2016 Golden Frog Festival Calendar of Events

Golden Frog Day Calendar 2016


Paseo El Valle, El Valle de Anton
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Activities: Games for children, exhibition of frogs, food and drinks, and the Golden Frog mascot.

La Dorada Race
6:00 to 11:00 a.m.
Walk or run 5 to 15km to save a national treasure.
main streat of El Valle

Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project
1:00 – 4:00 PM
Activities: Open house to visit the amphibian Ark and meet the scientists.

18 -19 AUGUST
Atlapa Convention Center
9:00 a.m. to 9:00 PM
Activities: exhibition of science and live frogs, games, dynamic, book sales and more.

Punta Culebra Nature Center,
Calzada de Amador, Panama
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Activities: Meet experts frogs, Restaurant Rana, face painting, many games, food and drinks.

Please remember that up until golden frog day, all donations to the amphibian rescue project will be generously matched by Golden Frog CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Surveying amphibian skin bacteria in Panamá

Amphibians are dying all over the world due to chytridiomycosis. This disease, caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is responsible for dramatic amphibian declines and extinctions in the Neotropics, including Panamanian tropical forests.

We are a research team that is part of an NSF project investigating microbial diversity on frog skin in Panama. This team includes three principal investigators (Lisa Belden, Reid Harris and Kevin Minbiole), three postdoctoral fellows (Eria Rebollar, Myra Hughey and Tom Umile) and several graduate and undergraduate students from James Madison University, Virginia Tech, Villanova University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. We are interested in understanding how microbial communities from amphibian skin might contribute to the survival of amphibian species that have persisted in the wild despite the presence of Bd. Since 2012, we have collected samples from multiple sites in lowland tropical forests to describe the factors that shape skin microbial communities in tropical amphibians, including the presence of the pathogen Bd.

The author in Panama, 2013

The author in Panama, 2013

We  recently published a study on the skin microbiota of five species of tropical amphibians from one of the few sites in Panamá where amphibians have not been infected with Bd, called Serranía del Sapo, in the Darién Province. In the summer of 2012, Myra Hughey, Roberto Ibáñez and Daniel Medina collected skin swab samples from this lowland site of highly susceptible and less-susceptible species, including two highly threatened species: Atelopus certus and Strabomantis bufoniformis. When we analyzed the bacterial species present on the skin of these five amphibian species we found that amphibians had a unique microbiota on the skin that was very distinct from the bacterial communities in the environment. These symbiotic bacteria were not only different from the environment, but were also different among the amphibian species. Interestingly we found that the three less Bd-susceptible species that we studied (Craugastor fitzingeri, Espadarana prosoblepon and Colosthetus panamansis) had a common set of bacteria that was not present on the two highly susceptible species (A. certus and S. bufoniformis).

Atelopus certus, thought to be a species susceptible to Bd. Photo (c) Joel Sartore

Atelopus certus, thought to be a species susceptible to Bd. Photo (c) Joel Sartore

We think that the bacteria present in the less-susceptible species might be playing a defensive role against pathogens like Bd. If these bacteria indeed have antifungal properties, what are the factors determining the presence of these antifungal bacteria on the skin of less susceptible species? To pursue this idea, we compared the microbial communities of C. fitzingeri in the Darién region with skin communities from regions where the frogs were infected with Bd, in Colón and Panamá provinces (Mamoní, Soberanía and Gamboa). We found that the skin bacterial communities in the infected regions had an increased proportion of bacterial species like Pseudomonas and members of the Actinomycetes. Interestingly, these bacteria are known for their antifungal activities in other amphibians, and therefore it is possible that they might be playing an important role in Bd resistance. Since other factors could be influencing these communities, we are currently analyzing experimental data to determine if Bd infection is driving these changes in the skin microbiota.

How can we use the information we have gathered to protect amphibians that do not have high proportions of Pseudomonas and Actinomycetes on their skins? Can we culture these bacteria and study their antifungal properties? We are currently analyzing cultured microbes from less susceptible species to determine if they have anti-Bd properties in vitro. If these microbes are indeed effective against Bd, can we use them as skin probiotics for the highly susceptible species? Probiotics are a very promising avenue towards conservation of susceptible amphibians since the skin microbiota has already been manipulated in some species to protect them from Bd. However a lot of additional studies still need to be done to implement this approach successfully.


