Phenology in Panama!

After a Boston winter spent sorting through canopy images from the Neotropics — clicking past magenta cecropica flowers and long green branches drooping into the water — it was incredible to see the ‘barrocolorado’ PhenoCam camera from the other end of the camera! The vegetation and phenology monitoring camera here on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, was installed in May 2013 by the Center for Tropical Forest Science and the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory. We actually have three cameras at different locations around the island as well as a variety of long term data on temperature, humidity, precipitation, and the timing of different species’ flowering and fruiting.

View from below

View from below

One aspect of life on the island making the phenological patterns of a variety of plants quite different from expected is the unusually extreme El Niño occurring this summer. After preparing for the usual rain each afternoon and often early morning, I was surprised when I arrived by nearly a week without any rain at all. The other researchers as well as the Guardabosques police on the island mentioned the later timing of many flowers and fruits as a result.

panama-flower panama-treeI’m here as a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) undergraduate student intern working on an independent research project with Dr. Michael Kaspari and his graduate student Jane Lucas studying soil antibiotics. So not exactly phenology, but working with Margaret Kosmala in Dr. Andrew Richardson’s lab at Harvard University helped teach me the experimental design, programming, and analysis skills useful for this and hopefully other projects as well. Additionally, I’ve been learning more about phenology through a diversity of other season-related projects going on across the island and throughout the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Living and working together at the small station here is an incredible way to learn more about the wide range and interactions between different research projects!

Carolyn Gigot is an undergraduate at Harvard University.


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