Panama – A First Look

So far this course has met and even exceeded all of my expectations.  Not only has it been exciting to visit an entirely new country, but also a privilege being surrounded by so many great scientists conducting fascinating research.  Our trip to BCI opened my eyes to an intricate network of scientists collaborating and building upon an impressive collection of past research.

While I’m not a plant biologist, I thoroughly enjoyed our first days walking the forest paths of BCI learning about the vast biodiversity of plant species distributed around the island.  Having some experience identifying plant species in forest plots, it amazed me how quickly many of the BCI scientists could classify the various plants along our walks.  In the process of discussing some plant species, I was enlightened about the various mutualistic and parasitic relationships between plants and their corresponding insect and vertebrate species.

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I attained a lot of novel information through our lecture sections as well.  I appreciated the broad range of topics addressed in the lectures, ranging from historical geography to speciation and contrasts in biodiversity between temperate and tropical systems.  One topic I found particularly interesting was Lissy Colie’s talk about speciation and coexistence in Inga.  She found that not only were mechanisms to combat pest species driving speciation, but the resulting species were not genetically dissimilar.  Rather, it is most likely gene regulation and expression that differentiated these species.

I am tremendously excited to continue with the course and meet more phenomenal scientists and learn about their ongoing projects in hopes I find inspiration to conduct my own short-term project.  I am fully aware of this rare opportunity that has been presented to me, and I intend to take full advantage of my time here in Panama.



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