Biography of Dr. Rodrigo Gamez Lobo

DSCN0011He was born in Esparza, Puntarenas, in 1936, but he has spent most of his life in Heredia. He is the second child of a household of educators (Uladislao Gamez and Consuelo Lobo), and since he was little he had a special affinity with nature. Don Rodrigo fondly remembers his time as a Boy Scout, where he learned to love forests, rivers and landscapes of his country.

Once he completed his High School studies at Liceo de Heredia, the young Gamez chose the Agronomy major because there was no Biology major at that time.

In 1954 he joined the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and there he found his "niche" in the field of plant virology. "I decided to do my thesis on plant viruses, a topic that no one had worked before in Costa Rica", he said. He earned his Master of Science (M.Sc.) at the University of Florida, USA. Then he pursued post-graduate studies at the University of London, England, and completed his doctorate (PhD) in virology at the University of Illinois, USA, in 1967.

On his return, he continued his work at UCR. At this institution, he was the first director of the School of Plant Science, the first Vice Chancellor for Research, and a member of the first Council of Post-Graduate Studies System and the Electronic Microscopy Unit. At that time, he also actively participated in the creation of the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICIT) and State Distance Education University (UNED).

But his main contribution was the creation of a virology laboratory, which later became the current Molecular and Cellular Biology Research Center (CIBCM) at UCR, of which he was first director in 1976.

In 1983, he was awarded the Dr. Bernard Houssay Inter-American Science Prize, by the Organization of American States (OAS), for his contribution to the scientific development of Costa Rica. In a pleasant coincidence, his father, Uladislao Gamez, was awarded the Andres Bello prize by the OAS at the same time, for his contributions to education.

premio-husIn 1986, Rodrigo Gamez was named presidential adviser on natural resources and biodiversity. "I realized there was little Science on managing national parks in Costa Rica and that more knowledge was needed on biodiversity", he said.

Two years later, he coordinated the Planning Commission of the National Biodiversity Institute, which recommended the government to create a state biodiversity institute that would have a high degree of autonomy.

However, the government was unable to implement the idea, reason for which Dr. Gamez and other members of the committee chose to make it happen themselves and created a private non-profit association. This way, the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) was born, an institution to which Rodrigo Gámez has dedicated 15 years of his life as Director General and President.

His tireless work towards learning, conserving and sustainably using the biodiversity of Costa Rica has earned INBio numerous awards, including the Sir Peter Scott Award for Conservation Merit by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, 1992), the Song to All Creatures Award by the Franciscan Center for Environmental Studies in Italy, the Prince of Asturias Prize in Science and Technology (1995), and the Tech Museum Award in 2003.

"Our real goal is to make the society come to the understanding that, because of being something that directly affects quality of life, materially, intellectually and spiritually, we must preserve at all costs the rich biodiversity of the country", he says in his book "On Biodiversity, People and Utopias" (1999). Dr. Rodrigo Gamez currently lives in San Francisco, Heredia, with his wife, Olga Marta Hernandez. They have four children: Rodrigo and Yamileth, Silvia and Luis Carlos, and four grandchildren: Joseph David, Valeria, Maria del Mar and Fiorella.

Scientific Work

The scientific task and work of Dr. Rodrigo Gamez have focused on three major themes: plant virology, biodiversity and institutional, scientific and academic development.

PremioPlant virology. He was in charge of starting the development of this scientific discipline in Costa Rica. His research focused mainly on the study of genera, such as Marafi virus, Potyvirus, Tobamovirus, Potexvirus, Polerovirus, Potexvirus, Comovirus, Sobemovirus, Phytoreovirus, Begomovirus and Bromovirus, in basic food crops such as maize, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, rice and peppers.

His work included various aspects of the study of plant viruses, including their identification, characterization, biological transmission, structure and biochemical composition, vector control and viral diseases, and the biology and ecology of the virus-insect-plant interactions.

His research led to the discovery of several viruses and vector insects, as well as virus-vector biological relationships new to Science. The discovery, characterization and description of the characteristics and biological properties of the rayado fino maize virus, a small RNA virus capable of replicating in corn plants and in their insect vector, the leafhopper Dalbulus maidis, gave basis to the creation of a new family of viruses, Marafi viridae, and is one of his main scientific contributions. Nearly 100 scientific publications support the cited research.

