Station Update – 2019

What’s New at ITEC?

ITEC Group at Baja Mono trail, Boquete

Hi Everyone!  Once again ITEC has persevered through another year and as you’ll learn, 2019 was one of our most active years yet.  Over 300 students, professors, researchers, interns and volunteers visited the ITEC field station in 2019.  Arriving from all over the world, we enjoyed the company and language of folks from Canada, Portugal, Netherlands, Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Catalonia (Spain), England, Scotland, Panama, and of course, the U.S.  This year we were able to fulfill all of our mandates including ITEC courses, hosting academic groups, conducting research, presenting local education programs, carrying out conservation programs, and community engagement.  I hope that you will enjoy the various articles and photos describing all aspects of our activity this year.

Academic Activities

Al and his Coral Reef Ecology course at ITEC’s reef

ITEC COURSES   A number of ITEC field courses were presented in 2019. Winter Session was moved to January in order to attract more students to the program by working in collaboration with New College of Florida’s study abroad program.  ITEC presented through this program several three-week field courses in January.  These include Coral Reef

Rainforest Ecology course at Finca Maribella

Ecology, taught by Alfred Beulig of New College, Tropical Rainforest and Canopy Ecology, taught by Pete Lahanas of ITEC and Northeastern University, and Canopy Access Techniques, taught by Bill Maher of Climber’s Coalition. 


Mark Rohr and Lonnie engage in a little lab work

A special two-week Coral Reef Ecology course taught by Lonnie Kaczmarsky of Saint John’s College, was presented to the owner and crew of the S/Y ACADIA in March.  With the 90 foot sailboat parked outside Ground Creek, her crew received lectures and lunches at ITEC and visited all of the area reefs and forests in an effort to learn as much about coral reef ecology, diseases, and especially, conservation.

Griette demonstrating how to put a line in a tree

No ITEC courses were presented Session A as it was completely filled with visiting school programs (see below).  There were two courses presented in Session B, Tropical Rainforest and Canopy Ecology, again taught by Pete Lahanas, and Canopy Access Techniques taught by Griëtte van Der Heide of the University of Colorado.  This represented a return to ITEC by Griëtte as she was one of Joe Maher’s climbing students back in 2015.   All of of the courses took advantage of our property at Finca Maribella with several trips made to this mainland site.  Two research projects

Bill and his climbers at ITEC


Poison dart frog at the finca

were carried out on the property including one that studied phenotypic pattern variation in the poison dart frog, Dendrobates auratus, and another that examined the flora in the upland area of the finca.  As with all ITEC course sessions, this one ended with a station-wide symposium where students presented their research.

Additional Course Photos


Austin College arrives at ITEC

VISITING SCHOOLS   During the year we had no less than 16 school groups visit the ITEC field station.  While most of our visitors represented college programs, we also received two high school groups and one large group of fifth-graders!  Beginning in early January students from New College of Florida and led by Al Beulig, arrived for a three week course as part of their ISP (Individual Study Project) requirements.  Loriann Garcia and her group from  Austin College, arrived in mid January to present a general course in tropical ecology.  This group spent a large amount of time working on ITEC’s reef. 

Boquete group visits hot springs in Caldera

The Canadian high school group, Students Without Borders (SWBA) led by David and Matty Fehr, spent five days at the field station carrying out their goal to experience as much of what the region has to offer.  Trips were made to area forests, Starfish beach, Bird Island, the town of Bocas, and all of the students who wished to do so, became dive certified at La Buga dive center in town.  A highlight of the trip was a boat trip up the Soropta Canal at night to catch caiman.  No one was disappointed!

