Skip to main content

New York Zoological Society. Department of Tropical Research. General records

Identifier: 1005A

Scope and Content

This collection spans the extent of Department of Tropical Research history and activities (1900-1971) and contains a wide range of materials, including correspondence, expedition reports, guest books, specimen catalogues, and catalogues of motion pictures and illustration. Correspondence includes chiefly letters written to and from William Beebe from various individuals working at such scholarly institutions as the Chicago National History Museum, The American National History Museum, The United States Smithsonian Institute, University of Texas (Department of Zoology). There are also expedition reports from territories outside the U. S. beginning with British Guiana, 1916-1924, and expanding to include various territories in Columbia, Trinidad, Bermuda, Panama, and Venezuela, 1941-1965. The reports document animal specimens, gifts to outside institutions, acquisitions, and education and research efforts, 1916-1924 and 1941-1965. Guest books date from 1916-1971, and they record the names of visitors to the field stations in Kartabo, British Guiana, Bermuda, Nonsuch, Venezeula, and Simla. Additionally, there are specimen catalogs for vertebrates and invertebrates spanning from 1916 to 1958. The collection also includes catalogs of color plates and drawings 1919-1938, film indices circa 1940, and two boxes of specimen index file cards.


  • 1900 - 1971


Access Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible access restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible usage restrictions.

Historical Note

The origins of the Department of Tropical Research (DTR) can be traced to the earliest expeditions of William Beebe (1877-1962) when he served as first Curator of Birds for the Bronx Zoo. Among these field expeditions were visits to Nova Scotia in 1900, Mexico from 1903 to 1904, Trinidad in 1908, British Guiana in 1909, and the Pheasant Expedition in Asia from December 1909 through May 1911. In 1914 the old winter house for eagles in the Bronx Zoo was made available to Beebe for laboratory research and storage of his field equipment.

In 1916 and 1918 the New York Zoological Society operated tropical research stations in the Bartica District of British Guiana with staff researchers and artists all working under Beebe as Director. After the First World War, a new station was opened at Kartabo, British Guiana. The research staff visited Kartabo annually between 1919 and 1924, except in those years when occupied elsewhere.

In 1923 Beebe was named Director of Scientific Research for the newly named Department of Tropical Research. In that year the DTR commenced its oceanographic work. Over the next seventeen years, expeditions were undertaken in the West Indies, Sargasso Sea, Hudson Gorge, Bermuda, and the Eastern Pacific, from San Diego, California to the Galapagos Archipelago. In Bermuda between 1928 and 1940, the DTR conducted intensive ecological investigations within well defined areas of deep sea and shore zones, and undertook what were then record-breaking explorations in the depth of the sea with the submersible diving bell, the bathysphere.

Later, the attention of the DTR returned to terrestrial expeditions, with jungle and forest research conducted at the Caripito Station, 1942, and Rancho Grande Station, 1945-1948, both in Venezuela. In 1950 William Beebe donated a field station named Simla, in the Arima Valley of Trinidad, to the New York Zoological Society. Upon his retirement in 1952, Beebe became Director Emeritus, and Jocelyn Crane assumed the administrative responsibilities for DTR, a position she held through 1966. After Beebeā€™s death, the Simla Station was renamed the William Beebe Tropical Research Station by the Board of Trustees of the New York Zoological Society. From 1965 through 1971, the Station was administered through the Institute for Research in Animal Behavior. In 1974, the property was donated to the Asa Wright Nature Center of the Florida Audubon Society.

More than 100 persons participated in the expeditions and explorations of the DTR. John Tee-Van served as Assistant in Tropical Research, 1917-1924, General Assistant from 1925 through 1930, and General Associate from 1931 until 1941, when he was appointed Executive Secretary of the New York Zoological Park and Aquarium. Gloria Hollister held the position of Research Associate from 1928 through 1941. Jocelyn Crane began as Research Zoologist in 1930, went on to be Assistant Director in 1952, Directing Curator in 1962, Director from 1963 through 1965, and administrator of the William Beebe Tropical Research Station in 1966. Other participants in the scientific work of the DTR included Alfred Emerson, William J. and Marie Fish, Henry Fleming, William K. Gregory, G. Inness Hartley, Paul G. Howes, William H. Merriam, and David W. Snow.

The research interests of the DTR included ecology, biotic zones, the life histories of species, systematics, and behavior of lower invertebrates, crustaceans, insects and spiders, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The activities of the research staff included the discovery and description of more than 800 species new to science, especially among insects, mollusks, and fishes; cataloging and preserving specimens for systematics collections; scientific and popular publications, lectures, and exhibits based upon explorations; and the collection of live specimens for the New York Zoological Park.


3.6 Linear Feet (9 Hollinger boxes)

2 Items (2 tubes)

Language of Materials



The Department of Tropical Research (DTR), founded by William Beebe, carried out intensive ecological investigations in terrestrial and oceanographic settings. This collection spans the extent of DTR history and activities and contains a wide range of materials, including correspondence, expedition reports, guest books, specimen catalogues, and catalogues of motion pictures and illustration. DTR staff represented within the records include Beebe, Jocelyn Crane, Gloria Hollister, and John Tee-Van.


This collection is arranged into ten series:

Series 1
Historical subjects, circa 1900-1961
Series 2
Tropical research reports, circa 1941-1965
Series 3
Records by and about William Beebe
Series 4
Records by and about Gloria Hollister, circa 1929-1934
Series 5
Vertebrate identifications and miscellaneous correspondence, 1916-1953, alphabetical in two subseries: (5A) Vertebrate identifications (5B) Correspondence
Series 6
Copied texts
Series 7
Research station guest books, 1916-1971
Series 8
Specimen catalogs, 1916-1958; divided into two subseries: (8A) Vertebrate specimen catalogues, 1916-1958 (8B) Invertebrate specimen catalogues, 1946-1958
Series 9
Catalogues of color plates, drawings, and motion pictures, 1919-1940
Series 10
Reference card file to literature and specimens, taxonomic arrangement

Acquisition Information

Internal transfer.

Related Collections

Collection 1005B. Department of Tropical Research British Guiana and Venezuela records, 1916-1924.

Collection 1005C. Department of Tropical Research Rancho Grande, Venezuela records, 1945-1949.

Collection 1005D. Department of Tropical Research Simla Station, Trinidad records, 1949-1961.

Collection 1005E. Department of Tropical Research oceanographic expeditions general records, 1923-1957.

Collection 1005F. Department of Tropical Noma and Arcturus records, 1923-1925.

Collection 1005G. Department of Tropical Research Zaca records, 1936-1938.

Collection 1005H. Department of Tropical Research Antares and Hardi Biaou records, 1932-1936.

Collection 1005I. Department of Tropical Research eastern Pacific expedition records, 1933-1947.

Collection 1005J. Department of Tropical Research Bermuda oceanographic expedition records, 1929-1949.

Collection 1006. Gloria Hollister papers, 1925-1988.

Collection 1016. Department of Tropical Research additional records, 1900-1971.

Collection 1017. William Beebe and John Tee-Van records, 1909-1947.

Guide to the general records of the New York Zoological Society Department of Tropical Research, 1900-1971
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives Repository

WCS Library/Archives
2300 Southern Blvd
Bronx New York 10460 United States