As a pioneer in the scientific discipline of plant virology, he was in charge of undertaking the development of a virus laboratory, furnished with the right equipment for the application of biochemical, serological, ultracentrifugation, cell culture, plant cultivation and electron microscopy techniques. This process took place initially at the School of Plant Science, Faculty of Agronomy, and then expanded and completed with the creation of CIBCM and the Electron Microscopy Unit at UCR. Dr. Rodrigo Gamez was Plant Virology Professor at the Faculty of Agronomy and the Post-Graduate Studies System of UCR for several decades, guiding numerous undergraduate and postgraduate students in research on various aspects of virology.

Biodiversity. His interest on the topic of biological diversity and its conservation developed during his student and researcher years, accentuating by his links as representative of UCR, the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), and with American scientists working in the country.

Between 1986 and 1990 he served as a consultant in Natural Resources and Biodiversity at the newly created MIRENEM (Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines), as mentioned above. In 1989, he undertook the development of INBio, as an information and knowledge generating entity on the country's biodiversity and protected areas.

To that end, and with a clear strategy of teamwork, he promoted a gradual institutional capacity building in disciplines such as taxonomy in areas like entomology, botany, mycology, malacology, nematology, as well as conservation biology, bioinformatics, chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology and other scientific disciplines related to biodiversity.

Social communication of biodiversity science, and in particular the role of education on biodiversity, have become topics of particular interest. Some 50 articles in journals, books and newspapers as well as a similar number of conferences, summarized the work of Dr. Gamez in biodiversity.

Organizational Development. Due to the clear need to promote institutional development that would enable conducting the required scientific research in the country, Dr. Gamez was in charge of personally leading –or participating along with other colleagues- the creation of the Laboratory of Viruses and the Plant Science School of the Faculty of Agronomy (UCR), the CATIE-UCR Post-Graduate Studies Program, the Vice Chancellorship of Research of UCR, CONICIT, the UCR Post-Graduate Studies Program, the Electronic Microscopy Unit (UCR), UNED, and INBio (Director General 1989-2004).


Because of his scientific work and institutional development, Dr. Rodrigo Gamez Lobo has received nearly 30 awards from scientific, professional and community organizations, both national and international, including:

Dr. Bernard Houssay Inter-American Science Prize. Organization of American States. For his basic research in maize and legume viruses, and for contributing to the scientific development of Costa Rica. 1983.

Banesto Recognition of Honor. Banesto Cultural Foundation of Spain. For his contribution to nature conservation, sustainable development and leadership in the conceptualization and implementation of INBio. 1992.

2Distinguished Costa Rican Award. Costa Rican Institute of Hispanic Culture. For his outstanding work in science and conservation of natural resources. 1993.

Green Globe Award. The Rainforest Alliance. For his contributions to the knowledge and conservation of biodiversity. 1997.

Medal of Honor. Association of Space Explorers. For his extensive Trajectory and concern for biodiversity. 1997.

Professor Emeritus. University of Costa Rica. 2010.

Award for International Cooperation. Forest Service USA. For their significant efforts to conserve birds, bats and butterflies. 2011.

MAGON National Cultural Award. Ministry of Culture and Youth of Costa Rica. 2011.

Pax Natura Award. Pax Natura Foundation of America. 2012.

Honorary Member, Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation. For his outstanding achievements and contributions in the fieldof tropical biology and conservation. 2012.

Midori Prize for Biodiversity. AEON Environmental Foundation and Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. For his contribution to the development of INBio as a successful model for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. 2012.

Doctor Honoris Causa in Humanities. EARTH University. For his contributions to sustainable development and the construction of more prosperous and just societies. 2013.


Thoughts of Dr. Rodrigo Gamez

"Paradoxically, at a time when science advances faster towards understanding the diversity of life, we face the problem of the greatest mass extinction of species known in Earth history, as a result of the way humans treat nature".
Diversity we have to care, El Financiero Newspaper, 7-7-03

"The thinking of Baba Dioum, a Senegalese conservationist, makes sense. He said that 'in the end, we conserve only what we love, we love only what we understand and we understand only what we have been taught'. Then, maybe the tragedy of the loss of biodiversity we face today derives from the fact that humans, at least most of them, do not love nature because they do not understand it, because their meaning has not been taught to them".
We preserve what we love, La Vanguardia (Spain), 20-7-03

"It seems that part of the challenge we now face is to look for development opportunities on the environment subject, rather than looking at environmental considerations as obstacles to such development. Starting with the case of our biodiversity, the question to ask ourselves is how we can use it while wisely conserving it".
Biodiversity and development, El Financiero Newspaper, 15-9-03

"It is essential that we are aware of our relationship and dependence on the natural world, and that we have a real understanding of goods we get from plants and animals, and environmental services that ecosystems provide. Without those goods and services, no living being could survive".
Biodiversity Day, La Nacion Newspaper, 22-5-04

"Crises are opportunities to do things better."
Twentieth Anniversary Speech INBio, 10-29-2009

"We can turn on an axis nature of our culture, of our educational model, our endeavors," for our own sake, for that of humanity, and of all living beings with whom we share the planet"
Prize acceptance speech Magon, 17-05-2012







For us at INBio civic and social participation is very important, which is why we have developed three awards to honour the people that live in harmony with our biodiversity and that in one way or another, contribute to society.