NEU at Bajo Mono watching quetzals

Two groups arrived in February, Northeastern University and Mt. Holyoke as part of a program offered through the Monteverde Institute.  Students from Northeastern University’s Three Seas Program spent two days at the ITEC field station as part of a Tropical Terrestrial Ecology course taught by Pete Lahanas.  While principally focused on marine ecology, this group enjoyed a week-long foray in to tropical terrestrial ecology with lectures and exercises involving the flora, fauna and interactions in the lowland rain forest.  From here, the course journeyed to the highlands of Boquete where they were able to examine cloud forest and tropical dry forests as well.  The Mt. Holyoke, group, led by Dinia Santamaria, arrived from Costa Rica and spent three days at the field station conducting small research projects area coral reefs.

Steve and his Cambridge School of Weston group at the lab

March was a very busy month at the station.  Led by Holly Border, a student group from the School for Field Studies  arrived on the 1st of March and remained for three days of lectures, forest hikes, night hikes and various exercises.  Steve Scrimshaw arrived in early March with his high school group from the Cambridge School of Weston.  The students received a variety of lectures and carried out individual research projects on both our coral reefs and forests.  Steve’s group has been coming to ITEC for many years and continues to be a big supporter of ITEC. 

Mark, ITEC folks and crew of the ACADIA visit the Soropta Canal

Another group, led by Mark Rohr, who arrived on the sailing yacht, ACADIA in mid March for a special course in coral reef ecology and conservation.  This course, taught by Lonnie Kaczmarsky of St. John’s College, was two weeks in length and included formal and informal lectures covering a wide range of topics in coral reef ecology, diseases, restoration and conservation.  Dive trips were made to many area coral reefs and Pete led interpretive hikes in the rain forest and a birding trip on the Soropta Canal.

Five different groups visited ITEC in May, our busiest month ever and at one point there were 45 folks residing at the field station!  Arriving first was a group from Anderson University and led by Joni Criswell. 

UNE group in Agouti Cave

Joni first arrived at ITEC along last year jwith Tom Kozel who has been bringing groups to ITEC for over 10 years.  The Anderson group spent most of their time snorkeling on area reefs and visiting various sites in and around ITEC.  Craig Plante returned in mid May to ITEC with his group from the College of Charleston, and spent three weeks at the station.  This was Craig’s 16th trip to ITEC!  Craig teaches an intensive general ecology course at ITEC and focuses on all aspects of ecology both terrestrial and marine.  His students were responsible for conceiving, designing and carrying out original independent research projects while at the field station. 

Craig and College of Charleston group at mouth of cave

Next to arrive was a group from the Ocean Studies Charter School (OS) and ledby Martha Loizeaux.  With 24 participants in her group, these fifth-graders from the Florida Keys spent a week at the field station.  Primarily focused on marine ecosystems, the kids also spent time working on group field projects and taking excursions to area sites.  In addition, the OS students arranged to begin a cultural exchange program with the local indigenous school on the mainland at Rio Oeste near the town of Almirante.  Here the students, teachers and chaperones interacted through letter exchanges and received dances and songs from the Rio Oeste kids. 

Ocean School Kids meet Rio Oeste Teachers

Following a group photo session, there was a volley ball game, a chocolate tour and a lunch of local cuisine that included chicken and dasheen (taro).  Jeremy Keene and his group from Glennville College arrived a day after Martha’s.  The station was now at capacity!  Jeremy, who visited last summer for research, brought his group to carry out individual research projects in both marine and terrestrial ecology. 

May 2019 group visits Starfish Beach

Along with Craig Plante’s group, the Glennville students made the three day trip to Boquete and visited both the Bajo Mono trail (quetzales!) and the hot springs.  Finally, Jeri Fox and Stina Brown arrived for their 8th visit to ITEC along with their student group from the University of New England.  The group made several hikes in the forest, including night hikes, and made excursions to various locations.  This included a night-time visit to Soropta Beach in an effort to see nesting sea turtles.  While we’ve been successful in the past, this year we failed to find a nesting turtle but did catch caiman on our return to the station at 3:00 am!

