Our Mission

To understand the biotic processes that underlie and maintain the diversity of life in the tropics, and to advance conservation efforts that protect species and their habitats.

In collaboration with a network of prominent scientists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, we are conducting research in many critical areas, including: the processes important in generating diversity in rainforests, the relationship between ecology and disease, connectivity and conservation of migratory birds, and rainforest restoration in human-dominated landscapes. CTR projects employ novel applications and use the latest technologies, ranging from satellite imagery to molecular genomics. CTR conducts research in many countries, and provides important training opportunities for young scientists and decision-makers from the developing world.


  • To conduct basic and applied biological research incorporating the latest technologies in order to document biodiversity and to understand essential biotic processes that produce and maintain tropical biodiversity worldwide.
  • To help bridge the gap between the academic, government and non-governmental organization (NGO) communities and increase the quality of science in conservation decision-making by disseminating, as widely as possible, research results, interpretations, and potential conservation applications.
  • To maximize the effectiveness of conservation programs by integrating research results with sustainable development/conservation policy and programs appropriate to tropical economies.
  • To offer an international education curriculum, premised upon significant field research experience and the latest technologies targeting undergraduate and graduate-level students.


The Center for Tropical Research was founded by Dr. Thomas B. Smith in 1997 as a research unit at San Francisco State University (SFSU). In January 2002, CTR moved from SFSU to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to become a formal organizational research unit of the¬†Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. CTR is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fogarty International Center, the National Institutes of Health, the National Geographic Society, USAID, NSERC, and various foundations and individuals.¬† CTR has expanded its research programs to more than 15 countries on four continents. CTR’s outstanding international cadre of senior scientists, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students now numbers more than 155, with dozens of alumni from countries around the world.