Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Partnership

The Department of Biological Sciences at Butler University has recently teamed with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama to form a partnership designed to afford Butler undergraduates opportunities to study and conduct research in Panama. STRI, founded in 1923, is dedicated to understanding tropical biodiversity. STRI is home to 38 staff scientists and supports 900 visiting scientists annually. Many STRI scientists conduct long-term ecological research addressing nearly every aspect of tropical biodiversity from genetics, physiology, and ecology to the structure and function of ecosystems and the biosphere. Collectively, the work of STRI scientists and the location and quality of STRI’s facilities, has resulted in STRI becoming one of the premier research institutions in the world.
The Butler – STRI partnership has three main student-centered components.

  • Student Internship Program – This program will support student research experiences in Panama. Approximately 4 students per year will serve as paid research interns for existing research projects conducted by STRI associated scientists. In this capacity, students will assist with all aspects of on-going research and will also have the opportunity to design and conduct original, related research. Student interns will stay on-site for up to 4 months depending on the nature of the research project. Each student intern will be under the oversight of a Butler faculty/staff mentor. The mentor will monitor intern progress and work closely with the Dean of Students at STRI to ensure a satisfactory on-site learning experience.
  • Majors biology course on-site study in Panama – Butler faculty offer an intensive field  courses as part of the partnership to educate students on the biodiversity and varied terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the tropics. Students in this course study for 2 – 3 weeks with a team of Butler biologists at various locations throughout Panama, including cloud forests, tropical dry forests, a variety of agricultural landscapes, and lowland rainforests. Over the course of time in-country, students interact with a variety of STRI scientists, learning first-hand from the researchers on site.
  • Student / Faculty Research – The partnership will provide support for Butler students to team with Butler faculty to conduct research on-site in Panama. Student / faculty teams will collaborate with STRI scientists to conduct supplemental or new research projects. The length and timing of stays in Panama by student / faculty teams will vary greatly depending on research activities.

Funding has been secured to supplement all components of the Butler – STRI partnership. Scholarships and need-based funding will be made available to interested, qualified students to afford all students the opportunity to take advantage of these unique educational opportunities.
Contact Dr. Travis Ryan, 317-940-9977,,
or Dr. Carmen Salsbury, 317-940-9879,