Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) since 1974, Ira Rubinoff has been successful as both scientist and politician. The Republic of Panama, due to celebrate its centennial as a nation in 2003, has played a key role in the development of both his career and personal life. In the 1960's, with Ernst Mayr as graduate advisor, Rubinoff demonstrated morphological differences between Pacific and Caribbean populations of fish species separated by the rise of the Isthmus of Panama. As a post-doctoral fellow he showed that these populations were still capable of gene exchange and that potential behavioral isolating mechanisms were still incomplete after 2.5 million years. With T.H. Hamilton he worked to develop modern biogeographic theory. By 1976, Rubinoff had published five times in the prestigious journals, "Science" and "Nature".
As STRIs director since 1974, Rubinoff masterminded a 400% increase (from 9 to 35) in the number of permanent staff scientists and directly supervised the construction or modernization of every STRI facility. At the same time, he shepherded the Institution through the reversion of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, a process spanning more than thirty years, and the U.S. Invasion of Panama in 1989. He has raised more than $50,000,000 from Foundations and philanthropists; including $14,000,000 in endowment funds. The continuity of his Directorship was recently recognized in "Science" (July 2001
Contact: Beth King
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute