Real Science.  Real Time.  Real Learning.

Mrs. Renz  Teacher Argonaut

 ~ Panama Expedition Photos ~

January 2004

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Mrs. Renz was selected to join Dr. Robert Ballard's JASON XV Project expedition team, traveling with the scientists and production team to the remote locations of Panama including Barro Colorado Island and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the middle of the Panama Canal Zone.  Episodes were filmed and shown at science museums and to classrooms of students from around the world.  Mrs. Renz was in Panama two weeks.  Her fourth graders in Redmond, Oregon followed her journey each day as she updated her website with her daily journals and photos.       


Our Rainforest Resources Web Page    


Video: Voices from the JASON Project "In their Own Words"

Mrs. Renz, and student Arognauts, Lisa, Abby, and Ben talk about the JASON Project    (Length 2:58 YouTube)


Mrs. Renz's Photos from Panama

Flying into Panama City

Student Argonauts going through Customs in Panama

Panama Canal waterway. Notice the trees go right to the water line

Barro Colorado Island, Panama 

Home of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Map of the Panama Canal zone.  

Las Cruces, the boat we took most of the time to BCI

On the boat heading in to the docks at BCI

Student argonauts on the boat to BCI

Water color in the Panama Canal in Gatun Lake.

There's lots of sediment mixed in with the water so it's a brownish color

Chagres River (left) flowing into the Panama Canal

A beautiful sunset in the Panama Canal 

zone on the boat ride from BCI to Gamboa

After a long day on BCI, we journed back to Gamboa to our hotel.  

Another beautiful sunset taken from the Las Cruces in the Panama Canal  Zone.

BCI boat docks.  The big building in the middle is the dining hall.

There were 198 steps up to get to the Argo Hangout building.  

There was a great view from up there.

The dining hall is on the upper floor of this building and

lower floors are where the JASON offices and media rooms were 

located while we were at the STRI buildings on BCI.

Argonaut dorms through the forest

Sunrise over the Chagres River.

Student and teacher argonauts on BCI with Gatun Lake in the background

Signs like these mean this is a scientist's research so don't touch!


Map of BCI buildings

Randy Morgan, host of the show, and Student Argo Maria film the live broadcast

Argonauts Ben and Abbey writing online journals for the

JASON website in the computer room at STRI.

This is the location where the host and guest

Student Argonaut were broadcasts were filmed.

The cameraman and sound technician get ready to film Mike Kaspari 

nd the student argonauts live from BCI.

This creek on BCI during dry season is nearly empty

Mike Kaspari talks with student Argos during the live broadcast.

Pathway on BCI.  Notice the red & black production 

cables to get power to the live broadcast site

Photo showing the dense undergrowth of the rainforest on BCI

Butterfly at the Gamboa Resort butterfly house

This beautiful butterfly took a rest on my hand

Another butterfly in the butterfly house

One of the many butterflies on BCI

An interesting caterpillar with black suction cup feet.

An agouti in the backyard of my room at Gamboa

An agouti on BCI

Student Argo Ben looks at a leaf cutter ant waste pile

Watch my leaf cutter ant movie

Leaf cutter ants constantly move harvest leaves 

and take them to their underground fungus farms

Leaf cutter ants hard at work

Leaf cutter "garbage dump"

Red spider monkey near the argo dorms


  Click to see close-ups of the sloth

Howler monkey

Howler monkey

Howler monkey swinging from branch to branch

Howler monkey watching me from above

Two howler monkeys overhead

Watch my howler monkey movie

Student Argo Lisa was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got

pooped on by a monkey!  It was smelly and disgusting!

We had to wash her eyes to be sure she didn't get an infection. 

Red spider monkey in the tree

 Monkey overhead

Roland Kays, New York State Museum working with the ocelot

he is studying.  We got to pet her.  Roland named the ocelot "Estrella"

Ocelot sedated so a radio collar could be attached. 

Pink is medicine

Ocelot scat reveals that they sloths

We got to pet the young ocelot.

