Roberto IbanezRoberto Ibáñez, PhD, Project Director

Roberto Ibáñez is the in-country Director of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, based at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, as well as appointed regional/country chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Amphibian Specialist Group, and elected member to the International Herpetological Committee of the World Congress of Herpetology.  He has been part-time Associate Professor at the Universidad de Panamá (1996-2013), and professor during de Panama Field Study Semester of McGill University (2003-2013).  He received his B.S. in Biology from the Universidad de Panama, and his Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Zoology from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Connecticut.  He was also an active supporter of The Research and Analysis Network for Neotropical Amphibians (RANA), and has been invited to participate in various amphibian conservation initiatives in Latin America.  He has studied the amphibians and reptiles of Panama for more than 30 years.  He has published more than 30 peer-reviewed papers, more than 20 notes, and a book guide to the amphibians of the lowlands of central Panama.


Heidi Ross, BSc, EVACC Manager

Heidi Ross is the director of the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) located on the grounds of El Níspero Zoo in El Valle de Antón Panama. She was one of the original founders of EVACC which was created in response to dramatic chytridiomycosis-related amphibian declines that was first detected in 2006. She has been intensely involved in amphibian conservation in Panama for over a decade. Heidi oversees the amphibian collection, staff, and invertebrate production at EVACC and is committed to improving husbandry, and captive breeding of both amphibians and invertebrates, and eventual reintroduction of frogs to the wild. She has a strong commitment to science and education and has collaborated with many scientists over the years, publishing on diverse topics including amphibian natural history, genetics, husbandry, taxonomy and conservation. Heidi is equally committed to sharing conservation messages with the local community through the outstanding exhibition area at EVACC and assisting in the coordination of the activities for the annual golden frog day celebrations in El Valle. Heidi received her undergraduate training in biology at Luther College in Iowa in 1999, and shortly afterwards made her way to Panama as a Peace Corps specialist in sustainable agriculture. She worked with communities inside the Omar Torrijos National Park for 3 years and worked for a year as the regional coordinator.


JorgeJorge Guerrel, BSc, Gamboa ARCC Manager
Jorge has worked as an amphibian conservation biologist with the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project since 2009. Jorge is outstanding in the field and he enjoys seeing amphibians in their native habitats, having participated in most of the project’s rescue expeditions. Jorge, is responsible for the overall captive management of species collected, overseeing quarantine, day-to-day husbandry, and developing breeding setups that mimic field conditions experienced by the frogs. Jorge’s current research interests include estimating populations of tadpoles that occur in captivity and developing methods to increase the survival rate of individuals, he looks forward to working on reintroduction programs. Prior to this position Jorge worked as a field biologist working for the society of Mammals of Panama (SOMASPA). He rescued and relocated of wildlife in the Panama Canal area and monitored amphibians of the cloud forest within El Parque Nacional Chagres. He has a degree in biology with orientation in environmental biology from the Universidad de Panamá. Jorge is interested in learning more about amphibians and continues studying to apply his field knowledge to conserve amphibians.

IMG_7642Rigoberto Díaz, Amphibian Conservation Biologist & Volunteer Coordinator
Rigoberto began as an intern at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project in May of 2012. A few months later, he became the staff in charge of the production of insects that are used for feeding our frogs and working 24-7 to produce plentiful supplies of crickets, fruit flies, springtails, beetles, moths and cockroaches. He has worked to refine the husbandry methods in our cricket colonies, making it more efficient and hygienic for the animals and for staff and volunteers that taking care of them. Prior to PARC, Rigoberto worked as a field biologist doing rescue and relocation of wildlife in the mountain forest at eastern-central Panama in the Colon and Coclé provinces. He is interested in applied ecology and conservation with a special curiosity in the ecology of insects and arachnids. He is earning his bachelor’s degree in Biology with an emphasis on Zoology at University of Panama and he’s currently working on his undergrad thesis on “Arachnid diversity and distribution on north eastern Panama”.

Lanki Chelankijpgucarama, Aide & Parataxonomist
Lanki joined the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project in 2010. He helps with the day to day management of the collection, biosecurity and overall running of the facility. Lanki has a keen interest in the native wildlife of Panama and he is also our expert when it comes to collecting different species of plants for our terrariums, since he has a lot of first-hand experience in the surrounding forest. Lanki belongs to an indigenous group in Panama, the Wounaan. Proud of his culture, Lanki shares stories, language and his art with everybody at the project who shows an interest and if you are lucky, you can be invited back to see his village on the Chagres river. Lanky is an outstanding artist who works with tagua (vegetable ivory) carver and is adept at carving realistic-looking representations of the frogs in our amphibian collection.

NairNair Cabezon, Aide & Parataxonomist
Nair joined the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project in February of 2013, as assistant in the production of insects used to feed our frogs. She helps with the husbandry and production of food insects including: crickets, fruit flies, springtails, cockroaches, moths and beetles. Nair is studying for her bachelor’s degree in Medical Emergency and Disasters at Universidad Especializada de las Americas in Panama. She has an interest in veterinary treatments and would like to become more involved in working on animal health issues. She belongs to the Wounnan, one of the largest indigenous groups in the country, and lives in the community of San Antonio in Gamboa. As other members of her community, Nair enjoys sharing and teaching about her traditions to everyone interested in learning more about her culture.

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