Belden LK, Hughey MC, Rebollar EA, Umile TP, Loftus SC, Burzynski EA, Minbiole KPC, House LL, Jensen RV, Becker MH, Walke JB, Medina D, Ibáñez R and Harris RN (2015) Panamanian frog species host unique skin bacterial communities. Front. Microbiol. 6:1171. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01171

Rebollar EA, Hughey MZ, Medina D, Harris RN,  Ibáñez R and Belden LK (2015) Skin bacterial diversity of Panamanian frogs is associated with host susceptibility and presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. ISME Journal. doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.234

by Eria Rebollar

Fifth Annual Golden Frog Day Calendar of Activities (2015)

Golden frog festival calendar of events

FRIDAY 14 August
Corner of Morrow and Jadwin, Gamboa.
Time: 1-4pm
Get a behind the scenes tour of the Gamboa Amphibian Rescue Center

SATURDAY 15 August
Times: Saturday: 11:00am-3:00pm
Educational activities refreshments and games hosted by the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center and the Golden Frog Mascott.

SUNDAY 16 August
Time: 11 am – 4pm
Meet the golden frog mascott, tour an exhibition of Panama’s most beautiful frogs, games activities and refreshments.

Time: 7-10PM
Frog raffle, photo booth, exhibition and talk with frog experts.

Time: 11AM- 5PM
Face painting, frog jumping, photobooth and acrobatics by La Tribu.

Time: 7AM, starting at Hotel Campestre
Register for a race for golden frogs hosted by Caminando Panama.

Presented by: Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Fundacion Smithsonian, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, La Rana Dorada Pub, SENACYT, USAID, National Science Foundation, APRADAP, Uber, Biomuseo, Oferta simple, Live animals, Stratego , Multiplaza Pacifico, North Face, Caminando Panama.

La Dorada 5/10/15K trail run 2015


To celebrate the Golden Frog Festival and the conservation of amphibians in Panama you are invited to join us for ‘la Dorada’ 5K /10K /15K run in the beautiful mountains of El Valle de Anton.

The race will be on Sunday August 30 in El Valle de Anton. This annual event is in its second year, organized and hosted by Caminando Panama the North Face and the Smithsonian. Some of the routes have changed, so stay tuned and visit the event facebook page for updates.

Register from July 26 at The North Face – Multiplaza Mall or Hushpuppies Soho – Albrook Mall in Panama City.

New Rescue Lab for Endangered Amphibians Opens in Panama

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) scientists working together as part of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (PARC) opened a new safe haven for endangered amphibians today, April 8. The state-of-the-art, $1.2 million amphibian center at STRI’s Gamboa field station  expands on the capacity of the El Valle amphibian conservation center to implement a national strategy to conserve Panama’s amphibian biodiversity by creating captive assurance populations. Together these form the largest dedicated facility for amphibian conservation in Latin America.

Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation CenterPanama is a biodiversity hotspot for amphibians with more than 200 species of frogs, salamanders and caecilians. For the past 20 years, however, many of Panama’s unique and endemic amphibian species have declined or disappeared as a result of the deadly chytrid fungus that has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, a third of amphibian species in Panama are considered threatened or endangered. Amphibian conservationists around the world have been working to establish captive populations of the world’s most vulnerable amphibian species to safeguard them from extinction.

Side view of facility“Our biggest challenge in the race to save tropical amphibians has been the lack of capacity,” said Brian Gratwicke, amphibian scientist at SCBI and international coordinator of PARC. “This facility will allow us to do so much more. We now have the space needed to safeguard some of Panama’s most vulnerable and beautiful amphibians and to conduct the research needed to reintroduce them back to the wild.”

The center features a working lab for scientists, a quarantine space for frogs collected from the wild and amphibian rescue pods capable of holding up to 10 species of frogs. In the working lab, SCBI scientists will continue research focusing on things like a cure for chytrid. Seven amphibianrescue pods house the amphibian collection and colonies of insects needed to feed them. Amphibian rescue pods are constructed from recycled shipping containers that were once used to move frozen goods around the world and through the Panama Canal; they have been retrofitted to become mini-ecosystems with customized terrariums for each frog species.

Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Center“Our project is helping implement the action plan for amphibian conservation in Panama, authored by Panama’s National Environmental Authority—now Environment Ministry—in 2011,” said Roberto Ibañez, STRI project director for PARC. “This is only possible thanks to the interest in conservation of amphibian biodiversity by the government of Panama and the support we have received from businesses in Panama.”

The new rescue lab will be crucial to ongoing breeding efforts and breakthroughs, such as the successful hatching of an Andinobates geminisae froglet. SCBI and STRI scientists hatched the first A. geminisae froglet in human care in one of the amphibian rescue pods at the existing Gamboa amphibian conservation center. The tiny poison frog species, smaller than a dime, was discovered and described for the first time in Panama in 2014. They simulated breeding conditions in a rescue pod. The new facility will provide much-needed space to grow and expand, allowing them to build assurance populations for many more species. A small exhibition niche provides a window directly into an active rescue pod, where visitors can see rescued frogs and scientists as they work to conserve these endangered frogs.Exhibition niche where visitors can glimpse inside a pod

PARC is a partnership between the Houston Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Zoo New England, SCBI and STRI. Funding for the new facilities was provided by Defenders of Wildlife, Frank and Susan Mars, Minera Panama, the National Science Foundation and USAID.

As a research facility, PARC is not open to the public. However, there are interpretive panels and a window into the research pod where visitors can get a glimpse of the project in action. To learn more, the public is welcome to visit the new Fabulous Frogs of Panama exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Punta Culebra Nature Center, located on the Amador Causeway.

Newly Described Poison Dart Frog Hatched for the First Time in Captivity

The first captive-bred Andinobates geminisae at the Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

The first captive-bred Andinobates geminisae at the Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Center. Photo by Jorge Guerrel, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) scientists working as part of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project hatched the first Andinobates geminisae froglet born in captivity. The tiny dart frog species only grows to 14 millimeters and was first collected and described last year from a small area in central Panama. Scientists collected two adults to evaluate the potential for maintaining the species in captivity as an insurance population.

“There is a real art to learning about the natural history of an animal and finding the right set of environmental cues to stimulate successful captive breeding,” said Brian Gratwicke, amphibian conservation biologist at SCBI and director of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. “Not all amphibians are easy to breed in captivity, so when we do breed a species for the first time in captivity it is a real milestone for our project and a cause for celebration.”

Scientists simulated breeding conditions for the adult frogs in a small tank. The frogs laid an egg on a bromeliad leaf, which scientists transferred to a moist petri dish. After 14 days, the tadpole hatched. Scientists believe adult A. geminisae frogs may provide their eggs and tadpoles with parental care, which is not uncommon for dart frogs, but they have not been able to determine if that is the case. In the wild, one of the parents likely transports the tadpole on his or her back to a little pool of water, usually inside a tree or on a bromeliad leaf.

Andinobates geminisae egg

After the tadpole hatched, scientists moved it from the petri dish to a small cup of water, mimicking the small pools available in nature. On a diet of fish food, the tadpole successfully metamorphosed into a froglet after 75 days and is now the size of a mature adult.

Andinobates geminisae tadpole

Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project scientists are unsure if A. geminisae is susceptible to the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus. However, since it is only found in a small area of Panama and is dependent on primary rain forests, which are under pressure from agricultural conversion, they have identified it as a conservation-priority species.

The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project breeds endangered species of frogs in Gamboa, Panama and El Valle, Panama. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is a partnership between the Houston Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Zoo New England, SCBI and STRI. This study was supported by Minera Panama.

Frog Friday: Toad Mountain Harlequin Frog

atelopus certus male calling

The toad mountain harlequin frog is all decked out in orange and black for Halloween! Atelopus certus is a biological treasure found only in Panama. This terrestrial species has a golden iridescent hue with spots like a giraffe. In its natural setting, the toad mountain harlequin frog can be found streamside or on mossy rocks in moist lowland and mountain forests.  We have a healthy population in captivity to safeguard against predicted chytridomycosis-related declines.

