Station Update – Fall, 2018

What’s New in 2018

Nevin S. Scrimshaw Laboratory & Library

This has been a very good year for ITEC and we have a lot to report with new construction, new visitors, new internet presence, new wildlife sightings, new instructors and especially some amazing donations.  Read on…

Construction News

Walkway to Reef.  The elevated boardwalk to “Pete’s Reef” has finally been completed! It’s only taken three years! Enrique and his brother José, put the final posts

New Walkway to Reef

down in September this year completing the approximately 270 yard walkway to the reef. The section that traverses the swamp is elevated three feet off the water but then drops down to a gravel walkway at ground level on solid land.  A small dock, which will extend out about 30 feet from the shoreline is now being built.  The dock will be provided with steps into the water for easy access to the reef.  Now students and faculty will no longer have to use boats to access the coral reef!  We would like to thank all of the volunteers that help with this project including David Brown, Nick Lahanas, Glenn Blair, Joe Maher and Bill Maher.

A New Sign for the Laboratory

A new sign has been placed on the lab building (see photo above) to honor the person whose generous financial contribution made the construction of the building possible. The lab will be called the Nevin S. Scrimshaw Laboratory and Library.  Dr. Nevin Scimshaw was a much-celebrated professor at MIT who carried out

New Sign for the Laboratory

research in Panama for his Ph.D. and soon after earned an M.D. in nutritional medicine. I have reprinted the information found on Wikipedia for Nevin’s achievements. “Nevin Stewart Scrimshaw (Jan. 20, 1918-Feb. 8, 2013) was an American food scientist and Institute Professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  During the course of his long career he developed

View of Laboratory

nutritional supplements for alleviating protein, iodine, and iron deficiencies in the developing world. His  pioneering and extensive publications in the area of human nutrition and food science included over 20 books and monographs and hundreds of scholarly articles.  Scrimshaw founded the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute of Nutrition of Central American and Panama, and the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.  He was awarded the Bolton L. Corson Medal in 1976 and the World Food Prize in 1991.” We are extremely proud to have Nevin Scrimshaw’s name grace our laboratory and library building.

Memorial Celebration for Joe Maher

Joe Maher

In January of this year a memorial celebration of Joe Maher’s life took place at the ITEC field station and at the Yarisnori restaurant in Boca del Drago.  About 30 of Joe’s friends and relatives first joined Willy and Juany Serracin at their

Particpants in the Celebration of Joe’s Life

restaurant for a lunch of Joe’s favorite dish, arros y camarones (rice and shrimp).  The meal, served along with copious amounts of rum (Joe’s favorite drink) was enjoyed by folks coming from as far away as Germany and as close as Starfish Beach.  Joe’s closest friends, Abe Winters and Clarence Fouche, were present for the event.  After

Joe’s Tree Mosaic

lunch the group moved to the ITEC station dining room where the celebration continued with stories of Joe, a photo slide show and a ceremony to install a memorial plaque.  Afterward placing the mosaic plaque created by Cathy Fields,  Bill Maher spread Joe’s ashes at the base of Joe’s Tree, insuring that Joe will be indeed part of Joe’s tree.

Donations Received in 2018

Donations of Materials and Funds. We would like to thank the following individuals for their contribution of funds or materials to ITEC. David Zimmerman donated a power blower which has become very useful in cleaning station porches and roofs and has continued to expedite all of ITEC’s needs in Panama City.  Jenia and Glenn Blair donated a Makita drill set containing two drills, chargers and screwdriver bits.  Several donors made financial contributions including Steve Scrimshaw, Susan Scrimshaw, David and Janis Brown, Clarence FoucheDiane Wickham, Rob and Alison Sawyer, Darrel Bush, Katherine Lahanas Crouch and David Obi.  Bill Maher donated a large array of tree-climbing equipment to the field station and a pickup truck to be used to organize materials Florida.  Nick Lahanas donated a small boat, trailer and motor to ITEC.  And finally, we would like to express our immense gratitude to Cathy Fields for her continued contribution of time, effort and occasionally, funds, to ITEC.  We would not be able to operate without her!

