My Research Adventure – Ryan Thompson

My name is Ryan Thompson and I am a rising high school senior at Menlo School. Because I had demonstrated commitment to ecology and sustainability, I was awarded a HAND Foundation grant to study tropical ecosystems in Central America and explore the use of satellite imagery to assist researchers. I was drawn to Cocobolo because of its critical location in the tropical corridor. I was lucky to be able to visit this summer and had an exciting and productive week. I am heading to college next year and hope to continue to pursue environmental studies.

I had an amazing experience at Cocobolo Nature Reserve! I hiked every day in the rainforest with resident scientist Stephane De Greef, where we ran into howler monkeys, tamarin monkeys, white-faced monkeys, tarantulas, an eyelash pit viper, a whip spider and many more cool animals. One day out on the trail, we came across a fer-de-lance, an extremely venomous snake, that was thankfully distracted by digesting a large meal. One night we took a hike at night up the Mamoni River and a friendly river otter swam right over to us. We also saw spiders that could run over the top of the river. The wilderness at Cocobolo is dense and incredibly beautiful and the chance to see many rare and endangered species was awe-inspiring.

Stephane and I had the opportunity to work on a research project where we analyzed satellite imagery to see changes in vegetation through rainy and dry seasons with a software program called QGIS. We were also able to use satellite imagery to begin mapping new trails that Stephane will be using to explore the area over the coming months. Using the software and satellite imagery, we discovered that approximately 23% of the valley inside the Mamoni Watershed area has been deforested. Preserving the local ecosystems is critical to supporting the diversity of wildlife that we experienced on our hikes every day.

Cocobolo’s diverse ecosystems give visitors the opportunity to learn about a multitude of plant and animal species. Given that the Nature Reserve has primary rainforests, secondary rainforests, and cloud forests within it, I was able to learn about the subtle yet important differences between the habitats of organisms living in the region. Cocobolo serves as a safe haven for animals that use this forest area to safely live and cross this narrow area between North and South America.

CREA, the organization that runs Cocobolo, has a mission to conserve this spectacular land in Panama. Much more of the land where Cocobolo is located would have been deforested and made into cattle pastures if not for CREA establishing and maintaining Cocobolo Nature Reserve. CREA does amazing work with local farmers and cattle ranchers to try to encourage them to use techniques that won’t harm the local natural environment. I really appreciate the work of Stephane at Cocobolo and Dr. Michael Roy and the team at CREA to create this truly unique experience. I would love to return to Cocobolo and I strongly encourage others who would like an incredible adventure and an opportunity to see rare species and wild nature to visit the Reserve!

BugCamp – Come discover the insects of Cocobolo in August!

We’re excited to introduce our new activity to discover the insects and other small animals of Cocobolo – starting August 2017: BugCamps!

BugCamps are week-long immersion trips to experience firsthand the rainforests and cloud forests of Central Panama and discover the amazing diversity of tropical insects and other small animals. They’re designed primarily for people who are interested in nature, insects and tropical biodiversity but didn’t get a chance to experience it yet, either because it was daunting to organise such a trip or simply because they haven’t found yet an easy, fun and educational way to discover the tropics.

We will organise the first BugCamp in Cocobolo from 27 August to 3 September 2017. It will be a 8-day nature discovery trip, including 6 days in the rainforests. For more information, visit

The participation fee for this first BugCamp is 950 USD per person.

Included: airport pickup in Panama City, accommodation in double-occupancy local guesthouse in Panama City, transport to and from Cocobolo, all meals and lodging in the field station. And of course, our unconditional and complete dedication to your daily entertainment and education!

Not included: international airfare to Panama City, travel and health insurance, lunch and dinner in Panama City on day 1, 7 and 8.

If you’re wondering about how to get to Panama, vaccinations and what to pack, we have three great resources on our CREA/Cocobolo website: Travel TipsHealth and Safety and Packing List.  And if you have any question, contact us or send an email to

See you soon!

Avian Research

CREA has been studying Cocobolo’s rich avifauna, both residents and migrants, since 2007. To study the bird populations of Panama, we rely on the following methods:

  • mist netting in Cocobolo Nature Reserve, identification, measurement and release;
  • early-morning bird walks to identify residents and migrating species;
  • bio-acoustics to identify birds by their call.

