Opening Laboratory on Barro Colorado Island Biological
Stories from the United States' relationship with the Panama Canal, in celebration of its centenary
In 1923, the U.S. Government designated Barro Colorado Island in Gatun Lake as a natural reserve. It was administered by the former Panama Canal Company until 1946, when control passed to the Smithsonian Institute. Barro Colorado Island is considered one of the best studied biological areas in the world. The island conserves the original species of the forest which was flooded to create Gatun Lake. Though the biodiversity of this ‘red clay’ (Barro Colorado in Spanish) island is much the same as the rest of the surrounding rainforest; its small, isolated footprint allows for very controlled, and more accurate test results. A peculiarity of the biodiversity of Barro Colorado is that it is the only area in the center of Panama which has a population of spider monkeys.