Krystyna Juryskowski, Carlos Andreas, David Zimmerman and Peter Lahanas attend signing ceremony

ITEC Now Owns Property in Panama! I am happy to report that ITEC has received a significant donation of property from Krystyna Juryskowski, an internationally recognized conservationist working mostly with African wildlife.  David Zimmerman and Peter Lahanas met with Krystyna and her attorney, Carlos Andreas, in Panama City to sign documents on the 20th of September in order to transfer the property to ITEC.  The property, known as Finca Maribella, is well over 100 acres in size when the mangrove forest and setbacks are considered, and includes an island.   Located on the mainland in Tierra Oscura (Dark Land) the property is situated on a peninsula with frontage

Main dock at Finca Maribella

along Dolphin and Tierra Oscura Bays. If you want to check it out on Google Maps, the coordinates are 9.199111, N. -82.248429 W.  Finca Maribella has an extensive trail system and is geographically diverse. There are red and white mangroves surrounding most of the property and upland areas include successional forest, swamps, creeks and agricultural plots.  Sea grass beds and coral reefs are located nearby.  In addition to the land

Swamp forest behind shop

itself, there are 8 significant structures on the property including several cabins and a gigantic shop containing a huge amount of equipment. This building, 60 feet in length and 40 feet across, is in excellent condition.  All equipment and boats currently on the property have also been donated to ITEC.  These include two generators, three table saws, two drill presses, large cement mixer, planer, joiner, two radial arm saws, ground compactor, chipper/mulcher, and every electrical hand tool imaginable.  Also included is a small outboard motor,

Shop at Finca Maribella

ATV, and a riding lawn mower.  In addition to the buildings, there are two cuyucos (dugout canoes), one that is about 30 feet in length and another measuring 41 feet long and five feet wide!  There are also two large concrete pads on which buildings could be placed, and four separate docks. Finca Maribella was originally, well, a finca (farm), and has a wealth of mature fruit trees that not only include gigantic mangos but every other imaginable tropical tree such as guanabana (sour sop), water apple, pidiba (sweet sop), star fruit, mammon, bananas,

Some of the equipment in the shop

plantain, bread fruit, coconut, jack fruit, etc., as well and about five hectares of cacoa (chocolate trees). There are several lumberable exotic trees on the property including teak, construction grade bamboo (called Guadua from Colombia) and very large pine trees. The pine trees could be sawed into lumber for construction while the teak would make excellent furniture. We have been to the property five times and Enrique and I have spent the night there.  The fauna and flora on the property are significantly different than on Isla Colon.  During our stay we saw several interesting mammals including agoutis, coatis and kinkajous, 43 species of birds many of

Small house near main dock

which do not occur on Isla Colon, and a myriad of reptiles and amphibians including 14 species of frogs! The family of poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) is particularly well represented here and one in particular, Dendrobates auratus, is extremely abundant.  The strawberry poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, is also abundant and are purple-blue in color! The property represents a real asset to ITEC for both education and research, and we will use the property

Poison Dart frog at Finca Maribella

frequently for our education program.  We plan to visit with groups from ITEC and allow other non-profit educational organizations to use the property as well.  We have several immediate goals for the property, including establishing a satellite field station to allow over-night stays at Finca Maribella for ITEC courses and for folks in the birding program.  We also plan to conduct a reforestation project that will bring back native upland rain forest to the property.  Finally, we plan to allow someone from the village of Tierra Oscura to take care of and profit from the cacoa plantation.  Tomas Santos, who currently lives at Finca Maribella, has been retained to watch and maintain the property for ITEC.  All of us at ITEC want to thank Krystyna once again for this generous gift!

View at Sunset Bay

30 ft Cayuca at Maribella

UNBC group visits Finca Maribella

Concrete pads on Tierra Oscura Bay

House on Dolphin Bay

Dock on Sunset Bay

A New Boat for ITEC Another significant donation comes in the form of a large sailboat offered

Sailboat Alegria

to ITEC by Riccardo Niccolini of Italy.  Riccardo (Richard) was traveling through Bocas a few years ago during a round-the-world voyage when his engine conked out.  He left the boat to be repaired but in typical Panama style, the mechanic he hired took his money and did nothing.  With failing health, Richard went back to his home in Italy and remains there.  The vessel has been lying in the backwaters of Almirante ever since and is in need of a lot of TLC. The boat is ketch rigged and about 50 feet in length. Her name is Alegria, or “Joy” in both Italian and Spanish. We may face an uphill battle with the individual who is currently in possession of Alegria, but Richard has sent along all the paperwork transferring the boat ownership to ITEC.  Stay tuned!

What’s New with ITEC Online?

The ITEC web site has received some updates for 2018.  To connect a bit better with folks through social media, we have developed a direct channel to YouTube ( and have uploaded ITEC videos there.  Our first video was one put together by Sam Molino who was in the TRE class last year.

Birding at ITEC Station

Birding at ITEC Field Station

If you have any videos that you would like to have us post, just send them ITEC.   Also, follow us on our Instagram at “itecpanama” on your phone or by clicking on the new icon on our website.  Another new addition to our web site is the Birding Program ( which is designed to attract birders to ITEC.  ITEC is offering a 7 day birding program that includes lectures and birding trips to many of the best birding locations in Panama.  Starting on Pipeline Road along the Panama Canal, the trip then visits the ITEC field station, Bird Island, Soropta Canal, and a mid-elevation site on the mainland near Ojo de Agua.  From here, the group travels to Boquete and ends with a visit to the Bajo Mono cloud forest trail.

Wildlife Sightings

Kinkajou, Potos flavus

We had several interesting wildlife sightings this year at several locations including our new property at Finca Maribella, the ITEC field station and along the Soropta Canal.   At Finca Maribella, we discovered an agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) wandering around the shop in the late afternoon, a kinkajou (Potos flavus) visited during the night, and a coati (Nasua nasua) in the morning feeding on jackfruit next to the shop.  Back at the ITEC station, there seems to have been a jump in the armadillo population as they are observed on almost every night hike and on one occasion, three baby armadillos ran right over our feet!  Of course, we continue to see our sloths and monkeys regularly at the station.  New bird sightings were particularly good this year as ITEC faculty and

King Vulture

students participated in the Big Day, a one-day birding effort to see as many species as possible.  This provides data on bird diversity and abundance which is useful in devising future conservation strategies. Our birding effort started at the ITEC station, then moved to Bird Island and ended on the Soropta Canal.  The day netted 64 species including a very rare sighting of a Rufescent  Tiger Heron and Great Potoo.   Many of us at the station went along on another trip with Julio Gallardo and his Avian Ecology course to the reservoir at Ojo de Agua.  This birding excursion to the mainland netted 90 species of birds including 14 species of raptors!  Some rarities include a Black and White Hawk Eagle, King Vulture and Black Hawk Eagle.

From the Garden

Enrique with Jackfruit

Now that our garden includes Finca Maribella, the fruits and produce available to us increased substantially. At Finca Maribella the fruit trees are mature and have been for some time.  So along with all of the fruits we’ve been harvesting from our Ground Creek location, we now have such novelties as gigantic mango trees, hundreds of coconut and cacoa trees, guanabana, pittyba, mangastino, jackfruit and many other trees we’ve not yet been able to identify. In addition, there are very large patches of yuca, culantro and dashine, an edible aroid that tastes exactly like spinach.

Groups Visiting ITEC

New College Coral Reef Ecology Course

ITEC enjoyed a very successful year with regard to visiting academic programs to the field station.  In addition to colleges and high school groups, ITEC received for the first time a group of grade-schoolers! Beginning in January this year, Alfred Beulig, and teaching assistant, Alejandra Mejia, brought a group from New College of Florida for a course in Coral Reef Ecology.  This course was devised to allow New College students to complete an ISP (Independent Student Project) which is required each academic year at New College.  David and Matty Fehr with Students

College of Charleston Students with Caiman

Without Borders arrived again from British Columbia, Canada in late January to present his high school tropical biology course.  A group from the Three Seas Program at Northeastern University arrived in February for a short course in Tropical Terrestrial Ecology taught by Pete Lahanas, and later moved on to Boquete where they climbed Volcan Baru.  In April, the Organization for Tropical Studies out of Costa Rica presented their tropical marine ecology course at ITEC lead by Mauricio Garcia.  The School for Field Studes, led by L. Cebalos, brought their Island Biodiversity Studies course to the station twice in 2018.  Also in April we had for the first

UNBC group prepares to enter Agouti Cave

time ever a grade school group visit the station. Led by Martha Loizeaux, fourth and fifth-graders from the Ocean Study Charter School in the Florida Keys, spent a week at the station. The visit was enjoyed by everyone and Martha plans to bring 25 students next year!  The month of May, 2018, was extremely busy at the ITEC field station with visits from five different groups. Jenia Blair of the University of Northern British Columbia spent three weeks at the station beginning in early May.

Northeastern University students in Boquete

This was Jenia’s 6th visit to the station over 12 years.  A group from Emory and Henry College led by George Argyros and Jerry Bresowar also arrived in May with their tropical ecology course. Craig Plante brought his ecology course from Charleston College to the station in May. This was Craig’s 16th year bringing courses to ITEC!  Jeri Fox and Stina Brown brought their course from New England University to ITEC in May for the 7th time.  Finally, Rob Pollard from the Ukiah School district in California brought two groups of high school students to ITEC, one in June and another in July. This was Rob’s second year to visit ITEC and plans to return again.

OTS students receive snorkeling checkout

UNBC and Emory & Henry College students enjoy a day at Starfish Beach

Ocean Study Charter School kids work on forest project

Students Without Borders group catching caiman

School for Field Studies lecture at the ITEC station

Austin College group explores Agouti Cave

ITEC Courses Presented in 2018

ITEC Group, May 2018

Several ITEC field courses were presented in 2018. In Session B, Peter Lahanas (ITEC and Northeastern University) presented his Neotropical Herpetology course which for the first time, included a visit to the new property, Finca Maribella where the students conducted a survey of Dendrobates auratus body patterns in a preliminary analysis for potential future mark/recapture studies.  Bill Maher (Treeclimbing USA) presented his Canopy Access for Research course also

Julio’s Avian Ecology course at Bajo Mono, Boquete

during Session B.  Two courses were presented in Session C.   Julio Gallardo (Mississippi State University) who was an ITEC student in 2002, presented the course in Tropical Avian Ecology. Julio brought along a colleague, Russell Thorstrom (Peregrine Fund) who presented a talk on his raptor work in Madagascar.  Julio, a consummate birder, spent a great deal of time in the field and on a single field trip to the mainland above Almirante (Ojo de Agua), his group cataloged 90 species of birds!  Lonnie Kaczmarsky (St. John’s College) presented his course in Coral Reef Ecology for the second time at ITEC. During the course he discovered a new coral reef that will be much utilized in the future. He also managed to catch several invasive lionfish and made delicious ceviche for everyone!  Our students arrived this year from a variety of countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico.

Bill Maher and students on way to Boquete

Lonnie and his catch of invasive lion fish

Learning the ropes on Joe’s Tree at ITEC

Visitors to ITEC

Mukila and Nellie (front) on Soropta Canal

Several visitors arrived to check out the field station in 2018.  Mulika Maitha and Nellie Kahlil, of Harper College arrived in July to check out the station for a future course visit in 2019.  Mulkila and Nellie visited many locations including area reefs, beaches, sea grass beds, Drago school and plastic bottle castle near Bocas. Russell Thorstrom of the Peregrine Fund came to the ITEC station along with bird ecologist, Julio Gallardo. Russell was in Panama to have a look at their Harpy eagle project in the Darien and then gave an engaging presentation of his raptor work in Madagascar to ITEC students, faculty and staff.  Clarence Fouche, retired head of the

Osvaldo (left) and his group visit the ITEC Station during their survey of Ramsar sites.

biology department at Virginia Intermont College and a long-time supporter of ITEC, visited for a few days in July before moving on to Boquete.  Osvaldo Jordan, Executive Director for Ramsar CREHO (Regional Center for the Western Hemisphere) and his group visited the station in connection to their survey of Ramsar sites in Panama. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, held in Ramsar, Iran, was a treaty established by UNESCO in 1975 and works to protect wetlands internationally. Other participants in the group included Cristina Ordonez (Sea Turtle Conservation), Steve Patton (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and CREHO), Andreina Pernia (CREHO) and one assistant.

Researchers at ITEC

Jeremy Keene and his assistants discover their plant at Agouti Cave

Alison Koch preparing jackfruit

There were several researchers working at the ITEC field station this year.  Jeremy Keene, a botanist form Glenville State College, arrived with two student assistants to conduct systematics research on the family Gesneriaceae, which includes African violets.  Jeremy and his assistants traveled far and wide both on Isla Colon, the mainland and Boquete in search of members of this plant family.  Alison Koch of the University of San Antonio, resided at the station during the summer conducting her doctorate research on indigenous Ngöbe cultural practices.  Alli plans to return in January next year and remain at the station for an entire year!  Kimberly Garcia, a Masters student at the California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Pomona, arrived to conduct research on sea slugs.  Kim spent a great deal of time visiting area coral reefs and discovered a large variety of these colorful nudibranchs.

Who’s New in 2019?

Adam Clause and Friend

We would like to welcome Adam Clause to our faculty next year.  Adam, who recently received his doctorate at the University of Georgia, was an animal behavior student at ITEC in 2009 and took the canopy access course in 2013, both in preparation for his doctoral work on arboreal lizards.  He will take over the Neotropical Herpetology course next year. We have several new groups coming to ITEC next year to present their field courses.  These include Harper College, led by Mukila Maitha and Nellie Kahlil, who plan to bring 16 students in June-July next year.  Their interests lie not

Coral reef in Bocas

only with the tropical biota, but will also be doing GIS analyses of the area and community service at the local Drago school.  In keeping with their environmental science focus, they plan to visit the garbage dump and the plastic bottle castle as well.  A group from Holyoke College, who work with M. Estela Coghi through the Monteverde Institute in Costa Rica, will visit the station in February.  Finally, Alison Hay, Chief Scientific Officer on board the S/Y Acadia, with Mark Rohr of The Ocean Foundation will be arriving in March with several others to attend a special intensive 2-week course in coral reef ecology presented by ITEC faculty.

How You Can Help ITEC!

Ways to Contribute ITEC is seeking donations for the construction of the Faculty Housing building and maintenance of Finca Maribella.  If you are considering making a sizable donation, please contact ITEC for ways to endow the Faculty building.  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!