is holding the coin” or otherwise engage them in conversation.  Joe was a kid at heart.  But he enjoyed teaching adults too, particularly college-aged students.  He loved the idea that someone could take his knowledge of how to access the canopy, and then use this knowledge for scientific purposes.  This was his main purpose in Panama and provided these skills to Smithsonian and ITEC researchers, as well as to hundreds of regular ITEC students and visiting college and high school groups.  Some of Joe’s students have gone on to academic and scientific careers in canopy research, and hopefully, will pass on these skills on to others well into the future.  Joe was always climbing.  Even at 76 years of age, Joe was climbing trees nearly every day, sometimes several times a day.  Not many folks have or will be able to do that.  I believe that he felt most at home in the lofty green of the forest canopy, and would often return with stories of birds, monkeys and iguanas.  He told us one time how a howler monkey slowly crept towards him and reached out to touch his boot.  I guess the monkey wanted to know if this giant white-haired monkey was real.  Joe was always looking for the next adventure.  Joe was also all about at ITEC.  For 15 years Joe arrived at ITEC to teach climbing and photography.  Sometimes cranky, Joe was a character you didn’t forget and he had a list of things he would say for any given situation.  “You People” and “What Ever” (emphasizing “ever”) were my favorites.  Everyone, and students in particular, greatly admired Joe not only for his unique character but for the lifelong experiences he gave them.   Joe was an integral part of ITEC, as a board member, professor, financial contributor, breakfast cook and as spokesman.  His skill with a camera was particularly noteworthy, and his photos of students working on their research were exceptional.  Many of Joe’s photos were used on the ITEC posters sent out each year to thousands of biology departments in the U.S. and Canada.  On his final day, the morning of July 8th, he could not be dissuaded from going on a dive to photograph the coral reef ecology students working on the reef.  He was so excited about doing the dive, holding on to his adventurist spirit until the final moments of his life.  He died doing exactly what he wanted to be doing, what he loved doing, being the adventurist.  We all will sorely miss him.


Peter N. Lahanas

More of Joe

Here’s a video  you might enjoy.  It’s called “Joe’s Tree”.  (What else would it be called?)


There are so many pictures of Joe it’s hard to know what to include.  These come from a lot of different sources and I don’t know who took some of them.  If you have any that I haven’t included, please send them to us!

Here is a selection of photos of Joe in his “natural habitat” – that could be anywhere below 150 ft. from the ground – teaching others how to get into the canopy.  Hanging out, so to speak!

Look! That monkey’s nibilated!


And more of Joe hanging with friends closer to the ground.

ITEC’s best

When sloths are on the ground

Hardcore – Joe and Don Enrique








You people!

Joe had a special fondness for the kids.  The crazy old gringo always noticed them and took the time to play.

Which hand is the coin in?

This plaque will be installed in the big ficus tree at the ITEC station that the howlers like and where many students learned to climb.

Monkey Summer: Fieldwork in Panama

Howler monkey

I made a movie about the fieldwork experience that I wanted to share with the ITEC crew! Here it is, feel free to use it as you like:



I am a Master’s student studying the Primate Behavior & Ecology at CWU in Ellensburg, WA. I traveled to Panama this summer to collect data on the seed dispersal ecology of the mantled howler monkeys there for my thesis. I defended it last week – woo – and if you’d like to read that the thesis will be up on scholar works later this year.

Aerial View of Field Station

ITEC Field Station, Google Earth.5k

Aerial View of the Field Station

This aerial view is from Google Earth.  It shows the proximity to Ground Creek and the Bay plus the surrounding forest, mangroves and marsh.