Termite tunnel going up the tree

Termite ball

Tiny tree frog found near the Argo dorms

Student Argo Stacy counts leaf cutter ants 

A cane toad on BCI

Another cane toad on the production set at BCI. 

As a defense mechanism, he puffed up his body.


Banana spider  

Woman paddling a homemade canoe near the Gamboa Resort on the Chagres River

Ox Beetle.  Notice his large mandibles.

See the coatamundi?

Eye shine of a coatamundi

Can you find the spider in the tree?


Tarantulas were everywhere and were perfectly camouflaged against the dead leaves

Hummingbird nest

Crocodile in the Freshwater Exhibit

These Caimans are smaller than the crocodile in the photo above

Doors fold in to the side of the lock walls

Notice the difference in the water levels in the locks


The control room at Gatun Locks - Panama Canal



  Click to see the control monitor of the canal


  Control room canal doors


  Close up of a canal "mule"

Turn the lever to open or close the canal doors

Control room at Gatun Locks

Ship entering the locks

Look how close the ship is the the side of the canal!

 Gatun Dam Spillway.  When Gatun Lake rises too high,

water spills over this spillway to reduce flooding

The Gatun Dam Spillway water runs into this river

Water sloshing over the Gatun Dam Spillway

Ships staging in Gatun Lake waiting to go through the locks

Our bus to take a ride in the gondola

View from the gondola tram ride

View from the gondola ride

View of the canopy crane from the ground (my zoom lens was on)

Panama City skyline

Canopy crane operator, Edwin, controls the crane's movements

Metropolitan Park in Panama City. Mrs. Renz in the canopy crane.

Looking through the floor of the canopy crane basket to the treetops below

Looking straight down from the crane basket at the tree tops

Panama City skyline

Bird nest in a tree.

An example of a tree's chemical defense - look closely at the white 

sap where the leaf was taken off. The sap was very sticky and repels 

insects from eating it.  Notice the leaves look untouched by insects.

This leaf was 100 feet above the ground. It was two-colored.

Mrs. Renz with Anita, our pen pal class teacher from Panama City

This beautiful flower looks like red lips.

Avenida Central - the shopping district in Panama City

Avenida Central - the shopping district in Panama City

Avenida Central - the shopping district in Panama City

Avenida Central - the shopping district in Panama City

indigenous tribe welcomed our students

All dressed up with plant dye on his skin and wearing his fancy beads


An example of a leaf "tyer" showing insect damage

This is an example of leaf damage by insects (herbivory).  

The spots show an example of chewers and miners.

Leaf damage done by "chewers."

This is an example of insect herbivory called "skeletonizers."

Mrs.. Renz at the "BIG Tree"

More leaf damage. The spots are called "galls" and are caused by insects.

Week One Teacher Argonauts at the "Big Tree" and it was BIG!

Left to right: Janet Pollack (sitting), Heather Renz, Melissa Kapekas & Kathy Lowell

Week One Student Argonauts at the "Big" Tree.  The Student Argos are sitting on the buttress of the tree.  There was no way to get a photo of this tree because the forest was too dense and you could not get far enough away to see the whole tree.  Believe was BIG!

Daybreak over the Chagres River from our hotel

Gamboa Rainforest Resort where I stayed

The blue building is where Teacher Argo Kathy and I stayed - on the top floor on the left side.  Student Argos Lisa and Abbey stayed on the top floor on the right

The lobby of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.

Teacher Argo Kathy, Student Argo Abbey and Student Argo Lisa (the Rover crew)

On the balcony of the hotel.  The Chagres River is in the background.

Teacher Argo Heather (me),  Argo Lisa, Argo Abbey, and Teacher Argo Kathy

The pool area of the hotel.  Unfortunately we were only able to swim in it once

because we were so busy working to produce the broadcasts.

View from the top of the gondola ride.  The Chagres River

(left of the picture) enters the Panama Canal. The Culebra Cut

is in the background.  A ship was traveling through the Canal.

All of the Teacher Argonauts and Jude on our last night in Panama

Our classroom was in the audience when Mrs. Renz was on all three screens 

during the live broadcast at OMSI.  Photo courtesy of OMSI (Thanks, OMSI!)

