Live from…the Panama Rainforest

Montclair State University and Liberty Science Center use videoconferencing to bring the wildlife of Panama to Students

Monkeys, bats, tropical plants and the always popular Poop-Cam are all part of Montclair State University’s Rainforest Connection Live, an interactive science education program that connects classrooms, through live video conferencing, with scientists conducting research in rainforests around the world.  

Montclair State’s College of Science and Mathematics and Liberty Science Center will begin a teaching collaboration on Monday, February 27, 2012, that will allow students to “travel” to Central America to “meet” and verbally interact with Montclair State scientists currently conducting research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island in Panama.  Paul Hoffman, Liberty Science Center’s president and CEO, will also be at the research station in Panama to greet the children.

Before the video conference begins, the students will view animals in Liberty Science Center’s Eat and Be Eaten exhibition and learn about predator-prey strategies from Science Center educators. Once live with the students, the scientists in Panama will explain details of predator-prey relationships observed on the island and, with Liberty Science Center’s educators, help connect those to the animals in Eat and Be Eaten. 

The nearly 4,000-acre Barro Colorado Island was created during the construction of the Panama Canal.  Due to its protective island isolation, its native flora and fauna are largely intact, a boon for long-term ecological studies.  Some 900 visiting scientists from academic and research institutions conduct research there every year.

Launched in 2003, The Rainforest Connection Live was developed by Montclair State University’s Jackie Willis, director of Professional Resources in Science and Mathematics, College of Science and Mathematics, and her husband, Greg Willis, a wildlife photographer and naturalist. 

The program is sponsored by PRISM (Professional Resources in Science and Mathematics), The Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching & Learning and the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University, as well as The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama. The award-winning interactive science education program reaches over 100 classrooms each year in nine states and four countries, and originates from rainforests in Panama, Belize, Thailand, and Australia.