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American TropicsThe Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science$
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Megan Raby

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469635606

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469635606.001.0001

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Jungle Island

Jungle Island

(p.97) Chapter Three Jungle Island
American Tropics

Megan Raby

University of North Carolina Press

Tropical stations drew hundreds of U.S. biologists, few of whom would have attempted a rigorous tropical expedition on their own. In the 1920s through 1940s, Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in particular became a model tropical forest. Chapter 3 demonstrates how the station’s location on an island nature reserve within the Panama Canal Zone enabled unprecedented control over space and scientific labor. BCI was transformed into a scientific site by the removal of Panamanian settlers and through descriptions of the site as undisturbed and representative of tropical nature. It was maintained for science by the labor of Panamanian workers and through the development of a host of new techniques and technologies for the prolonged observation of tropical life. There, biologists were able to develop practices to monitor and census living tropical organisms as part of a complex, dynamic ecological community. BCI became increasingly accessible and observable—but only in certain ways and only to certain classes of people.

Keywords:   Barro Colorado Island, ecology, fieldwork, gender, labor, Panama Canal Zone, place-based, race, tropical forest, United States empire

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