An Intellectual Pursuit to Discover Creative Models for Community-Based Scholarship Across International Borders:

The unifying theme of the REU Site is the application of community geography and community-based GIS inquiry to understand social and environmental disparities in a developing country using geospatial technologies. Geospatial technologies used in our research include GIS, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), mapping, drones and online mapping applications.

The Intellectual Merit of our REU Site will continue with the following program objectives:

  • Provide intensive, community-based research experiences for 30 students over 3 years with a specific aim to develop new researchers from underrepresented groups.
  • Engage undergraduates in action-oriented, community-based research related to social and environmental disparities with underrepresented populations in Belize, a developing country with great interest in utilizing geospatial research.
  • Provide a mentored international research experience in which students engage in all aspects of the research process from conceptualization to dissemination, while having the autonomy to co-create research strategies with our faculty and community partners.
  • Develop an appreciation for multi-disciplinary research, complementary research methods and theoretical perspectives in community-based inquiry while working with diverse teams.
  • Form a heightened understanding of research ethics, positionality and identity for students as they work with diverse populations and community groups in a developing country.
  • Refine our community geography conceptual and methodological framework for examining social and environmental disparities in developing countries in need of geospatial research.
  • Create community geography educational opportunities for K-12 educators and students to examine social and environmental disparities with geospatial technologies.

International collaborators working in Hopkins, Belize

A First in International Community Geography and GIS: 

Being the first research team to develop an international REU Site  focused on community geography and GIS is leading to replication in other settings as results are disseminated from our initial REU funded from 2016-2020. We receive social media and email inquiries from U.S. and global partners asking us to share our field protocols and lessons learned. Our international community geography framework can be utilized in multiple countries, especially in other developing countries that have vast knowledge of social and environmental disparities, but lack the geospatial research expertise, people power and infrastructure to implement wide-scale, community geography and GIS projects. Our REU framework also applies to multiple STEM-infused disciplines (i.e. geography, sociology, education, public health, natural resource management, marine biology, marine conservation, ecology and computer sciences). Importantly, our renewal REU contributes to key NSF, industry and STEM trends such as: a) efforts to increase public understanding of science and efforts to better connect science and industry to strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness; b) U.S. Dept. of Labor-reported 35% annual growth rates in geospatial technology careers, including the related fields of cartography and photogrammetry being named in the twenty fastest growing jobs over the next 5 years; c) efforts to increase representation of women in geospatial technology careers; and d) recognition that science’s greatest challenges are complex, requiring team-based solutions.

Community Geography and GIS

Our team defines community geography in international settings as “a process, set of methods, and collaborative framework that utilizes spatial thinking and geographic approaches which enable academics and communities to engage in inclusive, mutually beneficial, shared research experiences. These experiences are designed to understand and visualize the wants, needs, and future visions of willing communities” (Hawthorne et al. 2015: 24).