This is a hole left after the roots of a tree rotted away. Beth King from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute asked us to notice the root ball hole is all that is left and there is absolutely no evidence of the tree, which completely disappeared in the rainforest within two years.  Amazing!

This is an example of a plant's mechanical defense (the spikes) to keep from being eaten

A leaf eaten by insect showing an example of "skeletonizing"

Notice how this reddish looking tree is using the host tree as a support so it can reach up to the sunlight in the canopy.

A typical trail on BCI.  Note the cinder block steps.


Another view of the trails on BCI.


A vine wraps itself around this tree and uses the tree as a support in order to reach sunlight high up in the canopy.

Epiphytes in the canopy

View from the gondola ride

Mrs. Renz uses the TI-73 graphing calculator to take and report the temperature, relative humidity and light index in the tree canopy about 30 feet up during the live broadcast.

Mrs. Renz descends from the canopy. That was FUN!

Looking up at the "BIG Tree"

An assistant of Jackie Willis holds the hand of this three toed sloth to  keep it from crawling away.

Pathways on BCI.


Pathways on BCI.

Welcome sign on BCI

There are lots of steps on BCI. This set leads

to the lower level of the dining hall.

Meg Lowman in the Bosun's chair at

one of the film locations


A perfect example of a "mechanical defense" on this tree trunk.  This helps the tree protect itself against predators and herbivory.

mechanical defense


There were 198 steps up the the "Argo Hangout."

The Argo dorm building is the one with the red roof.

Mrs. Renz  with the Argo Hangout at the

top of this set of steep stairs

This is my least favorite hill on BCI.  

It was incredibly steep!

Stephanie Bohlman, NASA scientist 

View from high atop the canopy

Looking down upon the tree tops from the Canopy Crane

Sunset over the Panama Canal taken from the boat from BCI back to Gamboa.

The machine on the left (71) is called a mule.  Mules are used to pull the ship through the lock chamber evenly by using cables.  Sometimes there are two or four mules on the front of the ship and several on the back.

Roland Kays with the sedated ocelot that he trapped so he could radio collar. Notice how big her big front feet are!

Rainforest on BCI


Argonaut dorm rooms on BCI

Can you see the leaf cutter ants on their trail?

Ship going by BCI in Gatun Lake

Some of the People Involved in the JASON XV Live Broadcasts

Dr. Meg Lowman nicknamed "Queen of the Canopy"

Dr. Stanley Heckadon-Moreno and Dr. Robert Ballard  

Photo by Marcos A. Guerra, STRI

Dr. Mike Kaspari, nicknamed "Dr. Detritus" or "Dr. Dirt"

Kerry and Dean

Bill from EDS

Roland Kays and Randy Morgan


Dr. Mary, sound technician and Julye Newlin, cameraperson

Beth King, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Julye Newlin, cameraperson films Roland Kays in his lab

Argos Abbey and Lisa with Mr. Jeorges Vasquez, ACP

Julye and Linda

Sonia, JASON assistant

Pat Shea, JASON Project Rover Crew Producer


Stephanie Bohlman, NASA Scientist


Jude, JASON Project Teacher and Student Argonaut Coordinator

Carolyn Joyce, JASON Project

Tim, JASON Project

Student Argonauts

Teacher Argos Virginia, Stephanie and Kathy

Guy from Texas Instruments and Student Argo Jay set up the sensors probes of the TI-73

More Student Argonauts

Student Argos

Teacher Argo Debbie

Student Argos Melissa, Lisa, Abbey, and Soren

Meg Lowman and Roland Kays (holding ocelot scat in the leaf)

Student Argos Lisa and Abby with Roland Kays

filming the Kinkajou episode

The Weather Right Now in Panama




Read Mrs. Renz's Daily Journals from Panama 2004

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
    Jan. 20 Jan. 21 Jan. 22 Jan. 23 Jan. 24
Jan. 25 Jan. 26 Jan. 27 Jan. 28 Jan. 29 Jan. 30 Jan. 31
Feb. 1            



Updated January 29, 2017