TROPINET, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2000

    Association for Tropical Biology on the World Wide Web at ATB members may want to check their listings in the Membership Directory posted on the homepage


    The changing face of tropical biology?

    Elizabeth Braker, Occidental College,

    In the late 1980's, representatives from ATB and OTS discussed how to improve communication within the tropical biology community. One result was the publication of Tropinet. Our goals, as stated in the first issue, were "… to foster a working network among scientists who share a common interest in tropical biology and a common concern for tropical nature. We hope that Tropinet…will provide a means of communication among scientists in all aspects of tropical biology…Our intent is to reach and to reflect concerns of tropical biologists from a wide range of disciplines, perspectives, and geographic locations." As Tropinet enters its second decade, it seems appropriate to wonder whether we have met those goals. Over the last decade, has communication among biologists improved? Is the community of tropical biologists more diverse? Where are tropical biologists practicing their craft, both in terms of institutional homes and in terms of geographical location of field work? Over the last few months I have had numerous conversations with colleagues in tropical biology . Many of us have the strong impression that tropical biology has become a more inclusive science. If true, this impression should be reflected in aspects of our work, such as the location of field studies, the geographic distribution of first authors of papers, and inclusion of collaborators from the countries where the work takes place.

    To examine these questions, I compiled information from several sources: news items published in Tropinet, papers published in Biotropica for the years 1989 and 1999, and data from Clark 1985 (Clark, D.B. 1985. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 66: 6-9).

    Fig. 1. Geographical location of Tropical Study Site

    Where is tropical biology field work conducted? Several colleagues have suggested that improvements in communication and ease of travel, and changing governmental regulation of field study, have resulted in shifts in locations of tropical field work over the last decade. To address this question, I compared the geographic distribution of field studies published in Biotropica in 1989 and 1999. As an additional comparison, I included data from Clark (1985), who tallied the location of tropical field studies published in Biotropica and Ecology in 1983 and 1984. Figure 1 shows the percentage of papers published each year from different geographic regions. The number of countries represented in each region is shown by the numbers above each bar (I re-grouped data from Clark to conform to different geographical categories that I used). A chi-square test of independence shows no significant difference in the distribution of articles by region in the three time periods tested. However, among Latin American countries, there is a trend to decreasing relative dominance of Costa Rica and Panama as field sites (Costa Rica: 17.2, 31.3, and 9 % respectively over the three time periods; Panama: 16.3, 7.8, and 1.6%), and an increasing proportional representation of Mexico (5.7, 5.9, 8.9%) and Brazil (7.8, 11.8, 20.3%).

    What is the geographical distribution of scientists publishing in tropical biology? I have a strong impression, shared by several colleagues, that there has been an increase in the diversity of scientists doing field work in tropical biology. That is, over the last decade, we have noticed a trend to greater participation in international meetings and publication in international journals by scientists from Southern countries, particularly Latin American ones. Many initiatives and funding opportunities have emerged for Latin American scientists over the last decade. These observations led me to ask whether there has been a change over the decade to increasing diversity (as measured by more countries represented) of first authors publishing in Biotropica? In 1989 and 1999, the preponderance of first authors has an institutional address in North America, followed by addresses in South America, Europe, and Central America (Fig. 2). The data suggest a decrease in representation of North American authors and an increase in papers with first authors from other regions. The decade saw a steep increase of 14 to 39 papers published in which the first author was from the country where field work was conducted. On a proportional basis, however, the gain was more modest (27 vs. 39%), as the total number of papers published in Biotropica increased by one-half over this decade.

    Fig. 2. First author’s institutional location, 1989 and 1999.

    Do p.i.'s from extra-tropical institutions collaborate with scientists from host countries?

    Several colleagues commented on a trend for visiting scientists to collaborate with researchers from countries where fieldwork is conducted. Clark (1985) explicitly mentioned such collaboration as being important in improving communication and opening doors to research, and observed that most researchers are willing to collaborate in this way. I asked whether a trend to collaboration could be documented in Biotropica over the decade. For studies where the first author gave an institutional address located outside of the country of the study site, I recorded whether local scientists were listed as co-authors. The proportion of papers with local co-authors declined from 75% in 1989 to 49% in 1999. The trend seems to be the opposite of what we had supposed, perhaps reflecting less of an effort by visiting scientists to work with local ones.