Atelopus certus  is endemic to Panama and identified only on a single mountain range in the south-western Darien region. Before 2011, this species was quite common within its small known range, and they were still abundant in 2013, but they are predicted to decline severely once chytridiomycosis arrives in that region. Thankfully, due to the swift action of the PARC project, Atelopus certus is being successfully reproduced in captivity. The Gamboa ARC has bred a very stable population 

Did you know? The Smithsonian Channel documentary “Mission Critical: Amphibian Rescue” recounts the valiant rescue effort to save this species from imminent extinction.

Post by Dara Wilson

Frog Friday: Red-Eyed Tree Frog


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! The bright red eyes, and blue striped sides of Agalychnis callidryas are a defense mechanism the frog uses to surprise potential predators, and avoid predation. During the day the red-eyed tree frog folds its legs at its sides, closes its eyes, and sleeps, effectively camouflaging itself on green leaves. You can observe this behavior in their natural habitat  of low to mid-elevation rainforests from the Yucatan to Colombia.  They are considered a species of least concern according to the IUCN, and are abundant throughout their range. We also have these beauties on display in our exhibit Fabulous Frogs of Panama at Punta Culebra Nature Center.

Did you know? Red-eyed tree frogs lay their eggs on plants overhanging the wáter, and when they hatch the tadpoles fall into the wáter.  Eggs in the trees can be eaten by wasps, snakes, or katydids, or killed by pathogenic fungus. Embryos can hatch early to escape from attacks by egg predators and pathogens, or in response to abiotic threats, but they typically hatch later if undisturbed. Thus tadpoles enter the water at different ages, sizes and stages of development. Tadpoles that were induced to hatch early are more likely to be killed by aquatic predators and less likely to survive to metamorphosis. After a month or more in the water, the tadpoles metamorphose into froglets. Metamorphs on land remain relatively inactive near the pond while they absorb their tails, then climb up into the trees and disappear. We know very little about their lives as juveniles.


Snake induced hatching of red-eyed tree frogs.

Video and information by Karen Warkentin Lab

Post by Hannah Arney

Frog Friday! Strawberry Poison Dart Frog


Look, but don’t touch! Strawberry poison dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) are known for their strikingly beautiful skin colors. Their bright color serves as a warning to predators that they are toxic. This type of “warning coloration” is called aposematism.  In the wild Oophaga pumilio gets its toxicity from its diet of ants and termites. The frogs we maintain in captivity in our exhibit Fabulous Frogs of Panama are fed small crickets and fruit flies. This change in diet eradicates any trace of poison in these frogs when they are raised in captivity

Strawberry poison dart frogs are generally a small species, about 0.75 to 1.5 inches (20 to 40 mm) in length. They are also mostly diurnal, and can be heard calling in the flooded forest.There are many poison frogs in the Dendrobatidae family with slightly different distributional ranges that can be found in Central America and northern South America. The species Oophaga pumilio are found in Mesoamerican countries and Panama.

Did you know? An Oophaga pumilio look alike was recently discovered in Panama by STRI scientist Cesar Jaramillo with  Abel Batista and Marcos Ponce (UNACHI) and Andrew Crawford (Universidad de los Andes). This new species Andinobates geminisae is still being described. Click here for more information.

Post by Dara Wilson


The 2014 Golden Frog Festival: Saving a National Treasure

GF with kids



Participants: 2000

School Groups: 13 school groups – 300 students

Teacher Workshops: 3 workshops – 70 participants

Volunteers: 80


Radio & TV Spots: 10

News Articles: 7

Media Websites: 3

Social Media Statistics
Social media views*
        STRI Facebook page 19,717(18 posts)
        Punta Culebra Facebook page

PARC Facebook page

4,131(16  posts)

60,898 (41 Posts)

Festival event page 214 likes
Twitter hashtag used

Youtube video views


1023(7 videos)

*Total # of views for all posts about festival

 Youtube videos released to promote Golden Frog Festival

Name of Video # of Views # of Subscriptions driven # of shares
I love frogs 92 0 2
There’s a fungus among us 28 0 0
The Golden Frog 302 1 1
PARC Project 38 0 0
How can you help? 10 0 0
Frogs in culture 194 1 3
Why frogs matter 359 3 6
Total 1023 5 12

In August the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and partners celebrated the fourth annual Golden Frog Festival. The festival, consisting of various events held throughout Panama, calls local and global attention to the ecological and cultural value of the Panamanian golden frog and global amphibian declines. A major highlight of the festival was the opening of Fabulous Frogs of Panama, a new exhibit at Punta Culebra Nature Center featuring some of the world’s most beautiful, and endangered, frog species.

