From the Field: Farewell, Panama

Posted by KristenM on December 28th, 2012

by Kristy Hill

The oyster Isognomon sp. in the crevices of a rocky reef at Fort Sherman on the Atlantic coast of Panama. (Kristy Hill)

Yesterday we ventured to the Caribbean coast of Panama, where we had beautiful weather for sampling. Our first stop was near Fort Sherman, a former United States Army base, where we found lots of Isognomon oysters on the subtidal rocks. These oysters are unusual because instead of cementing their shell to a hard surface, they attach themselves to rocks and mangroves with a threadlike structure. We also were able to collect a Crassostrea sp. and a few Ostrea sp. as well.

We then headed to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) Marine Laboratory in Galeta. We braved the somewhat turbulent waters and snorkeled to collect from the mangroves, despite reports of crocodiles that frequent the area. Oh, the lengths we’ll go to in the name of science.

We also scoped out another site on the French Canal on our way back to STRI. We stopped on an overpass and saw large oysters on the pilings. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get down to them without our spelunking equipment (kidding), so we had to leave them for now. This location is definitely on the list for our next visit, but we’ll have to approach it from a different angle–perhaps with kayaks.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Panama for almost two weeks now. We’ve collected over 500 oysters of at least six different species! I have a few battle scars–oysters can be vicious–but all in all we have fared well and are hoping that we avoided getting any of the human parasites that occur here. (I really don’t want a botfly larvae under my skin!!)

Perhaps the mud and dirt will be gone by then, but I’m fairly certain the oyster smell will remain!

More stories from Panama >>


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Louis Seldon says:

    While you were at Ft. Sherman did you visit the old Spanish Fort San Lorenzo or 1+ drive to Porto Belo?
    Louis Seldon
    Keller, TX
    Cell # 954-610-5121
    Panama Cell # (011-507) 6649-9815

  2. Wow, super interesting read, even for a lay person like myself…had no idea oysters could be vicious (or that we had this variety here in Panama…are they edible?) Blogs like this help raise awareness among Panamanians and Panama residents RE what a beautiful eco-system we have and how important it is to do what we can to preserve it, thank you!

    Jessica Ramesch
    Panama editor
    International Living

  3. John Jackley says:

    Loved your post–it brought up lots of great memories of living on the Atlantic side (as we called it) and working at Gatun Locks. Did your research extend to Bocas as well?

    John Jackley

  4. Katrina Lohan says:

    Thank you for the comments! Here are my answers to your inquiries:

    Louis- Unfortunately we weren’t able to see much of Ft. Sherman other than the lagoon area near the lighthouse that we sampled. However, if we get to go back to Ft. Sherman, I’m definitely going to inquire if it would be possible to at least stop at the old Spanish fort.

    John- While we did not visit Bocas this time, we will be returning to Panama at the end of January and will be heading to Bocas during that trip.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog posts and sending us your comments!

  5. Kristy Hill says:

    Hi Ms. Ramesch,

    Thanks for your comments. We’re glad you are enjoying our blog! Panama is absolutely beautiful and we are excited to return at the end of the month to do some more exploring/sampling.

    I only say oysters are vicious because of their sharp, jagged shell–I have several cuts on my legs and hands to prove it! I’m not aware of people consuming flat tree oysters (the Isognomon species), but I’ll ask around to see if I can find any information for you.

  6. jeff says:

    sounds like an adventure.. :-) we will miss you in Panama..

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