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During the first few years of programming in this Panamanian tropical island environment, we will develop a Five-Year Research Plan. We will take the time to make observations in the field of what work needs to be done to address local environmental problems. We will seek out and discuss the needs and priorities of local stakeholders. The goal is to develop a detailed research agenda that will allow SFS to contribute to addressing local environmental problems through our Directed Research program.

We have already defined a broad question that will guide the curriculum and Directed Research program:

What is the status of key island systems, both natural and human, and what are the pressures that threaten the delicate balance of the island system?

For reporting on the condition of this delicate island system, we will employ the Pressure-State-Response framework, helpful in defining and examining environmental issues. The process of our research is to first define the island’s systems and the desired states – this in consultation with key island stakeholders and actors. Out of this should emerge the environmental issues present in the Bocas del Toro archipelago.

The second step is to measure the state of things, from species to habitats to household economies. Key indicators for the state of each element of the system will be developed based on local perceptions and knowledge, accepted research protocols, and local relevance.

The third component is to identify and understand the pressures, both direct and indirect, on the environment and particular components of the island systems.

Finally, we will examine the responses by residents, local and state government, and civil society aimed at mitigating pressures and restoring balance in the environment.

What are the policies and actions determined and implemented by local and national governments, and what are the attitudes and actions taken by communities and individuals as a response to the state of the environment and the local economy?