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Station 6:
modern studies


Stop by the Visitor Center to discuss the studies that generated the information featured on this tour and in the exhibit.

The sources of the information presented on this website



Peter Glynn, Stewart and McCosker (STRI) carried out the first characterization of the Panamanian Pacific reefs. Their expedition spent a few days on Isla Iguana and they bequeathed us the first description of the reef at El Cirial Beach.


Camilo Grandi, Biologist and director of the PA.NA.MA Foundation, led an inspection to assess progress in the reconstruction of the old Minsín and Gringa house to serve as the Park Ranger's House, a project that was financed by the foundation. Marco accompanied him.  Diaz, a recently graduated Marine Biologist and Oceanographer and volunteer for the foundation, who dove for  first time on the reef  Cirial. immediately  noticed  of the ecological importance and wonder of the reef and the island. Finding a single item  scientific  and some brochures, decides to initiate studies that contribute to the knowledge and conservation of the site. He joins the Pedasí Conservation Group and begins the biological inventory, assisted by Eduardo Moscoso, Pablo Barrios (Toto) and Mario Espino.

camilo grandi

Camilo Grandi with members of the Pedasí Conservation Group in front of the remodeled house of Minsín and Gringa.

Grupo Conservacionista de Pedasi

Members of the Pedasí Conservation Group and the PA.NA.MA Foundation pose next to the first sign on Iguana Island. Framework  Diaz  red t-shirt holder

playita del faro

First photographs taken by Marco  Díaz on Iguana Island, December 1987.

playa el cirial

First underwater photograph taken by Marco  Díaz on Iguana Island, December 1987.

Framework  Diaz in the Playita del Faro. The biological inventory consisted of photographing and filming all the biota found on the island, the surrounding sea, and the coasts of Pedasí. In 1996 it was extended to the entire coast between the mouths of the Guararé and Cañas rivers. Clicking on the image  will open  Biological Inventory page.

playita del faro


Framework  Diaz , Pablo Barrios and Mario Espino demarcated the bomb hole in the El Cirial reef, in front of the existing bohío to start a monitoring of the living coral cover in the coral platform that is exposed to the air during low tides and thus understand how it survives the coral to this  impact  natural.

Pablo Barrios tying a rope around the bomb hole to demarcate the area to be monitored.

pablo barrios


Between 1989 and 1992, Mark  Diaz  counted the nests of Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) by boat trips around the island and taking pictures with high-range lenses from the lighthouse, estimating the population at 5,642 individuals (average of the four years). In addition, sites near the coastline were visited to obtain detailed photos and quantify nests in plots of 100 square meters.

The location of the lighthouse, on a hill of basalt rock, allowed an aerial view of almost the entire island.

light house isla iguana
aves isla iguana
birds iguana island
faro isla iguana

Views of Earwig nests taken with long-range lenses, from the Lighthouse, in 1990.

bird wathcing isla iguana

Visit one of the nesting sites. 1990.

bird wathcing iguana island

Taking photos from the Lighthouse. 1990.


Between August 1989 and October 1990, Marco  Diaz  published La Fragata, the Informative Bulletin of the Pedasí Conservation Group, which was issued every two months, where the progress of the investigations, news and messages were published. It was distributed to the population of Pedasí. By clicking on the image you can download the nine publications.

news isla iguana


On August 5 and 6, 1989, the Pedasí Conservation Group organized the First Fishing Tournament in Pedasí, whose objective was  feed  the biological inventory with the species of commercial and sport fishing importance and their fishing methods. 

Since then, annual fishing tournaments have been held in Pedasí organized by companies and residents.

fishing isla iguana


In 1990, Dr. Héctor Guzmán, R. Ross Robertson and Marco Díaz published a detailed description of the El Cirial reef, using the "Benjamín" ship of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) as a base. The expedition lasted six days to map the reef, inventory coral species and associated biota, estimate live coral cover and bioeroder populations, and quantify the age and thickness of the reef and larger massive coral colonies. . Before and after the expedition, several visits were made to complete the field work.

coral isla iguana

STRI divers extracting samples from the base of the El Cirial reef to analyze with Carbon 14 and thus estimate its age.

