A Magic Web: The Tropical Forest of Barro Colorado

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) proudly presents A Magic Web: The Tropical Forest of Barro Colorado, published by Oxford University Press. Palms walk, transparent wings flash, teeth gnash and wasps oviposit when STRI staff ecologist, Egbert Leigh, and photographer, Christian Ziegler, team up artfully to celebrate one of the most intensively studied tropical forests on the planet, Panama's Barro Colorado Island.

An adept ecology student and photographer, Ziegler arrived on Barro Colorado in 1999. He quickly identified a glaring hole in the publication record of nearly 80 years of tropical biology research: no coffee table book, no published collection of photos, presented this amazing community of plants, animals and scientists to students and the public.

The obvious choice for author, Egbert Giles Leigh, Jr., joined the STRI staff in 1969. Leigh has contributed two scientific summaries of work on Barro Colorado, as co-editor of "The Ecology of a Tropical Forest: Seasonal Rhythms and Long-term Changes"(1982) and as author of "Tropical Forest Ecology, A View from Barro Colorado Island" (1999). After dinner on the Island, Leigh regularly invites greenhorn and seasoned researchers to his study, where the day's discoveries can be sipped and savored.

With Leigh on board, and with funds from STRI, Ziegler spent 15 months in the field over the next two years to photograph Barro Colorado. Island scientists learned to find Christian when they spotted a toucan nest or parasitoid wasps ovipositing in caterpillar pupae. Ziegler's biology background and perseverance enabled him to close the gap between photographer and subject, resulting in intimate natural images.

"Taking advantage of the knowledge of generations of researchers, using modern camera techniques and being patient (and in many cases, lucky), I have tried to lift the green curtain for brief moments to obtain glimpses of the processes that shape the forest of Bar

Contact: Christian Ziegler
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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