    What is the geographical source of news items published in Tropinet? Our original goals in publishing Tropinet included enhanced communication among the global community of tropical biologists. The editorial policy of Tropinet has always been to welcome all contributions, and material published arrives from a variety of sources. A listing of the news items published shows that the majority concerned Latin America and the Caribbean (35%) and North America (25%) (fig.3). Perhaps it is not surprising that the majority of submissions concern Latin America, given the geographic distribution of ATB members, OTS' focus in Latin America, and the relative ease of access to Latin American field sites for North American tropical biologists. To meet the original goals of Tropinet, we must continue to expand our coverage of areas outside of the Americas. Tropinet is a product of the communityof tropical biologists, and I encourage all of you to communicate news items of broad interest, particularly those concerning geographic areas that have not received extensive coverage.

    Fig. 3. Geographical distribution of Tropinet news items, 1989-1999

    Electronic publishing of Tropinet. In 1995, Stephen Mulkey spearheaded the online version of Tropinet. The electronic version is becoming increasingly important as a way of communicating with tropical biologists in S. E. Asia, Malaysia, Japan, and Latin America, and receives several thousand hits a year. As a community of tropical biologists, we can continue to enhance accessibility to information for colleagues by supporting and contributing to electronic publication of information.

    Final thoughts. I encourage tropical biologists to continue our efforts to expand the list of geographical locations in which we work; to continue efforts to include local scientists in our work, and to submit relevant information for publication in Tropinet. Communication within our community continues to be an issue of major importance as we face a world with acute conservation crises in tropical regions whose nature we study. Dissemination of our research results to decision makers can be achieved by publicizing our work in nontraditional avenues of communication, such as Tropinet, in both its paper and electronic versions.

    Lyn Loveless will take over the editorship of Tropinet with the June issue. Many thanks to those who have helped produce Tropinet for the last ten years:Lucinda McDade, Carol Mozell, and three talented Occidental College students: Christina Allen, Dylan Schwilk, and Heather Snookal. Bob Marquis, Damon Kyllo, and Ray Heithaus have patiently facilitated working with Biotropica and publication schedules.


    Latin America

    declining Amphibian Populations in Latin America. The new WWW: is dedicated to issues related to declining amphibian populations in Latin America. The site is in Spanish and highlights the results of a series of NSF-sponsored meetings on the topic in Latin America last November. Five working group chairs/board members of the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF) participated in the meetings. The site seeks to promote DAPTF initiatives in Latin America and includes abstracts of talks, information on declines, lists of contacts, links to related sites, and related downloadable documents. Information: Bruce Young, International Zoologist, The Nature Conservancy. 4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203-1606. Tel: (703) 841-4214. Fax: (703) 525-8024. Email:

    Field Station Profile:

    San Miguel Biological Station, Costa Rica

    San Miguel Biological Station is located 2 km south of the community of Malpais in the Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, and offers access to an outstanding variety of tropical marine habitats and tropical dry forest. Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve, established in 1963 as the first protected area in Costa Rica’s world-renowned national park system, covers 1,250 hectares of tropical forest, 15% of which is primary forest and 85% of which is majestic old secondary forest. Also included in the park’s domain is a marine zone of 1,700 hectares, which protects over 10 km of pristine coastline as well as Cabo Blanco Island, an important refuge and nesting site for the brown booby and other marine bird species.

    The San Miguel Biological station was developed to promote and support teaching, research, and environmental education, taking advantage of the well-protected tropical marine and dry forest habitats present on site. Because of its special status within the Absolute Nature Reserve, the station is not open to the general public, but welcomes students, researchers, and any group interested in learning first-hand about these diverse and increasingly threatened ecosystems. Facilities and support staff are available for courses, workshops, conferences, seminars, research and educational programs of all kinds and for all ages. In addition, San Miguel has a special social and educational commitment to the local communities bordering the park.

    Directed by research biologists, the station is jointly staffed by national park personnel and by resident naturalists involved in research and teaching.

    Access to the station is limited to foot travel from Malpais (2 km) however, luggage may be transported by a 4WD vehicle or motor launch. The average precipitation is 2500-2800 mm per year with the wettest period being between June and October. Facilities include bunk beds for up to thirty overnight visitors and a bathhouse with toilets and cold water showers. Home-cooked meals are served family style in the dining hall. Electricity (110V, 220V, 60 cycles) is available 24 hours a day on the national grid and the water comes from natural springs within the reserve. Classroom space is available with a slide projector and screen, an overhead projector, a television, and a VCR. In addition, the laboratory has workbenches, microscopes, dissecting scopes, a balance, and other laboratory equipment. Field gear is available for sampling and field research in both terrestrial and marine habitats. There is access to motor launches for oceanographic studies or boat tours of the coastal waters. A reference library with materials on marine and terrestrial biology and keys to major groups is available at the station. An extensive, well-marked trail system gives access along the shoreline and in upland areas.

    Boat trips from San Miguel Biological Station to Cabo Blanco Island may be arranged by special request. Depending upon weather and tides, oceanographic excursions by motor launch may be arranged for offshore marine studies, including plankton tows, collection of seawater for analysis, sampling of sea floor life, and close-up observation of the sea-floor vent. Visits can be arranged to meet fishermen from the local communities and accompany them in their motor launches, for example, or to visit the nearby community of Malpais.

    Station fees include lodging, meals, expert guides, and all support and academic services. Rates vary depending upon the type of group, length of stay, and financial resources. Boat excursions charged separately. Reservations must be made in advance. Information or reservations: Tel/Fax: 506-645-5277 or 645-5890 (Director’s Office; English or Spanish spoken); 506-642-0093 in Cabuya (Park Service HQ; Spanish spoken).


    Meetings and Conferences


    *Fifth Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. 15-26 May. Nairobi, Kenya. CBD Secretariat, World Trade Centre, 693 Jaques Street, Office 300, Montreal, Canada H2Y 1N9. Email: WWW:

    *International Symposium :Biodgeography of S.E. Asia: Organisms and Orogenesis", Leiden, The Netherlands. Information: Dr. Rienk de Jong, National Natuurhistorisch Museym, Dept. of Entomology, PO Box 9517, NL-2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands. Email:

    *Society for Conservation Biology. Annual Meeting. 9-12 June. Missoula, Montana, USA. Informaiton: Fred Allendorf, Program Committee, Division of Biological Sicneces, Unviersity of Montana, Missoula. MT 59812, USA. Email: WWW:

    *International Symposium on Modeling and Experimental Research on Genetic Processes in Tropical and Temperate Forests. Cayenne, French Guiana. 18-22 September. Sponsored by Silvolab Guyane, Cirad Forêt (Montpellier, France), Dendrogene project (EMBRAPA/DFID, Belém, Brazil), INRA (Paris, France), and ECOFOR (EU). Information and online registration is available at

    *International Conference Plant Population Viability Analysis. 1-3 June, 2000, Freising, Germany. The symposium will cover all aspects of plant population biology and ecology, with a focus on population viability analysis, plant population dynamics, population genetics and demography. Information: WWW: Email:

    Association for Tropical Biology, Annual Meeting 2000. Bloomington, Indiana, USA. 23-27 June. This year’s annual meeting of ATB will be held jointly with The Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), The American Society of Naturalists (ASN), and The Society of Systematic Biologists (SSB) at Indiana University. Symposia sponsored or co-sponsored by ATB include: Biodiversity: the Interface between Systematics and Conservation, and Coevolution and Speciation in Passion-Vine Butterflies. ATB will be sponsoring the fifth annual Alwyn Gentry Award. Information: Dr. Keith Clay: Tel: (812) 855-8158. Fax: (812) 855-6705. Email:, WWW:


    * Association for Tropical Biology (ATB) Annual Conference. Tropical Ecosystems: Structure,Diversity and Human Welfare. 15-18 July 2001. Bangalore, India. Tentative symposia titles include: Global Forest Ecosystems, Tropical Forests: Structure, Diversity, and Function, Biodiversity Hotspots.

    The Society for Conservation Biology 15th Annual Meeting. 30 July-4 August, 2001. Hilo, Hawaii, University of Hawaii. The meeting's theme will be "Ecological Lessons from Islands". Information: David Duffy. Email: WWW:


    Management of Wildlands and Protected Areas: an intensive short course for Latin Americans. Colorado State University Center for Protected Area Management and Training. 12 July &emdash; 13 August. This course is designed for protected areas professionals and technicians from Latin America. Conducted entirely in Spanish, the course will emphasize practical exercises and principles and methods of protected areas management. It will focus on the management of protected areas in the regional development context, including adjacent land management issues. Participants will interact extensively with local resource users, various local, state and federal agencies, collaborating private conservation organizations and other groups involved in natural resource management. Application deadline: April 20, 2000. Information: George N. Wallace or Craig MacFarland, Colorado State University, College of Natural Resources, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523. Tel: (970) 491-6593. Fax: (970) 491-2255. WWW:

    Ometepe Biological Field Station, Nicaragua: Ethology, Primate Behavior and Ecology, Bats of the Neotropics, Animal Behavior, Tropical Plant Ecology, Medicinal Plants of the Neotropics, Tropical Herpetology, and Ecology behavior and species diversity in the Rain Forest. Sessions: 22 June&emdash;17 July, and 20 July &emdash;14 August. Information: P.O. Box 55-7519, Miami, Florida 33255-7519. Tel: (305) 666-9932. Fax: (305) 666-7581. Email: WWW:

    Tropical Dendrology in Costa Rica. 25 June-7 July. Learn field identification of tropical trees and shrubs while traveling through four contrasting climatic environments in Costa Rica. Information: Dr. Humberto Jiménez Saa/Apdo. 8-3870-1000/San José, Costa Rica. Tel: (+506) 253-3267. Fax: (+506) 253-4963. Email: WWW:

    Undergraduate Summer Ecosystem Experience. Columbia University's Center for Environmental Research and Conservation is offering a five-week, 6 credit course for undergraduates this summer. Students may choose to study in Brazil (tropical forest), Biosphere 2 (desert biome) or the Black Rock Forest (temperate forest, NY, Hudson Valley). While physically studying in one field site, students will be linked via network to the other two biomes to enable them to compare and expand their understanding of each of these environmentally diverse biomes. Information: Email:

    Opportunities for Latin American Field Ornithologists . Advanced training program in Long Point, Lake Erie, Canada, September 2000. Bird Studies Canada/Long Point Bird Observatory is offering a 1-month course in advanced field techniques pertaining to songbirds (mist-netting, bird banding, aging and sexing, point counts, migration monitoring, database management etc.). This course is not suitable for beginners. A good working ability in English is essential. Institutions and agencies in Latin America (especially Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean) are encouraged to recommend potential candidates. This month-long training course is being offered to a maximum of 3 qualified applicants. Applications must be received by 10 April 2000. Information: Jul Wojnowski, Bird Studies Canada, P.O. Box 160, Port Rowan, Ontario, Canada N0E 1M0. Email: Information:

    The Smithsonian Environmental Leadership Course (SI/MAB). 10-22 September. The Environmental Leadership course emphasizes communication skills to facilitate your interaction with managers, decision-makers and resource personnel. The Smithsonian Environmental Leadership course includes topics such as Foundation Skills for the Environmental Leader, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Strategies, Creating Compelling Futures, and Environmental Communication. US$2,500 covers tuition, lodging, meals, local transportation, and course materials. Airfare to and from Washington DC not included. Limited scholarships are available for Latinos who are US citizens. Information: Christopher Ros, SI/MAB Program, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, 10th and Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20560-0180. Tel: (202) 786-3116. Fax: (202) 633-8918. E-mail: WWW:

    The Smithsonian Institution and Makerere University Field Course in Conservation Biology and Wildlife Management. Uganda, 9 June to 6 July.Sponsored by Makerere University, Kampala and the Smithsonian Institution’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Training Program (WCMTP). The course will be conducted mainly at Makerere University’s Biological Field Station (MUBFS), which is located within Kibale National Park in southwest Uganda. The park is a medium altitude moist tropical forest with patches of papyrus swamps and savannas. It is home to a variety of wildlife, but is best known as the home of a dozen primate species, including chimpanzees. Nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park, also visited during the course, represents an African savanna ecosystem, with wildlife such as lions, elephants, hippos, giant forest hogs, and many antelopes and birds. Course fee: $1,450, excluding airfare and health insurance. This covers all expenses for tuition, food, accommodation, use of teaching facilities, local travel, course supplies and special events during the course. All applicants must include letters confirming financial support with their applications. Application deadline: 10 April 2000. Only 20 applicants will be selected for the course; preference will be given to those who apply early. Successful applicants will be notified of their selection in late April 2000. Information: Dr. R. Rudran, Department of Zoological Research, National Zoological Park. Washington D.C. 20008. Tel: (202) 673-4843. Fax: (202) 673-4686. Email: Ms. Laura Walker. Conservation and Research Center. 1500 Remount Rd. Front Royal, VA. 22630. Tel: (540) 635-6514. Fax: (540) 635-3551. Email:

    The Jatun Sacha Foundation of Ecuador owns and operates three private reserves distributed throughout the Amazon, Andean and coastal regions of the country. The foundation has long supported a series of rainforest ecology and conservation courses and can tailor such courses for your particular needs. Additionally, the staff would be more than happy to discuss course outline options and literature materials for the classroom portion of your course. Please see our website at Specific course-related information can be found at:

    Nicaraguan Entomology. Field trips for one or two weeks on the Río San Juan border with Costa Rica. Information: Jean-Michel MAES, Museo Entomológico, Asociación Nicaraguense de Entomología, AP 527 &emdash; Leon. NICARAGUA. Tel: (505) 0-3116586. Fax: (505) 0-3115700. Email: WWW: entomologico.htm .




