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Job Type: full-time permanent position

Location: Panama

Posting Date: 17 Dec 13

Closing Date: N/A

The Smithsonian Institution is seeking an accomplished leader for the role of Director, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). This position is located in the Republic of Panama, reports to the Under Secretary for Science of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and interfaces with a distinguished Advisory Board.

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities, including the Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) is a premier tropical research center, dedicated to increasing the understanding of the past, present, and future of tropical biodiversity and its relevance to human welfare through studies in biological sciences, paleontology, anthropology, and archeology. STRI’s facilities provide outstanding opportunities for long-term scientific studies in the tropics carried out by a resident scientific staff consisting of approximately 35 permanent researchers, whose work is complemented by over 1,300 visiting scientists each year from academic and research institutions across the globe. In FY 2012 and 2013, STRI produced more than 470 scientific publications.

STRI headquarters and main scientific laboratory campus are located in Panama City and include an outstanding library on tropical life sciences, a conference center, and large auditorium. Terrestrial field research facilities include Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in Lake Gatun, laboratory facilities in Gamboa, a field station at Fortuna for high-elevation studies, and two industrial cranes for studies of canopy biology. STRI also hosts ForestGEO, a world-wide network of forest dynamics plots for investigations of climate change. Facilities for marine field research include laboratories on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of the Isthmus at Galeta, Naos, and Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. All of these facilities provide modern instrumentation for science, including molecular biology, scanning and confocal microscopy, stable isotope work, and controlled climate environments. In addition to its scientific staff, STRI employs more than 350 employees as technical support personnel, who work under three different employment systems.

The history of STRI began with the construction of the Panama Canal in the early 1900s. Smithsonian scientists conducted a biological inventory of the new Canal Zone in 1910, and in 1912 at the request of the Panamanian government extended this survey to include all of Panama. The Governor of the Canal Zone declared Barro Colorado Island a biological reserve in 1923, making it one of the earliest biological reserves in the Americas. During the 1920s and 1930s, BCI became an outdoor laboratory for scientists from U.S. universities and the Smithsonian Institution. By 1940, more than 300 scientific publications described the biota of BCI. With the “Government Reorganization Act of 1946,” BCI was placed under the administration of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1966 the organization was formalized as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and expanded its scope by extending its research to other areas in the tropics. The 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaty returned control of the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama. STRI was named custodian of BCI under the 1940 Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation of the Western Hemisphere of the Organization of American States, which added buffer zones to create the 5,400 ha Barro Colorado Nature Monument. Today, STRI’s relationship with the Republic of Panama continues to be of central importance, which is acknowledged by the fact that STRI is recognized as an International Mission by the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more information about the Smithsonian Institution visit To learn more about STRI visit

Overall Responsibility

The STRI Director has overall responsibility for the leadership, planning, development, and management of STRI’s research and educational programs as well as administrative and financial support to fulfill these objectives.

Specific tasks include:
- Guiding the vision of STRI science and representing the research program objectives and goals
- Planning, organizing, and directing the administration of STRI and its international programs
- Providing professional leadership in support of the work of staff scientists engaged in a wide variety of research projects related to tropical sciences
- Mentoring existing scientific and professional staff as well as hiring new research and educational personnel of the highest quality to build a strong team and ensure the sustained preeminence of STRI science
- Leading and directing efforts to increase resources for scientific research and infrastructure at STRI to enhance scientific excellence
- Representing the Secretary of the Smithsonian at high-level policy conferences and meetings with representatives of various U.S. agencies and the Panamanian Government
- Collaborating closely with the Smithsonian administration and other Smithsonian organizations in Washington, DC, and elsewhere in the nation and internationally by:

- Programmatically, working closely with the Under Secretary for Science and other Directors of biodiversity-based units on major initiatives
- Administratively, working closely with central administrative units in Washington, DC to ensure adherence to established policies and procedures
- Administratively, cooperating closely with relevant governmental units in Panama City to ensure compliance with international agreements, and established policies and procedures
- Ensuring that the organization has established adequate control systems to monitor expenses and ensure adherence to financial management policies and procedures
- Conducting and/or reviewing performance management evaluations of STRI employees

- A Ph.D. in a directly related field with outstanding scientific research and training experience, including proposing, conducting, and publishing world-class research, with an emphasis on tropical biology and the related fields of paleontology, geology, anthropology, and archeology
- Experience in leading and managing a diverse scientific research and education organization, including a full range of administrative oversight for programs, facilities and real estate, IT and instrumentation, communications, security, and visitor services
- Experience in developing collaborative interactions within and among organizations, preferably on an international and global basis
- A demonstrated track record of success in science-based fundraising, including not only grants and contracts, but also philanthropy
- Experience working with advisory and/or governing boards is desirable
- Success in articulating and projecting a cohesive vision and strategic plan, with proven experience in executing such a plan
- International experience, preferably in Latin America, is desired; Spanish language skills are highly desirable for this role
- Demonstrated experience with successful financial and budget management, especially in times and situations of fiscal constraint
- An understanding of the nuances of succeeding within a highly transparent U.S. Government public sector entity, and a sensitivity to cultural differences associated with working in a host nation
- The Director of STRI can be of any nationality; U.S. citizenship is not required.

Required Attributes
The Smithsonian is seeking a unique individual who can quickly garner confidence, respect, and trust with the internal and external communities and stakeholders involved. Candidates considered for the Director of STRI will possess:
- A passion for the mission of STRI that inspires continued engagement in the scientific mission by all members of the community from the scientists to the support staff
- Through understanding and sensitivity, a capacity to function successfully within the cultural and business environments of the Republic of Panama
- Respect and understanding of the customs and norms of a culturally diverse work force
- A flexible mindset and the ability to prioritize; the successful candidate will be able to adapt easily to different social environments
- Stellar communications, listening, interpersonal and presentation skills
- A reputation of unquestioned integrity and ethics
- Mature judgment, strong intuitive skills and thoughtful decisiveness
- A demonstrated commitment to diversity in attracting, promoting, and developing talent
- Experience in mentoring and developing staff
- The ability to delegate and empower in a demanding, multi-tasking environment
- Stellar consensus-building, negotiating and influencing skills
- Experience in problem solving and overcoming adversity in management, with demonstrated resilience and unquestioned commitment to high standards
- Willingness to travel nationally and internationally to meet the expectations of the position

Application Overview and Process
This is an exciting career opportunity for an individual interested in tropical scientific research. With this position comes a very competitive compensation and benefits program.
The Smithsonian Institution does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or other non-merit factor.
The Officers in Charge of this engagement are Tim McNamara, Managing Director and Derek Wilkinson, Managing Director. They will be assisted by Judy Whitaker, Managing Director. Interested parties should submit in electronic format a resume and a cover letter outlining reasons for their interest in the position, including details on the aforementioned responsibilities, attributes, and qualifications along with a list of publications and papers to You may also contact us via our Toll Free Phone number at +1.877.2.BOYDEN (226.9336) for additional information. The Search Committee will begin a review of applications on December 18th and continue until the appropriate candidate is identified.

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