Mulika and his Harper College group discussing environmental problems in Bocas

Only one visiting school arrived in June during our regular ITEC field courses.   This group was from Harper College and led by Mulika Miatha and Nelly Khalil.  While this group had an ecology component, much of their activity was centered around GIS, pollution analysis in Bocas, and visits with folks interested in plastic recycling.  Mulika brought with him a very sophisticated drone, and with permission from the Panamanian government, he was able to fly the craft several times at the field station.  A video of one of his flights will be available at the ITEC web site soon.

Dave and his Union College group take water samples at La Gruta Cave

There was little activity at the station between September and December; a welcome vacation for all the faculty and staff.  In December, two more groups arrived at ITEC.   Northeastern University arrived early December again as part of their Tropical Terrestrial Ecology course taught by Pete Lahanas.  This was followed by a group arriving from Union College in mid

NEU students take a dip at Cangilones in Gualaca

December.  The Union College group, headed by David Gillikin, concentrated on water analysis both with in marine and freshwater systems.  Traveling around the archipelago, Dave’s group collected data from Almirante Bay, Bird Island, several area reefs, Soropata Canal and the La Gruta Cave.  This was Dave’s third visit to ITEC.

Additional Visitor Photos

Research Activities

Pete experimenting with plant germination

Most of the research projects carried out in 2019 at ITEC had a similar theme in trying to understand differences in biodiversity between the island (Isla Colon) and mainland (Finca Maribella in Tierra Oscura).  Islands tend to be depauperate when compared to mainland source populations due to differences in colonization and extinction rates tied to island size and distance from source populations (island biogeography 101).   As part of the mainland, we expected that Finca Maribella would demonstrate higher levels of biodiversity in both the flora and fauna examined.  However, this was not the case and these findings helped convince us that a forest restoration project was needed at the finca to restore its biodiversity.

Alli makes pizza for the group

Alli Koch (University of Texas, San Antonio) returned to ITEC for a year-long stay in the Boca del Drago area in order to complete her doctoral work.  Alli’s research project involves understanding the response to and interaction between local Drago residents, both national and foreign, and tourism in the area.  To gather data, Alli conducted home stays with area residents and performed interviews with local residents, researchers, visitors and tourists.  As part of her research efforts, Alli participated in the local environmental education program (LEEP) at Drago school, and also visited the community at Tierra Oscura and Finca Maribella to observe ITEC activities taking place there.  Alli was a student at ITEC in 2013 and completed her Masters here in 2016. 

Rick Mosher sets insects in the laboratory.

Rick Mosher, a researcher in collaboration with the Field Museum in Chicago, arrived at ITEC to collect moths both at the ITEC field station and at Finca Maribella.  Using baited traps during the day and light traps at night, a diversity of moths were collected.  In our efforts to conduct comparative projects that examine the biodiversity of both Isla Colon and the ITEC field station to the mainland property at Finca Maribella, Rick spent two nights collecting from various localities at the finca.  While the number of individual’s attracted to traps was lower at the finca, some of the species Rick encountered were new to him and never observed at the ITEC station on Isla Colon.

Melissa Donnelly mist netting bats at ITEC

Melissa Donnelly (Toronto Zoo) and Doug Doughty (Toronto French School) returned to ITEC for a second year in order to study the bat diversity on the island and mainland.  Using both mist nets and acoustic equipment, 10 species of bats were discovered at the station, including insectivores, nectarivores and frugivores.  Mist nets were set up among a group of trees in the pasture and students were on hand to monitor the nets.  At times there were 5-6 bats in the nets simultaneously which challenged our ability to keep up with them.  No Nocturnal mist netting was conducted at Finca Maribella, but a daytime acoustic survey netted only two species of bats there.  