Here you can learn the bases to be part of oue prestigious winners.

Frequently Asked Questions

1 . What makes Costa Rica's natural resources so amazing and diverse?

Costa Rica's geographical position as a land bridge between North and South America and the importance of having coasts on both oceans. In addition to its tropical location, its varied topography, diverse soils and climate variations make of this small country an extremely diverse place

For this reason, Costa Rica has one of the highest indices of biodiversity per area, as it shelters 4% of the world's biological diversity. Furthermore, Costa Rica has demonstrated its leadership in natural resource conservation, having designated more than 25% of national territory as protected area.

2. What type of institution is INBio?

The National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) is a non-governmental, non-profit, public interest organization. It was registered officially and legally on October 26, 1989 and it is directed by a General Assembly and a Board of Directors.

3. What is INBio's mission?

To promote an improved awareness of the value of biodiversity to achieve its conservation and improve the quality of human life.
D pumilio2

4. How does INBio fulfill its mission?

INBio fulfills its mission through the integration of the following processes:

  1. Generation of knowledge and information
  2. Organization and administration of knowledge
  3. Transfer of the knowledge to society

These activites are developed through five areas of work: Inventory and monitoring, Biodiversity informaticos, Bioprospecting, Education and Communication, and Conservation.

5. How is INBio financed?

INBio operates under a system of donations similar to that of many non-governmental organizations (NGO). As an institute for scientific research INBio is financed with funds from the interest generated by several trust funds, as well as, funds provided by foundations, bilateral agencies and conservationist NGOs. In addition, the institute depends on a total budget of which 15% comes from private businesses or institutions.

6. What explains INBio's success?

There are many reasons why INBio has become a viable organization, as well as a world leader in the area of the conservation for biodiversity. The following are some of the most relevant aspects:

The right circumstances at the right time. The political, scientific and socioeconomic climate in 1989 was appropriate for the creation of a flexible association supported by the government. This support lead to the assuming of the responsibility of the national inventory and other activities related to biodiversity.

Political support. Given the high priority that management of biodiversity receives from all sectors of society, INBio has received the support of the various administrations and political parties.

Leadership and vision. The founders of INBio had in mind a very clear vision and mission and have been able to inspire and maintain their leadership roles.

A commitment with innovation. It has been necessary to continually develop new concepts, for example, the parataxonomists, databases, prospection agreements, bioliteracy campaigns and others.

A diversified portfolio. INBio has worked and experimented with various taxonomic groups, agreements and methodologies for research and development in order to fulfill its mission. It is predominantly an institution that learns.

Strategic alliances. A key strategy has been to strengthen alliances, locally and internationally, with governmental, academic, private and investigative sectors with the goal of maximizing resources and catalyzing the processes.

Teamwork. All tasks are realized by multidisciplinary groups that work through coordination.

7. What is the purpose of the biodiversity inventory?

The inventory does not limit itself to "making lists" of the species of Costa Rica. This program looks to ensure that every species is identified and represented by a specimen that has a name, a sample, a catalogue number and card that contain the fundamental taxonomic information, as well as its geographical information.

The main objective of this inventory is that all the accumulated information allows the Institute, and therefore Costa Rica, to:

Generate knowledge on the diversity of species of Costa Rica

Support the conservation of biodiversity and

Create opportunities for sustainable development within the economic and social context of the country, for example, the parataxonomist program


Basiliscus plumifrons

8. Who performs the processes of collection and identification of the species?

The inventory group consists of four taxonomy work teams:

Parataxonomists: collect specimens and field information. They are a group of men and women from the rural areas of Costa Rica who have been trained to collect and mount plant, insect, mollusk and fungi specimens. Apart from supplying information on the natural history of the specimen these individuals act as disseminators in their communities and are active participants in the joint processes between INBio and the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC). They are the initial link in this process.

Technicians: are responsible for the preparation and preliminary identification of the specimens. They separate them by taxonomic group so they can be studied by the curators and experts that collaborate with the institution.

Local Curators: are internal specialists responsible for identifying each collected specimen. This is a process which can take months, even years.

