- 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 (formerly Institute of the Environment). This move enabled CTR to expand its multidisciplinary scope and impact. Funding support from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health, CALFED, the National Geographic Society, USAID, ECOFAC, NSERC, the Rothschild Foundation, the Turner Foundation and other sources has enabled CTR to expand 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.
- Applying advanced molecular genetic approaches to help conserve rainforests on four continents, identify critical habitats for migratory birds, help in the reintroduction of endangered species and in the study of wildlife disease.
- Employing the latest in satellite imagery technology to estimate the loss of rainforest, identify critical areas to protect, and assess the effects of climate change.
- Developing non-invasive methods of sampling to genetically identify individuals and populations as well as developing state-of-the-art facilities to store samples in genetic libraries and databases.
- Testing alternative approaches to restoring rainforest by integrating data collected from movement patterns of seed dispersers and long-term studies of forest dynamics.