Director, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Eldredge Bermingham is the director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, a unit of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Panama City, Panama, since March 2007. He joined the institute’s scientific staff in 1989, served as deputy director since 2003 and as acting director from March 2007.
As director, Bermingham oversees the world’s premier tropical biology research institute, dedicated to increasing the understanding of the past, present and future of tropical biodiversity and its relevance to human welfare. The institute’s focus is basic research conducted primarily in tropical forest and coral reefs. Scientists discover new organisms, test scientific explanations for ecological adaptation and evolutionary innovation, develop methods to restore degraded ecosystems, train students and promote conservation of tropical ecosystems. One of the institute’s programs—the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatories, which evolved from its Center for Tropical Forest Science, encompasses more than 20 forest plots in 17 countries around the globe and represents the best observational platform in the world for evaluating how forests respond to global climate change.
Bermingham’s research has advanced knowledge of the movement of organisms across the land bridge formed as the Isthmus of Panama rose to connect North and South America 3 million years ago and sheds light on processes of contemporary biological invasions. His analyses of bird populations on the islands of the Lesser Antilles contribute to the understanding of extinction. He has been a strong proponent of cross-unit and intergovernmental collaborations at the Smithsonian, encouraging the development of projects through the Smithsonian Marine Science Network, the Smithsonian Barcode of Life Initiative and the Smithsonian Global Earth Observatories.
Bermingham has published more than 135 peer-reviewed articles; edited the book “Tropical Rainforests: Past, Present and Future,” (University of Chicago Press, 2005); sponsored more than 18 postdoctoral students and advised more than 31 predoctoral students, serving on 17 committees. Bermingham earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University in 1977 and a doctorate degree in genetics from the University of Georgia in 1986.
He replaces Ira Rubinoff, who retired as the institute’s director and is now senior scientist and director emeritus.
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