TRE W-19 students working  at FMB

TRE Course Research.  A group of students enrolled in Tropical Rainforest and Canopy Ecology courses conducted a research project that examined the biodiversity and forest structure at both the ITEC field station and at Finca Maribella (FMB).  Aligned with our efforts to better understand environmental needs, this study was performed to evaluate the nature and quality of the forests at the finca.  A variety of analyses were preformed including structural differences (determined through random concentric circular quadrate techniques) and plant biodiversity differences as estimated by Shannon’s Index.  Further differences between sites were determined using species accumulation curves and coefficient of community similarity analyses. 

TRE B-19 Students conducting plant biodiversity study at FMB

Major findings were as expected due to the nature and history of each site’s forests.  Finca Maribella demonstrated a structure that was composed primarily of dense stands of early successional and invasive species, reduced biodiversity, and trees of small DBH (diameter at breast height).  These results indicate that to restore the upland areas of the finca, a large-scale forest restoration project was needed.  The TRE project was carried out by Calypso Habermehl , Kylie Miller, Rhys Shanahan (New College of Florida), Megan Gaitan (Sonoma State University), Carson Bockoven (Stetson University), Leah Farquharson (University of Stirling), Allison Frueh (Texas A&M University) and Sierra Gonzalez (Lipscomb University).

Interns, Volunteers and Visitors

We would like to acknowledge our volunteers and interns that contribute time at the station and helped us complete our mission in many ways. These folks include Gerard Aliu, and Leonor Ceballos who worked together with Alli Koch and our own Enrique Dixon, to develop and carry out a local environmental education program at Drago School (see “Local Environmental Education Program” below).  This group also initiated a five year forest restoration program that will bring back the natural vegetation and biodiversity at Finca Maribella.  Nick Lahanas also returned to ITEC to help complete the long anticipated walkway to our coral reef (see “Construction Projects“ below).  We also had several visitors to ITEC including two visits by the crew of the S/Y ACADIA. 

Tomas Santos, caretaker at Finca Maribella

New Hires  Tomas Santos was hired at Finca Maribella as caretaker and watchman, and is now a full time ITEC employee with Social Security benefits.  Tomas has lived with his family at the finca for 8 years and knows the area better than anyone.   His primary duties are to keep the lawns mowed, the trail systems open and to prevent theft, “squatting” and hunting on the property.

Poster for 2020

Our poster for 2020 shows a student in the Canopy Access Techniques course standing on a limb and looking out over the Caribbean.  The photo was taken by Joe Maher in 2007.

ITEC poster for 2020

Local Environmental Education Program

ITEC’s Local Environmental Education Program (LEEP) was re-initiated in 2019 with the help of Gerard Aliu, Leonor Ceballos, Enrique Dixon and Allison Koch.  On making a presentation to about 30 teachers and parents at Drago school, the LEEP group outlined a proposed education project for the students.  These activities would take place both at the school and at ITEC.  Three general topics were envisioned: 1) recycling of excessive solid waste, plastics in particular, 2) deforestation and forest restoration, and 3) importance of Boca del Drago’s biodiversity. 

Alli Koch providing a talk to students at Drago School

The first part of the program included visits, activities and presentations at the Drago School and was designed to understand what the level of awareness was among the students and parents regarding basic ecology, recycling, and the importance of forests and biodiversity.  This allowed the LEEP group to tailor later presentations and activities to specific age groups.  Activities for preschool students involved a series of playground games to introduce them to the importance of the forest and its conservation, while students in higher grades (1st to 6th grade) were presented with a sequence of games including 1) riddles about the flora and fauna in the region, 2) fill in blanks regarding general ecology concepts, 3) name the animals presented in a series of photos, and 4) create a list of plants known to them.

Drago teachers and kids visit ITEC

The Second part of the program involved visits by the students, teachers and parents to the ITEC field station.  Four separate Drago School groups arrived to the station on different days and included preschoolers, 1st-3rd graders, 4th graders and 5th-6th graders.  Each age group had their own agendas with lectures, age-appropriate videos and activities.  At the end of their visit to the ITEC station, the kids, teachers and parents enjoyed snacks and games.