The festival kicked off on August 4 with a series of teacher workshops in El Valle de Anton led by Smithsonian Education Specialist Lidia Valencia and Peace Corps Response Volunteer Hannah Arney. Seventy teachers attended three workshop to learn about the new curriculum “Fabulous Frogs of Panama, which provides educational activities for use in teaching their students about amphibian biodiversity and conservation.


"Congratulations on this workshop that offered us greater knowledge of nature and science. The workshop was  practical and easy to apply to any grade level." Quote from a teacher who participated in the workshop

“Congratulations on this workshop that offered us greater knowledge of nature and science. The workshop was practical and easy to apply to any grade level.” ~ workshop participant


PARC scientists Jorge Guerrel and Rigoberto Diaz introduced the festival on the Panamanian national lottery highlighting the importance of the golden frog and encouraging Panamanians to help conserve amphibians.



Later that evening, the first Science in the City public talk was held at the Rana Dorada Pub. The event, held at one of our main sponsor’s venues, featured PARC scientist Jorge Guerrel and indigenous artisian Lanky Cheucarama. The pub talk was a vibrant mix of indigenous culture, conservation, education, and superb food & drinks!


Punta Culebra Nature Center held its soft opening of the new exhibit, “Fabulous Frogs of Panama.”  Sharon Ryan, public programs director at STRI, Matthew Larsen, STRI director, and Sylvia Cesaratto, the Canadian Ambassador for Panama, spoke about the importance of amphibians as national, cultural and biological treasures before inviting participants to visit the new exhibit.

The second Science in the City talk was held in the historic district of Casco Antiguo at the American Trade Hotel. Sharon Ryan, STRI’s director of public programs, and Brian Gratwicke, lead conservation biologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, talked about the PARC ‘s amphibian research, rescue and education programs.

 La Tribu finalized their performance by inviting a group of local school children to make an oath to live in harmony with the amphibians.

Performance by La Tribu

Throughout the day many people also contributed to a collective mural with the art & design studio La Tienda De Remedios

 The weekend was jam-packed with events and activities for families and frog enthusiasts. On Saturday, August 16, El Valle de Anton, the community where the PARC project began, held a family day to promote golden frog conservation. Local businesses and community groups supported the events – which included a performance by acrobatic group La Tribu, and a variety of fund and educational activities.  An estimated 500 people, mostly children, attended the event.

On Sunday August 17th, the Punta Culebra Nature Center hosted a frog themed family day to celebrate the launch of their new exhibit. The day’s events included face painting, informational presentations by STRI scientists, and frog themed games. The Rana Dorada food truck also came out to sell their delicious hamburgers and tacos.  La Tribu reprised their presentation from El Valle, and taught visitors about the importance of taking care of frogs and their habitat.



The final event of the 2014 Golden Frog Festival was a 5K/15K walk/race held in El Valle de Anton. This was the first trail walk/run race in Panama focused on raising awareness about wildlife conservation. Participants went through trails surrounding the beautiful Hotel Campestre while spectators, families, and children all watched in support.


Golden frog saving a life at the race in El Valle

Golden frog saving a life at the race in El Valle

Special thanks to:

  • The Festival Planning Committee (Sharon Ryan, Roberto Ibañez, Jorge Aleman, Nelly Florez, Sonia Tejada, Alvaro Gonzalez, Hannah Arney, Rigoberto Diaz, Lidia Valencia, Adrian Benedetti, Ana Matilde Ruiz, Ana Endara, Sean Mattson, Carlos Celis, Ana Lucrecia Arosemena, Heidi Ross, Dayra Navarro, Lanky Cheucarama, Dara Wilson)
  • Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project
  • Culebra guides
  • All volunteers that contributed to the events
  • Brian Gratwicke
  • Stratego Communications


towerbank-logo-glow ATH logo la_rana_dorada_logo2

  • El Rey
  • Caminando Panama
  • The North Face
  • Sportshealth
  • Suunto
  • Purissima
  • Organica
  • Tacfit Panama
  • The TRI Store
  • Deka Music Group

Post by Dara Wilson, Media and Outreach Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute