A multi-disciplinary approach to research in Terrestrial and Marine Tropical Ecology are conducted between a consortium of scientists and researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid These organizations and an international body of visiting scientists and students use the marine lab facilities and experimental farm to conduct primary and applied research in the fields of tropical island ecology, marine biology, physical oceanography, marine biogeochemistry, aquaculture, genetics, molecular biology, herpetology, botany, ornithology, entomology, ecosystem conservation, island biogeography, geology, fisheries management, tropical forest ecology, agro-forestry, veterinary science, and organic agriculture.
Current areas of marine research at the Liquid Jungle include plankton community dynamics and marine larval ecology and transport, modeling internal waves and benthic structure, coral community architecture and diversity, synoptic chemical mapping, invasive sessile invertebrate species, mangrove and estuarine watersheds, and the effects of natural and anthropogenic nutrient input on primary production and fisheries along Pacific coastal zones.
The local fauna includes a long list of avian species such as toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus), owls (Pulsatrix perspicillata) humming birds (Hylocharys elicieae, Phaetornis superciliosus), manakins (Chiroxiphia lanceolata) pelicans and a plethora of other marine birds. Many mammals, unique to Central America inhabit the island such as howler monkeys (Allouatta palliata, and the endemic Coiba species ), capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) coatis (Nasua narica), raccoons (Procyon cancrivorus), pacas (Agouti paca), agoutis or nueques (Dasyprocta sp), tayras (Eira barbara), bats (Glossophaga soricina &Carollia castanea) sloths (Bradypus variegatus) margays (Leopardus wiedii) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Besides the thousands of species of plants and insects endemic to this region of the tropical Americas, many reptile and amphibian species are also found on the island. Even occasionally the rare jungle cat (Leopardus pardalis) is spotted in the dense jungle surrounding nearby Bahia Honda and Pixvae. In 2004 botanists, herpetologists, entomologists, ornithologists, and biologists convened to create the first comprehensive catalog of tropical plants, reptiles, insect, birds, and mammal diversity of this Pacific Coastal region.
In order to understand oceanic and atmospheric coupling, and the potential effects of these phenomena on ocean life, scientists must collect time series data which measure weather patterns, ocean circulation and sea water chemistry. PLUTO is a fiber-optic cabled observatory deployed in January 2006 in approximately 18 m of water 1.5 km to the south west of Isla de Canales de Tierra. The observatory consists of sensors for salinity, temperature, pressure, water current speed and direction, chlorophyll, turbidity, oxygen, down-welling light at two depths, an array of temperature sensors. A remotely controlled, high definition pan and tilt underwater camera displays rapid image updates of the benthic habitat surrounding the PLUTO sensors. The data are distributed via satellite back to WHOI and made available on the web (http://4dgeo.whoi.edu/panama/).
Reef Building Corals (Scleractinia) of the Gulf of Chiriqui including Bahia Honda to Coiba Island marine zones
Family Agariciidae: Pavona clavus, Gardineroseris planulata, Pavona gigantea, Pavona varians, Pavona Chiriquíensis, Pavona frondifera, Pavona maldivensis Pocilloporidae: Pocillopora elegans, Pocillopora damicornis, Pocillorpora capitata, Pocillorpora eydouxi; Poritidae: Porites lobata; Siderastreidae: Psammacora stellata. Fungiidae: Cyclocerus curvata Milleporadea: Millipora intricata Dendrophyllidae: Tubastraea coccinea
Almany, G. R., M.L. Berumen, S.R. Thorrold, S. Planes, and G.P. Jones. Larval dispersal, marine reserves and the replenishment of fish populations. (Accepted pending suitable revision) Science
Bowen, J.L. and Ivan Valiela (2008) Using δ15N to Assess Coupling between Watersheds and Estuaries in Temperate and Tropical Regions. Journal of Coastal Research Vol 24:3; pp. 804–813.
Camilli, Luis, O. Pizarro, and R. Camilli (2008) Advancing spatial-temporal continuity in coral reef ecosystem pattern detection: The morphology, distribution and chemical environments of coral habitats encompassing Coiba National Park, Panamá. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 7-11 July 2008, Session number 16
Camilli Richard, O. Pizarro, and L. Camilli (2007) Rapid Swath Mapping of Reef Ecology and Associated Water Column Chemistry in the Gulf of Chiriquí, Panamá On the Edge of Tomorrow: MTS/IEEE-OES Oceans Conference.
Carman Mary R., S.J. Molyneaux, R. Ji, and S.M. Sievert (2007) Ascidians of the southern Gulf of Chiriqui, Pacific-Panama: A native fauna at risk to bioinvasion. Fifth International Conference on Marine Bioinvasions.
Carman, Mary, S. Bullard, S. Molyneaux, R. Ji, A. Goodwin, E. Baker, and S. Sievert. Ascidian faunas of the island chain Isla Canales de Tierra to Coiba, southern Gulf of Chiriqui and south entrance to the Panama Canal, Pacific coast of Panama. (in prep)
Castroviejo S., and A. Ibanez (2003) Estudio Sobre la Biodiversidad de la Region de Bahia Honda (Veraguas, Panama) Inventario de Biodiversidad. Real Jardin Botanico(CSIC) (133).
Gallager, Scott M., S. Lerner, E. Miller, A.D. York, and A. Girard. Design, installation, and the first two years of operation of an underwater observatory on the western Panamanian shelf. (submitted)
Gallager, Scott M., A.D. York, C. Mingione and S. Lerner. Plankton community structure in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Pacific-Panama, as modulated by upwelling and large internal waves. (in prep)
Thorrold, Simon R., G.P. Jones, S. Planes, and J. A. Hare. (2006) Transgenerational marking of embryonic otoliths in marine fishes using barium stable isotopes. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 63: 1193-1197.
Starczak, Victoria, P. Perez-Brunius, J. Pineda, J. Gyory, and H. Levine. The role of season, salinity and flushing in determine barnacle distributions in tow adjacent mangrove coastal lagoons. (in prep)