Drago Preschoolers with coloring pages of a plant life cycle

Preschool students (10 students between 3 and 5 years old, four mothers and 2 teachers) were asked to color a drawing of plant germination and growth.  They then received an explanation on plant life cycles and their importance to rain forests.  After watching a children’s video on plants and animals, the kids planted seeds in the station’s plant nursery.

Students from 1st to 3rd grade (19 students between 5 and 7 years old, one parent and two teachers) participated in an activity about how long it takes trash to decompose.  Students were presented with five items of solid waste (toilet paper, plastic

Gerard and Leo provide a lecture on plastics and recycling to 1st-3rd graders

bag, aluminum can, Styrofoam dishes, and plastic bottle), and asked which takes longer.  They were surprised to find out that the plastic bottle they routinely throw out will still be here 500 years from now!  Afterwards students watched a video about the harm plastics are creating for ocean creatures.  After a brief discussion of the value of forests and reforestation, the kids all moved to ITEC’s plant nursery and planted tree seeds for the forest restoration project.

Drago kids working in shade house

The 4th Grade group (14 students and one teacher) took part in similar activities regarding pollution, solid waste, and forest restoration.  In addition, this group watched a video on Climate Change that was created by the Panamanian Ministry of Education (MEDUCA).  After the video, students were involved in a discussion about the link between deforestation and climate change. In the end, these students also planted a seed each and join forces in the reforestation project conducted at the station.

5th & 6th graders play an environmental game at ITEC.

Students in 5th and 6th Grade (19 students and one teacher) took part in all of the activities described above. Furthermore, students experience a dynamic activity in which they were asked to think about the most important animal in the rainforest. Once their answers were received, there was a discussion on the topic, followed by a short lesson on trophic pyramids and their relevance to forest equilibrium.  This was then related to the relevance of forest restoration.  As with the other groups, students were involved in an activity at the nursery in which each of them planted a seed of a canopy species in order to contribute to the forest restoration efforts at Finca Maribella.

Additional LEEP Photos

Construction Projects at ITEC

There were several major construction projects completed in 2019, making the ITEC field station more sustainable and providing better access to forest and reef.

Enrique climbing the new dock ladder at ITEC reef

Reef Dock  The walkway to the coral reef is now 100% completed.  It only took 3 years!  At the end of the walkway there is now a dock that extends through the mangroves towards the reef.  An aluminum pool ladder was placed at the end of the dock making it very easy to enter the water.  The dock has become a popular destination for those at ITEC and a convenient way to go swimming or snorkeling without having to use a boat.  A future construction project here will include a floating platform anchored beyond the reef.  This platform will be 20 x 20 feet in size and supported by recycled plastic bottles as the floatation device.  Also fitted with an aluminum pool ladder, the platform should be a popular place to sun and just hang out.  

Pete and Tippy rebuild the dive bodega deck

New Deck at Dive Bodega  The deck in front of the dive bodega has been completely rebuilt.  The original dock was constructed of laurel (local wood) and had deteriorated after five years of use.  The new deck was built with nisporo beams (a very hard and long-lasting wood) and treated pine decking.  We expect that this new deck will last at least 10 years or more.  A future project here will be to cover the deck with a clear, fiberglass roof extending from the dive bodega to the boat house.  This will keep the deck dry and extend its life even further.  We also plan to enlarge the boat house to allow for another boat.

Pete and Gerard build the new shade house nursery.

Shade House Plant Nursery  One of the larger construction projects completed this summer was the completion of the shade house plant nursery.  Using the foundation next to boot storage area, the shade house measures about 25 feet by 70 feet in size and will be capable of providing space for several thousand seedlings.  The posts and beams were built with Guadua bamboo which is a very durable and long-lasting bamboo originally from Colombia.  This bamboo, often called “green steel” for its strength, was covered with 20% shade cloth fitted out with shelves and tables for the germination of seeds.  The shade house nursery was built in connection with our forest restoration project at Finca Maribella (see “Forest Restoration Project” below).