    Resident Faculty Positions: The School for Field Studies, Center for Sustainable Development Studies. Atenas, Costa Rica. SFS seeks resident faculty for its program in Sustainable Field Studies, which strives to develop sustainable management models for Costa Rica's abundant but threatened natural resources working through small landowners and honoring the social, cultural and economic development needs of local residents. Tropical Agroecologist and Resource Economist. Position Requirements: Ph.D. (pref.) or Masters in agricultural economics, environmental economics or similar field; applied/field research and university-level teaching experience; Spanish language skills and willingness to relocate and live on site are required. Experience in Costa Rica and familiarity with sociopolitical structure preferred. To apply: send CV and cover letter outlining relevant experiences to: CC1163, The School for Field Studies, 16 Broadway, Beverly, MA 01915, USA; Fax: 1-978-927-5127; Email: Information: WWW:

    Grants and Fellowships

    Rainforest Research Grants. Grants are available for researchers interested in working in southeastern Peru in some of the world's richest lowland tropical forests. Grants support research conducted at Tambopata Research Center (TRC) or Posada Amazonas Lodge (PAL), two facilities operated by Rainforest Expeditions. Graduate students and senior researchers interested in any aspect of tropical biology or environmental studies are encouraged to apply, but preference is given to studies focusing on large vertebrates or the impacts of ecotourism. Opportunities also exist to join the active parrot and macaw research program. Applications are being accepted now until August 2000. To apply, please send a resume and brief (3 page max) proposal outlining your study to Donald J. Brightsmith, Duke University Department of Zoology. Email: All applications must be submitted by e-mail.

    Britain’s Whitley Award Scheme. The Whitley Award Scheme supports pragmatic, long-lasting field-based nature conservation projects. A major award from the Scheme should form the bulk of a project's required funding. The Scheme encourages applications from leaders of teams undertaking appropriate projects anywhere in the world. Close involvement of host country researchers and local institutions is essential. Undergraduate, school-level, and Ph.D. projects are not eligible. In 2000, the top prize will be worth up to £50,000, spread over two years. Three runners-up prizes will each be worth up to £20,000. The Rufford Small Grants Facility will offer up to 10 grants of up to £5,000 each. Information:

    The Lincoln Park Zoo Neotropic Fund supports field research in conservation biology throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The fund emphasizes support of graduate students and other young researchers, particularly those from Latin America. Between five and 15 projects are supported each year. Awards are seldom greater than US$7500, and most awards fall in the range of $3000-$6000. Initial support is for up to 12 months from the date of award. Maximum duration of support is two years. Deadline for receipt of Neotropical proposals is 1 September. Information and application procedures: Email: or write to: Lincoln Park Zoo Neotropic Fund, Department of Conservation and Science, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL 60614.


    *The International Canopy Network (ICAN) announces the Canopy Citations Database with over 1700 citations on canopy ecology. The ICAN has seven years of citations, and is available to current members only through the WWW. Citations can be accessed by author, year, title, journal, or category. Information:

    *The Biodiversity Support Program (BSP), The Nature Conservancy, and World Resources Institute, announce BSPonline. The site highlights information gained from BSP's 12+ years of work on biodiversity conservation. The site includes an electronic library of BSP publications. All publication are downloadable free of charge. To stay informed about changes and additions to BSPonline, subscribe to our easy-to-join listserv, available at the website at

    Ornithological websites. Bird Families of the World, housed at the University of Pennsylvania Web server, classifies the bird families of the world using the Sibley and Monroe classification system. One hundred forty-six families are listed, from Struthionidae (Ostriches) to Fringillidae (Finches and Allies) online at The AOU Check-list of North American Birds, Seventh Edition (1998) is at This site, prepared by the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), offers an online version of the seventh edition of Check-list of North American Birds (1998 publication), covering species from the Arctic through Panama, including the West Indies and Hawaiian Islands.