transepto isla iguana
stri isla iguana

STRI diver performing a live coral cover transept and boarding the Benjamin at the end of a day's work. 1990.

buceo isla iguana
diving isla iguana

All works were recorded with photographs and videos.

coral sembrado


In 1991, volunteer divers repopulated a hectare of coral on Isla Iguana, which had been completely killed by the 1982 El Niño, as part of a massive repopulation experiment that was being carried out in Panama (Iguana Island and Las Perlas Archipelago), Colombia and Costa Delicious. Directed by Dr. Héctor Guzmán , for more than 147 hours underwater, the divers nailed small metal rods to the bottom and tied to them, with wire, more than 1,000 fragments of coral, the size of a finger, that came from places where anchors had fallen. In addition, more than 7,000 live fragments were scattered over the reef, which adhered to the bottom and grew, forming new colonies. During the following years, the changes in the live coverage of the fund were evaluated, which increased significantly in the medium term. In addition, genetic samples were taken from the various species used. The experiment was a success, and Dr. Guzmán was awarded, in 1994, the International Rolex Award. Until 2006, a photographic record of the project was kept, annually taking photographs and video of the colonies and repopulated plots, when the colonies came together and now form a complete coral cover.

repoblar coral
coral repopulation

Volunteer divers driving rods into the dead coral gravel bottom and tying a coral fragment to them.

siembra coral

Volunteer diver mooring with  wire  a fragment of coral to the rods nailed to the bottom.

coral restoration

Volunteer diver spreading live coral fragments on the bottom.


corals  tied to the  to rods, some years later.

repoblacion coral

Almost a ton of 30 cm long rods were used.

repoblacion de coral

corals  tied to the  to rods, some years later.

nineteen ninety five

Dr. Juan Maté (STRI) conducted genetic studies of corals and the effects of temperatures on corals.

monitoreo coral


Between 2000 and 2014, Dr. Héctor Guzmán maintained a coral reef monitoring program with submerged thermometers as part of the monitoring of the coral reefs of Panama. Twice a year he visited the island to carry out  live cover transepts and change the fixed instruments on the bottom that collected data on temperature, salinity and other parameters.

coral monitoring

Dr. Guzmán, his assistants and the crew of the research ship  Urraca, from STRI on one of his monitoring tours on Iguana Island. 14.Nov.2000.


Between 2003 and 2007, Mark  Díaz completed the map of Isla Iguana, which he began in 1990 with the analysis of aerial ortho-photos from 1981 and 2005, aerial photographs taken in 1990 and 2003,  new satellite images from Google Earth and more than 6,000 underwater man - hours from 14 volunteers who assisted in the field to map seabed types and produce detailed bathymetry around the island . We keep working; El Jorón, the submarine platform to the north of the island that extends for about 2 km into the open sea, remains to be mapped.

Pressing any photo will open the updated map.

buceo iguana
scuba iguana
mapa isla iguana
diving iguana

Ortho-aerial photo from 1981. Tommy Guardia National Geographic Institute.

Volunteer diver next to one of the submerged basaltic columns to the east of the island, during one of the research dives.

Volunteer divers preparing for one of the dives of  research  on Iguana Island.


Since 2006, José Julio Casas has studied the cetaceans that  inhabit the waters of Pedasí and has contributed to regulating the sighting at the national level.


Glynn, PW, Stewart, RH And McCosker, JE 1972. Pacific coral reefs of Panama: Structure, Distribution and Predators. Are. Geo. Rund. Band 61: 483-519.

Glynn, Peter and Juan Maté. 1996. Field Guide to the Pacific Coral Reefs of Panama. 8th International Coral Reef Symposium. Panama. 24-29 June 1996.

Guzman, HM, Robertson, DR & Diaz, ML  1991.  Distribution and abundance of corals in the reef of the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, Panama Pacific.  Rev. Biol. Trop., 39(2): 225-231.

Guzmán, Héctor M. and Jorge Cortés. 1993. Coral reefs of the eastern tropical Pacific: review and perspectives. Rev. Biol. Trop. 41(3): 535-557.

Maté, Juan L. 2003. Corals and coral reefs of the Pacific coast of Panama. In: Latin American Coral Reefs. Ed. JC Cortes. Pages 387-417.

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