New gravel walkway at ITEC

Gravel Walkway  Those of you who have visited ITEC during rainy periods (basically everyone) will greatly appreciate the construction of gravel walkway between the Nevin S. Scrimshaw lab and library, the dorm and dining hall.  As you might recall, this area becomes a soggy, muddy mess during the intensive rainy periods experienced in this part of Panama.  To remedy this situation, we have laid down a gravel walkway edged with nisporo boards.  To prevent grass from growing up though the gravel, black visquine plastic was placed under the gravel.  While the gravel does make a “crunch, crunch, crunch” sound as you walk along the path, this small annoyance is greatly outweighed by how clean your feet remain moving between the buildings!  We may even be able to eliminate the “no shoes in buildings” rule as a result.

Community and Conservation Projects

Two community and conservation related projects were initiated in 2019 including a garden plot for Boca del Drago School and a forest restoration project for Finca Maribella.

Garden plot at Boca del Drago school

Drago School Garden  This project was developed in response to a need by Boca del Drago school for a garden plot in connection with lessons the students were receiving on agriculture.  The garden was created to allow the students to gain basic knowledge of agricultural practices and to plant vegetables for the school kitchen.  However, building the garden plot was problematic due to the free-ranging goats and cows in the area.  A fence was needed.  With the help of local residents, teachers, LEEP personnel and ITEC staff, a quarter acre plot was prepared behind the school.  ITEC provided the materials for the fence which included Guadua bamboo for fence posts and plastic fence netting to keep animals out.  About 20 folks helped with building the garden.  This project will be continued in 2020 and will include an extension of LEEP to the local school at Tierra Oscura. 

S/Y ACADIA anchored at ITEC

Forest Restoration Project  Our desire to restore forest in the upland areas of Finca Maribella was instigated by two converging factors.  First, a need to bring back the original rainforest ecosystem and its biodiversity, and second, to offset carbon expenditures.  After conducting our investigation into the nature and quality of the upland forest, we discovered that the forests at the finca were not biodiverse but rather, composed of pioneering, early successional and introduced invasive plants such as white cane and Boston fern.   As a way to mitigate the carbon debt created by the activities of the S/Y ACADIA, ITEC received a grant from the Oceans Foundation (see “Donations and Grants” below) to help offset costs of the forest restoration project.  By working to accomplish both goals, the forest ecosystem will be restored along with its original biodiversity and carbon storage capability.

Shade house plant nursery at ITEC

In commencing with this project, our initial step was to construct a shade house nursery in order to germinate the seedlings needed for the forest restoration project (see “Construction Projects” above).   The nursery was completed in July. Various types of plastic trays, pilfered from vegetable markets in Bocas and Almirante, are being used to house plastic bags that contain seedlings.  Water is supplied from the tower in case of drought, which in Bocas, means any period of two days without rain!  Seeds and seedlings were obtained from ITEC forest with the help of several volunteers and kids from the Drago community. 

Shade house interior and seedlings

Aligned with our goal of increasing biodiversity in our forest ecosystem, we collected a diverse array of emergent, canopy and subcanopy tree species including laurel (Cordia alliodora), guacimo (Luehea seemannii), nutmeg (Virola, three species), bongo (Ceiba pentandra), cedro (Cedrela odorata), almendro (Dipteryx oleifera) fig (Ficus insipida), jobo (Spondias mobin) and about 30 other species.  Presently, there are about 3000 seedlings growing in the shade house.

Designating the area to be restored at FMB

The next step was to delineate what area at the finca will be restored first.  During a trip to the finca in December, an area of about 10 acres was chosen behind the shop and adjacent to the cacao, teak and spiny cedar plantations already in place.  In April of 2020, existing trees within the plot will be tagged with biodegradable flagging to identify which trees are NOT to be cut prior to planting.  Following this, sometime in May, a group of “macheteros” will use machetes to clear out the unwanted weedy, herbaceous and invasive plants from the plot.

