Geological history behind Panama Canal’s rocks

Geological history behind Panama Canal’s rocks

Camilo Montes, new head of the Geology department published in PLOS ONE

Camilo Montes, is a Geologist from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Now he is the director of the Geology Department at the School of Geological Sciences and Engineering of Yachay Tech University. Among his responsibilities, Camilo has to help strengthen the Department, with the main goal of the School being to lay between the best geological schools in Latin America by 2022. He ensures that this is achievable by having high quality faculty, modern laboratories and, off course, inquisitive and research-involved students. Camilo also highlights that the School is currently in construction process, therefore needs attention in some areas; however, the strongest necessity right now are research laboratories.

For Camilo, Yachay Tech University will become, without a doubt, on a Latin American reference on how to promote scientific research and innovation. He points out that research opportunities are abundant in Ecuador, one of the most diverse countries in the world, not only in biological terms but also in geological terms. “As a university we can start to wonder on a transversal way, among traditionally isolated disciplines. For example, we can wonder about the origin of Ecuadorian biodiversity, and to know that we need to study the country’s geological history”, he says.

Camilo states that science has no borders and we need to promote the cross pollination processes between researchers. Collaboration with other universities in Ecuador and abroad is fundamental. Under this umbrella, Camilo published a paper that describes the magmatic evolution of Panama Canal volcanic rocks, along with 4 collaborators from different institutions located in the United States and Colombia.

The paper was released in the high impact journal PLOS ONE. They reached a few important conclusion, among them Camilo highlights the fact that this is the first summary of, not only the magmatic activity, but also of the structure and stratigraphy of this part of Central America since the geological work of the Canal donde in the 60’s. Thanks to the amplification work being done at the Canal exposed an immense amount of rocks and rock walls that were hidden for more than a hundred years, since the Canal construction. Given this opportunity, the research team applied modern geochronology and geochemistry techniques that weren’t available in the 60’s. This research paper, and others published in 2012, are big contributions to the understanding of the general geology and the geological evolution of the Americas.

The Canal’s geology is fundamental to understand the biotical exchanges between South and North America. From this terrestrial bridge between the Americas scientists have gather paleontology pieces that are immensely important to understand this biotic interactions. The Canal’s geology is also fundamental due to its importance on the oceanic current directions, if they were to change, the planet’s climate would change too.

Read the PAPER


  1. David Foster, University of Florida | Carlos Jaramillo, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute | David W. Farris, Florida State University | Agustin Cardona, Universidad Nacional de Colombia


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