By Jenifer Austin Foulkes, Oceans Program Manager, Google:
The Minister of Science and Technology (SENACYT), for the country of Panama, Ruben Berrocal joined us to learn more about our underwater observations in Coiba National Park and shared with us his scientific vision and plans for developing a research station on Coiba. He was interested in learning more about the Hannibal bank expedition, and Smithsonian Director Biff Bermingham and Sylvia Earle described the life they'd seen. [Text continues after images.]
Photos courtesy of Kip Evans and Mission Blue.
We also toured Jean Pigozzi's Liquid Jungle Lab and heard about some of the research that has been done by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Jean has worked to develop an excellent research lab facility for researchers to better understand the surrounding ecosystem. He has also taken leadership on conserving the mangrove areas as a rookery for baby fish, the future life for Hannibal Bank and the entire Coiba protected area. In fact, Jean and the Smithsonian worked together to support Panama making Coiba a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a gem for future generations.
In the afternoon Biff, Sylvia, David Shaw, and Kip Evans were treated to a flight in the Presidential helicopter around Coiba with Mr. Berrocal, his daughter, Colleen, and STRI Associate Director Ortis Sanjur to photograph the marine park and observe first hand some of the unique qualities of this area.
We are sad to leave the beautiful Coiba land and seascape but are optimistic that our efforts will lead to a more secure future for the park and the creatures who live there.