LEEP group speaking with the Directora at Tierra Oscura school

About this time a local environmental education program (LEEP) will be initiated at the Tierra Oscura school intended to teach kids the value of forests and the need to protect and restore them.  This program will be carried out along the lines of the LEEP program at Drago School (see Local Environmental Education Program” above).  We hope to recruit some of the older students in the planting process at the finca.  Soon after the school program initiated, the tree seedlings will be planted about two meters apart but in a random, natural way, not in straight lines.  Each tree seedling will be marked with a fluorescent biodegradable flag to protect it from being cut.  The weedy vegetation will have to be cut again about every three months until the new forest takes hold.  This entire process will be repeated over the next five years or until the all of the upland area is reforested.

Wildlife Sightings

Silky anteater mom and baby

Quite a variety of unusual animals were observed at ITEC in 2019. One of the rarest finds was a silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) discovered by Enrique while cleaning fences.  This diminutive creature, not much bigger than a squirrel, is generally found at mid to low canopy feeding on termites and other insects.  The photo shown of a mother and baby, was actually taken 20 years ago at the old ITEC station.  Only two more have been seen over those 20 years.  

Bush anole, Polychrus gutturosus

Another rarity discovered this year was an unusual species of bush anole, Polychrus gutturosus.   Adapted to life in the canopy, we’ve only seen this species four times over the past 20 years, and usually at a 150 feet above the ground!  However, this  colorful specimen was discovered just outside the dorm building in a low-lying shrub and allowed us to get within inches to photograph.

Redbilled Tropicbird, by Tim Briggs

A variety of unusual birds were also sighted at ITEC in 2019 including several new species moving over the mountains from the Pacific side.  One of these, the Yellow-headed Caracara has become quite common and its larger cousin, the Crested Caracara, was sighted for the first time this year! No photos were obtained for these birds but I had to include this amazing photo of our very rare Redbilled Tropic bird photographed by Tim Briggs during the Northwest University’s excursion to Bird Island.

Ogre faced spider, Deinopidae, by Tim Briggs


Pleasing Fungus beetle, Erotylidae

Many interesting arthropods were also discovered during the year, including a foot-long walking stick and an amazing array of beetles and spiders.  Some of the more interesting specimens included a Blue Pleasing Fungus beetle  and an Ogre Faced spider.  These fascinating spiders use a cast net of silk which they throw onto passing insects.

Additional Animal Photos

From the Garden

Chirimoya and Mame from Finca Maribella

Fruits and Veggies  A large variety of fruits were again available to us through gardens and fruit trees at both the ITEC field station and at Finca Maribella.  Pineapple, guanabana (soursop), chirimoya (sweetsop), marañon (cashew), avocado, three kinds of peppers, passion fruit, two kinds of banana, plantain, limes, lemons, oranges, mangostino, jackfruit, mamon, starfruit, coconut, cacao, yuca, dashin (taro), and yame (yam), were all enjoyed during the course of the year.  One of our favorites was mamon chino which is a lychee-like fruit and represented in a big way at Finca Maribella.  With over 50 mamon chino trees on the property, all area residents were encouraged to take advantage of the abundant fruit.  Next year, we are considering doing a commercial harvest of these fruits.

Enrique points out one of the 50+ Mamon Chino trees at the finca

Along with the fruits and veggies we took advantage of various introduced (exotic) trees for construction purposes.  Teak is abundant on the property and several smaller trees were harvested for dock pilings at Pete’s Reef (see “Construction Projects” above).  In addition, Guadua bamboo (actually a grass) was cut and used as posts and beams in the construction of the shade house tree nursery.  This thick-walled bamboo, is incredibly durable and the nursery should remain in good shape for at least 5 years.

