Today I spent almost the full day at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, which is truly an amazing place. I met with the two scientists who will be overseeing my spider study, and we had a great conversation about bees and beetles (and spiders, of course). The diversity of life here in Panama is astounding, from cycad plants that carry mutation-causing chemicals to the brightly-colored caterpillars that eat them and use the toxins in their food as a defense. One of the areas where these cycads happen to grow is where lots of Vachellia plants may be found, so I’m going to try to post some photos as soon as I can get out there.
Though Panama City is a big, modern city, the tropical forest is never far away. Parakeets chirp in the trees, frigatebirds sail through the skies, and exotic-looking plants grow just about everywhere.
At the same time, most of Panama City feels like one giant traffic jam. Since I was last here in 2006, it seems that the number of cars has doubled, if not more. While I guess that might be taken as a measure of economic development, the streets sure are crowded! Without some major changes to street infrastructure, I’m not sure how these “tranques” will ever be eased.