National and foreign Experts: these specialists visit INBio and work on the collections identifying species, especially for those groups in which INBio lacks experience.

Agalychnis callidryas 9. What is the parataxonomist program?

The parataxonomists are men and women from the rural communities of Costa Rica, near protected areas, that receive an intense practical course at a vocational level that lasts 6 months. It covers the fundamentals of biology, ecology, taxonomy, evolution, collection and preservation techniques, techniques in data and information handling, equipment maintenance and administration, and everything that an individual has to know to combine individual fieldwork with work as part of a team.

The use of local residents illustrates one of the direct benefits of conservation to the rural communities of the areas. In addition to fieldwork and investigation, the parataxonomists disseminate their knowledge and infuse the value of biodiversity to their own communities and parks through educational programs aimed at their colleagues, neighbors, relatives and local schools.

10. What is biodiversity prospecting?

Prospection is a term that was used originally in the search for minerals, such as oil and precious metals. Bioprospection is the search for new sources of chemical compounds, genes, proteins, microorganisms and other elements existing in biodiversity that posses real or potential economic value.

11. How does Costa Rica benefit from the collaboration of INBio with pharmaceutical and agroindustrial companies?

The agreements bring multiple benefits. 10% of the research budget is destined to Costa Rica conservation areas and 50% of potential royalties will also be destined to conservation areas and development of projects, according to agreed procedures.

In addition, the agreements have given job opportunities to Costa Ricans from different social sectors. Furthermore, there has been a transfer of technology as well as training for Costa Ricans, which has resulted in an improvement of the national technological capability.

12. Why is INBioparque a project unique in its class?

It is unique because it succeeded in synthesizing the understanding of biodiversity with a process of enjoyable learning, where the visitor can learn about the protection, knowledge, and use of the diversity of organisms that can all be found within our same country. The visitor will also have the opportunity to enjoy themselves while learning through various, original and interactive techniques of communication. It is a mix between science center, museum and botanical garden.



Annual Memory

When one sums up the job done throughout the year, it is easier to see the accomplishments or particular actions that, due to its nature and meaning, are specially transcendant in an organization’s development and help accomplish its goals.  These accomplishments are the steps that allow us to keep going up and reach other objectives that weren’t possible without them.

On this site you will find our annual memories where we have documented our greates accomplishments and the advances we have made throughout the year, faithfull to our scientific profile, to facilitate later on the analysis of our path and experience, and ease the investigation of our organization, its processes and advance.

Premio al Árbol Excepcional

El “Premio al Árbol Excepcional” fue creado por la Junta Directiva del INBio en enero de 2003, con el fin de destacar la importancia de los árboles y los bosques, así como su significado en la vida de las personas y comunidades. Cada año se selecciona una especie para premiar.


 Este galardón busca destacar los árboles excepcionales presentes en el territorio nacional para promover su conservación. El premio se concede cada año el 15 de junio en el Día Nacional del Árbol.



El Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio), tiene a su disposición la décimo primera convocatoria del Premio al Árbol Excepcional. Este año, la especie dedicada es el Tirrá o Capulín (Ulmus mexicana (Liebm.) Planch). También algunos lo conocen como el olmo centroamericano, por ser la única especie de olmo nativa de esta región.

Características de la especie
Esta especie se desarrolla en regiones altas, localizadas entre los 600 y 2000 metros de elevación, con precipitaciones aproximadas entre los 2500 y los 4000 mm, por lo que se pueden encontrar en bosques húmedos, premontanos y montanos.

El árbol de tirrá presenta las siguientes características(*):

  • Árbol de hasta 35 m. de altura
  • 1 m. de diámetro
  • Ramas gruesas y ascendentes, ramas jóvenes ligeramente fisuradas. Corteza externa pardo-grisácea, fisurada, que se exfolia en placas largas.
  • Hojas simples alternas, con estípulas, de ovadas a lanceoladas o elípticas, brillantes en el haz. Borde aserrado. Lámina de 3.5 a 16 por 2 a 7 cm. Ápice de agudo a acuminado. Base de truncada a ligeramente cordada. Nervadura prominente en el envés. Pecíolo de 5 a 10 mm. de largo.
  • Inflorescencia racemosa o en panículas laterales pubescentes hasta de 7 cm. de largo. Flores de verduzcas a verde pálido.
  • Frutos verde-amarillentos, aplanados, ligeramente alados, secos, indehiscentes, membranosos, de 6 a 8 mm. de largo sobre un estípite de 3 a 4 mm. de largo; todo el fruto está cubierto de pelos largos y erectos.
  • Semilla por fruto, amarillenta, de cerca de 2 mm. de largo, aplanada.