Donations and Grants in 2019

R/V Mark Rohr at Starfish Beach

We have been exceptionally fortunate to have received a number of donations of time, materials and funds in 2019.   A new boat & motor was purchased after receiving a generous donation from the Rachel and Mark Rohr Foundation.  The 22 foot launch was fitted with a 60 hp Yamaha outboard and wheel steering.  The boat will prove to be essential due to the increased demands on our boats during peak seasons when several different groups are visiting the station

Mark and Rachel Rohr (left) and family in ITEC forest

simultaneously.  Mark is the owner of the S/Y ACADIA, a 90 foot sailboat he uses to travel the world in his attempt to conserve coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.  Mark wishes his activities aboard the ACADIA to be carbon neutral.  In connection with wanting to offset his carbon debt, Mark has pledged to help fund a forest restoration project at Finca Maribella (See “Forest Restoration Project” above) through a grant from The Ocean Foundation (  

Rachel, Enrique, Guy and Mark remove trash from Soropta Beach

The foundation intends to provide $10k per year for the next four or five years so that all of the 50 acres of land can be restored.  The 10,000-13,000 trees to be planted will not only sequester many times more carbon than that used by the ACADIA, but will also restore the original biodiversity of the forest.  Mark and Rachel are avid environmentalists and never stop thinking about how to improve human relationship with the planet.  


Nick and Enrique finish the reef dock

We would also like to acknowledge Nick Lahanas who arrived to help finish the walkway to the reef and to help out with other small projects around the station.  Steve Scrimshaw provided the funds for the aluminum reef dock ladder.  Ever faithful, David Zimmerman contributed by way of gifts, monetary donations, and contribution of his time and residence in Panama City.  Several donors provided funds to ITEC including Mark and Rachel Rohr, Diane Wickam, Steve Scrimshaw, and Rob and Alison Sawyer.

ITEC gathering including Enrique Dixon, station manager and Board Members David Zimmerman, Doug Doughty and Peter Lahanas (photographer).







How You Can Help ITEC!

Like many people, businesses and organizations worldwide, ITEC has been economically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Unlike many non-profits, ITEC is not supported by a foundation or with any other source of income.  ITEC depends heavily on participation in its programs by students, college groups and researchers in order to continue operation.  As a result of recent cancellations due to the pandemic, ITEC has lost more than 50% of its annual income while at the same time we are still responsible for paying our employees and rent.  ITEC has always weathered adversity and we feel that with help from our friends, we will persevere and be back up and running again next year.

Ways to Contribute ITEC is seeking donations to offset the cost of maintaining the ITEC field station over the next six months.  We are also seeking help (and partners) in continuing our forest restoration project at Finca Maribella.  As this is a grant-funded project, we have the obligation to continue it during these difficult times.  If you are considering making a sizable donation, please contact ITEC for ways to help directly.  Donations may be large or small; everything helps.  Donations by check are welcome and there are several ways that you can make a donation with a credit card.  Remember, your donation to ITEC is tax deductible.  

ITEC Web Site  Just click on the Donate to ITEC button in the side bar and continue from there. This will lead you to a PayPal page where a credit card donation can be made.  You can also download a form to accompany your check.

Amazon Smile ( is another way to help ITEC achieve its funding goals.  This program allows you to designate a charity and Amazon donates a small portion of your purchase price to ITEC but does not increase your purchase cost.  Choose Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation as your charitable organization recipient and Amazon will do the rest.  Remember us when you’re holiday shopping!

Facebook now also allows you to make a donation to non-profits such as ITEC.  Visit the ITEC Facebook site at the top of our home Facebook page, sign in and click on “Donate”.  This will lead you through several steps ending in a location that will allow you to make a credit card donation.

Finally, PayPal has a new program that allows folks to make donations to non-profits directly through their website.  Tuesday, November 27 is Giving Tuesday when donations to charities are matched by foundations.  Paypal will add 1% to any donation made!  Go to for details!

Thanks Everyone!


Tippy says thanks too!