Tour of a Panama rainforest and cloud forest

Panama Topics 2018:

The Panama Canal

barge in the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is both history and current news! In operation for nearly a hundred years, it is now expanding to handle massive ships and more traffic, while conserving water for city use. The canal connects not only oceans but also brings continents closer. Come visit Panama and its fabulous canal to learn of technology in a rainforest paradise!

Tribal Peoples of Panama

Share the lives of Panama's indigenous tribal Americans! Kuna are self-sufficient people who live on many of the gorgeous Caribbean Islands. These artistic people produce colorful, intricate textiles that represent their lifestyles. The Embera, rainforest tribes, exist on the mainland and live today just as they have for the past few hundred years. Both cultures have a complete and fascinating knowledge of how to subsist within their environments using both flora and fauna to produce medicines, food, and transportation.

Rainforest Tour

What is a rainforest? Is there only one kind? Where are they? What lives there? How do we study them? What’s so special about them? When scientists study wildlife or ecosystems, they try to understand how we can live in harmony with our environment. Greg and Jackie Willis have helped contribute to environmental education by collaborating with an environmental theater group, The Civilians, in the design of their play (The Great Immensity) about vanishing species such as the jaguars that visit Barro Colorado Island. 

Predators Stalk within a Food Web

Anna with a Gecko

Predators get such a bad reputation for eating others. Yet, when we study them, we learn so much about ecosystems. Adaptations, anatomy and function, social organization, food webs, senses, and intelligence can all be studied through the intriguing lives of predators.

Rainforest Cats

Cautious and mostly nocturnal, ocelots are very hard to study. These medium-sized cats are important predators of rainforests in the Neotropics and other habitats from South Texas to southern South America, They play a special role in food webs which can be learned through study of a surprising behavior. Talk with scientists about how ocelots are observed, what has been learned, and what still needs to be known.


Several monkey species can live in the same forest but use different resources. Monkey species‌also show a diversity of life styles and social organizations. Many of these fascinating species are in danger of extinction.Learn about how monkeys live, their special adaptations, their unique behaviors and their ecological roles in rainforests.


Relationships between species within a tropical forest are very complex and interconnected. Organisms as different as ants and fungi or sloths and algae have spec‌ial relationships. How do species live together? What special adaptations make their lives together successful? What kinds of symbiosis do we find in a forest?

Insect Beauties

Shelf Mushroom on a tree

Beauty in the natural world might be defined by bright colors, graceful forms, intricate visual designs, fascinating behaviors, complex life history cycles, “helping” behaviors such as symbiosis,‌or whatever else strikes us as beautiful. Insects have all of these and more. Take a virtual gallery walk to learn about beautiful insects and how scientists study them. Maybe you’ll want to study them too!

The Secret Lives of Ants

Rainforests are magical places in which the diversity of life is laid out before the visitor, waiting for us to seek understanding of the mysteries. There are hundreds of thousands of species of insects in rainforest. These include moths, butterflies, beetles, ants, and mosquitoes, to name only a few groups. The world of ants is fascinating, with much to learn from these small creatures: where and how they live, what they do for a living, how they are organized, and much more. Join us from a rainforest in Panama to learn what ants can teach us.


There are more species of bats than there are of any other kind of mammal in tropical forests. How do they live? What can we learn about adaptations by studying bats? What are their special relationships with other species? What kinds of bats are there? How do scientists study bats? What makes them important in food webs?

Predator/Prey Dynamics in the Frog-Eating Bat (Trachops cirrhosus)

At night, male frogs make advertisement calls to attract mates. The frog-eating bat eavesdrops on these advertisement calls, and uses them to detect, locate and assess its prey. Just by listening to a frog’s call, the bats can distinguish palatable from poisonous prey, and prey that are too large to eat from prey that are the right size. Studies investigate the bats’ learning abilities: how they come to associate particular frog calls with expected prey quality, how these associations can be passed from bat to bat via social learning, and how flexible bats are in responding to novel prey cues.

Rainforest Remedies

One important reason for us to protect tropical rainforests is to save all of the unique plants that are still used as "herbal medicines". This session will discuss some common remedies used by Central and South American people to heal illnesses.

Dead Things and Decomposition

Pencil on a mushroom

The "Brown Food Web" is a way to view the multitude of decomposers and the processes that break down living organisms and return their nutrients to green plants. The diversity of decomposers rivals that of the Green Food Web in the leafy canopy of a rainforest community. How are nutrients recycled in a forest? What are the roles of various species in the process of returning nutrients to trees? Why is decomposition just as important as photosynthesis?


Some of the most wonderful and beautiful adaptations among animals are exhibited by snakes. Explore how they move, how they feed, how they play an important role in their ecosystems. What is venom and why does it interest pharmaceutical companies? Where do snakes live and how diverse are they?

Diversity of Animals in Rainforest Biomes

There are many kinds of rainforests, but they all have some factors in common. How are rainforests different from other forest biomes? What similarities do they share with other kinds of forests? Why are they so interesting to scientists? Why are rainforests endangered habitats?

Mammals: How do we study them?

Mammals can be hard to see in a forest and even harder to study. What are some techniques that scientists use to understand the lives of mammals? What do they learn when they gather the ‌ data? What kinds of questions do scientists seek to answer? See the extraordinary photos they take from cameras hidden deep in the forest.

The Poop-Cam

The cycles of energy and nutrients in an ecosystem form the foundation of life on Earth. Poop plays an important role in returning minerals to an ecosystem. How do dung beetles and other poop scavengers utilize this end-product of digestion? Mammals use scats and urine to leave messages for others of their species. Biologists study elusive species through their scats and with videocameras. What is there to learn from poop?

By appointment: Send email requests for topics, dates, grade level, and suggested times to Dot Stradford at

Videoconferences upon request.
PRICING (Class size is limited to 50. No auditorium sessions) $150 for one class

Click Here for Mangrove Connection -- from Thailand

For more information or to view pictures, click the links within the topic.