Conoce un Tirrá, envié su candidatura
El árbol que se premiará deberá ser aquel que cumpla con los siguientes requisitos:

  • Dimensión excepcional (altura, diámetro de copa, diámetro del tronco)
  • Valor histórico y cultural
  • Anotar las medidas en metros de las siguientes características:
    - Altura
    - Amplitud de copa (longitud de la sombra)
    - Circunferencia del tronco (a la altura del pecho)
  • Comentar sobre el valor histórico y estético del árbol a postular.
  • Explicar el compromiso de conservación que tenga el propietario con el árbol?
  • Justificar con varios criterios las razones por las cuáles usted considera que el árbol debe participar en el concurso.
  • Incluir fotografías del árbol (si es posible que incluya algún factor de comparación, como una persona o animal, que brinde una idea visual del tamaño del árbol).
  • Indicar la ubicación exacta del árbol (provincia, distrito, cantón, nombre vecindario y señas exactas para poder llegar al sitio).
  • Adjuntar la información de la persona que propone la candidatura (nombre completo, teléfono, fax, cédula, etc.).
  • Indicar el nombre completo del propietario del terreno donde se encuentra el árbol.
  • Adjuntar información de  respaldo a la candidatura proveniente de la comunidad, autoridades competentes o propietario, según sea el caso.

arbol-excepcional2013-2Es importante recalcar que el primer escrutinio se realiza con base en las fotografías que se reciban para cada uno de los candidatos, por esta razón es de suma importancia que las mismas evidencien las dimensiones y características del árbol postulado.

Las candidaturas deberán remitirse antes del 31 de mayo de 2014:
Premio al Árbol Excepcional
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad
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Fax: 2507-8270, atención: Premio al Árbol Excepcional
La entrega de esta décima edición del Premio al Árbol Excepcional 2014 se realizará el jueves 12 de junio de 2014.

Sobre el Premio
El “Premio al Árbol Excepcional” fue creado por la Junta Directiva del INBio en enero de 2003, con el fin de destacar la importancia de los árboles y los bosques, así como su significado en la vida de las personas y comunidades. Cada año se selecciona una especie para premiar.

Este galardón busca destacar los árboles excepcionales presentes en el territorio nacional para promover su conservación. El premio se concede cada año el 15 de junio en el Día Nacional del Árbol.

A la fecha se han realizado diez ediciones de este Premio, y se han premiado las siguientes especies:

2004 PRIMERA Jícaro (Crescentia cujete) Ciudad Colón, San José
2005 SEGUNDA Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) Parque Héctor Zúñiga, en Liberia, Guanacaste
2006 TERCERA Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) Finca La Ceiba S. A., en Nuevo Arenal de Tilarán, provincia de Guanacaste
2007 CUARTA Almendro de montaña (Dipterix panamensis) Hotel Selva Verde en Sarapiquí, provincia de Heredia
2008 QUINTA Cedro amargo (Cederla odorata) Finca El Abuelo Danilo, en Escobal de Atenas, provincia de Alajuela
2009 SEXTA Higuerón (Ficus cotinifolia) Cabuya, Distrito de Cóbano, provincia de Puntarenas
2010 SÉTIMA Roble (Quercus bumelioides) Hotel Savegre, Distrito de San Gerardo provincia de San José
2011 OCTAVA Cenízaro  (Samanea saman) San Cristóbal de las Juntas de Abangares, Guanacaste.
2012 NOVENA Espavel (Anacardium excelsum) El Bosque de Guácimo, Limón
2013 DÉCIMA Cedro Dulce (Cedrela tonduzii) Parque del Centenario, en la Unión de Tres Ríos. Provincia de Cartago.
2014 UNDÉCIMA Tirrá (Ulmus mexicana) Cervantes, cantón de Alvarado, provincia de Cartago.

De las diez ediciones realizadas hasta la fecha, tres de estos premios se han otorgado a ejemplares localizados en la provincia de Guanacaste, dos en San José, y uno en Puntarenas, Heredia, Limón, Cartago y Alajuela respectivamente, con lo que podemos concluir que este Premio ha visitado galardonado especies representativas de todo el país.

Selección de las especies
El jurado del Premio al Árbol es el responsable de definir las especies que cada año se premiará.

El Jurado
El Premio al Árbol Excepcional cuenta con un grupo de expertos botánicos y forestales que se encargan de seleccionar las especies y los candidatos que cada año se proponen. El jurado está compuesto por distinguidos profesionales de la Universidad Nacional, el INBio y otros independientes, todos de gran trayectoria en sus campos de acción.