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Joan Siedenburg loves STRI Panama. On her first trip to Panama with a tour group in the 1990’s, Joan Siedenburg visited the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) where she attended a presentation about STRI’s biological research in tropical regions around the world. She also met staff scientist, Stanley Heckadon, who told her about the Smithsonian’s outdoor education projects for kids at the Galeta Point Marine Laboratory.
A lifelong adventurer, Joan has travelled to Antarctica, the Galapagos, Iceland and Greenland, the Azores and even to Nine North, a region of hydrothermal vents on the East Pacific Rise, where she explored the ocean floor in a deep-sea submersible, but as a result of her experiences at the Smithsonian, she holds a special place in her heart for Panama.
“I wanted to learn more about STRI because I was fascinated by what I heard on that first trip,” remembers Joan, who followed through by contacting the development office in Washington and by making a significant donation. Subsequently, as her friendships across the Smithsonian grew, she became increasingly involved as a special project supporter. She has visited STRI nearly every year for many years.
“STRI is a place where I belong. There is such variety in Panama: the oceans, the beaches, the mountains…People who live here are used to it, but it is amazing for someone who has not seen this before. And people probably don’t realize that there are so many scientists working in Panama’s natural areas. Researchers do not wear a sign that says ‘I’m a scientist.’”
During one of her trips to STRI’s research station on Barro Colorado Island, Joan dug through archives, found photos and wrote the text for a special brochure about the Smithsonian’s legacy of 100 years of tropical research in Panama.
On another trip, she joined staff scientist, Hector Guzman, on a DeepSee submersible voyage to explore and map the Hannibal Banks seamount in Panama’s Coiba National Park. “I started out to be a scientist, but it didn’t work out that way,” Joan explained. “Following World War II, many men preferred to have their wives stay at home rather than to seek employment. STRI has made it possible for me to see what it’s like to do this work, first hand,” said Joan.
As part of her involvement in STRI projects, Joan has set up several charitable gift annuities. She agreed to transfer assets to a Smithsonian account in return for a partial U.S. tax deduction and a lifetime stream of annual interest income.
Joan Siedenburg loves STRI Panama: “Joan’s encouragement and passion for learning inspires many Smithsonian scientific colleagues,” said Guzman. Gifts such as Joan’s support STRI staff and some of the nearly 1500 visiting scientists and students who conduct research at the Smithsonian’s array of facilities across the Republic of Panama. Such support makes it possible for scientists to produce more than 470 research publications each year and to provide the scientific background information needed by conservationists to protect Panama’s natural wealth.
For more information visit www.stri.si.edu.