Climate change and habitat loss are affecting bird populations worldwide, especially migratory species that depend on intact habitat and resources in different parts of the world. Climate change is affecting the timing of the presence of essential food (e.g. insect and fruit) for migratory species, hindering their ability to successfully migrate often thousands of miles across land and ocean.

It is essential to monitor the state of bird populations to know if and which species are being affected. To do this CREA runs a bird banding station at Cocobolo and, in addition to recording resident species, records all migratory species visiting the reserve each winter. The data, when put together over time, will help us to understand how species are changing and which are most vulnerable and need attention.

Roy, M.S. and Doss, L.K. Building Migratory Bridges. The Science Teacher: Nov. 56-63 (2007).

Our new 2017 Herps Field Guide is out!

Yet another reason to be thrilled about our amazing biodiversity!

Twan Leenders​ from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History​, just sent us the updated 2017 Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Cocobolo Nature Reserve​, featuring no less than 113 species with gorgeous pictures and tips to identify them!

Get your digital copy from our website at


Herpetology Course Announced for June 2017

CREA announces a 1 week hands-on course in Herpetology to be held at Cocobolo Biological Field Station, where participants will learn and explore the multitude of amphibian and reptile species that call this biodiversity hotspot home. We are very happy to have both Alex Shepack and Abel Batista facilitate this course. They bring international expertise and immense local knowledge to this course. Please hurry to reserve your space. See the brochure here or click on the image below.


Herpetology Field Course Brochure 2017

Virginia Tech Visit Cocobolo 2017

14 students and their faculty lead, Prof. John McGee, visited Cocobolo Nature Reserve to participate in a study abroad trip organized by CREA.

This was the third year that Virginia Tech have partnered with CREA and Cocobolo Nature Reserve.

Students learnt about tropical ecology, conservation, sustainability and ecological field techniques, while seeing some amazing plants and animals in this biodiversity hotspot.

Conservation Photography Field Course 2017

JUNE 11th-17th 2017

Award winning nature photographer and documentary maker Clay Bolt together with Wildlife Biologist and Photographer Andrew Snyder will guide participants to take compelling nature photographs in a natural setting in the heart of a Panamanian rainforest.

– Learn how to effectively evaluate and respond to a photographic opportunity in the field
– Increase understanding of photographing various types of plant and animal life, and people in the field
– Use a variety of different photographic techniques to document biodiversity and story elements
– Develop a narrative with images that cover the most important elements of a story
– Have a basic understanding of how to pitch a story to editors and various media buyers

– Five full-day stay at the Cocobolo Nature Reserve’s biological field station
– Day and night hikes to discover and document a broad array of wildlife
– Hands-on photographic demonstration and experimentation
– Evening lectures and slideshows
– Image review and discussion

The Course is limited to 10 participants

Cost: $1800

Download the Brochure Here

Apply here

Clay Bolt Interview On Cocobolo

Clay Bolt, the award winning photographer and co-founder of “Meet Your Neighbors” recently visited the Cocobolo Nature Reserve along with other photographers and Scientists. He was part of a major expedition to photograph and monitor some of the last remaining Harlequin Frogs which have drastically declined due to chytrid disease, as well as document through photographs, some of the immense biodiversity of the reserve. In this interview Clay provides his impressions of Cocobolo and also some insight into his profession as a photographer and his deep seated commitment to conservation. See the full interview here

Cocobolo in FrogLog

Cocobolo tropical frog research was in the news recently! Our work in the Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama received global attention earlier this spring in FrogLog, the quarterly publication of the ASA. CREA is a partner organization of Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI) and the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), with the three combining forces to carry out this tremendous work on critically endangered amphibians in Central America.

See the article on page 61 – “Life in the Time of Bd: Long-Term Monitoring of Wild Atelopus in Eastern Panama” – for all the details!

Limosa Harlequin Toad (Atelopus limosus) in New Scientist

In the 60 years that the illustrious journal New Scientist has been around they’ve never run a photo-led feature. We are very proud and honored that they decided to break with that tradition with a story on Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History President Twan Leenders’ work with endangered frogs here in the Cocobolo Nature Reserve in Panama, featuring photos of Clay Bolt. Research on a population of the exceedingly rare Limosa Harlequin Toad (Atelopus limosus) is predicted to give us more information on why these frogs are surviving while surrounding populations are going extinct. We hope that this information will support conservation efforts not only here but worldwide and reverse the global decline in amphibian populations.

Atelopus limosus New Scientist