Citizen Science GIS is a research group housed at University of Central Florida. In addition to our summer grant teams, during the academic year we support several UCF students through funded positions. Importantly, our team is made up of students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. We thrive with this interdisciplinary make-up and with the creative ideas of our UCF students.



Carolynn Turneur

Carolynn Turneur, is a junior at the University of Central Florida with a study in Biology on the track for Pre-med. She is very passionate about helping others, and creating a difference in some way to people’s lives, through the powerful tool of science. As she states, “Before working with the Citizen Science GIS Team here at UCF, I had no idea what GIS meant and how powerful it was. Being able to learn how to create maps and web applications with the use of drones, have taught me how to analyze real-world situations, and how to go about conducting my own research relating to healthcare in low-income areas. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of a team that is fun, community-oriented, adventurous and most of all deeply committed to bringing GIS to a higher standing in our community, to our lives, and throughout the world”.   



Amber Rutstein

Amber is a junior, undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. She is currently studying Environmental Studies with an emphasis on Urban Planning and Policy, as well as a certificate in GIS. Amber is beyond excited to work with the GIS Citizen Science team and wants to gain more hands-on experience with GIS projects within a community-based setting. She was originally introduced to GIS technology in an environmental research and field studies academy in high school and fell in love with it. Amber believes GIS has endless possibilities for the future of science and technology. She stated “I’ve always been a very environmentally oriented person both in the classroom and out in field. I always strive to get involved with anything possible to help the surrounding community and educate people on the changes occurring around us. I know GIS work is becoming extremely popular in the environmental field and I can not wait to share the knowledge and research I gain while working with the GIS team with the surrounding community.”


Sara Peluso 

Sara is a junior at UCF, majoring in Environmental Studies, is working towards a Biology minor and is in the GIS certificate program. Sara has cared for the environment for as long as she can remember and, her biggest goal in life is to positively impact humanity, to help foster better social and environmental values. Sara has recently completed an internship with the Orange County Environmental Protection Department as a member of their outreach team. Utilizing social media, conventions, and newsletters, Sara was able to help inform the public of better ways they could care for their environment. Sara says, “Being able to help facilitate citizens to positively impact their local community was a great experience, I am so excited to combine my love for science with community outreach and civic involvement”.




Patricia Bencivenga

Patricia is an undergraduate student studying Sociology at the University of Central Florida. Growing up, she volunteered at summer camps teaching children new skills every day. “Being able to give the gift of learning to kids is one of the most fulfilling feelings in the world. The Maps, Apps and Drones program we offer allows children to learn about GIS and the influence it has on our world. I’m honored to work on a team that values education and offers a program I wish I experienced as a kid.” She learned about the endless possibilities GIS has to offer through working with the Citizen Science GIS team, and couldn’t be happier learning analysis and mapping skills from them.  




Pahola Zamora

Pahola is a senior, undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with two certificates in GIS and CSI. Pahola has professional experience in community-based work as she is an AmeriCorps Public Allies of Central Florida alumni. Pahola became interested in doing GIS work while collaborating with the Knights Pantry at UCF and Dr. Hawthorne. After graduating in Spring of 2018, she will travel to Kerkenes, Turkey for Archaeological Geophysics Field School, she hopes to continue gaining experience to further her knowledge in GIS to help citizens around the globe. Pahola loves dogs, food, and the outdoors.



Tori-Gaye Atterbury

Tori is a senior at the University of Central Florida. She is currently majoring in Environmental Studies, focusing on the Science Concentration, whilst also pursuing a minor in Urban and Regional Planning. She was introduced to GIS as a Sophomore/Junior while completing two required GIS courses for her major. Initially, she was uncertain about how she would be able to navigate the software, as she had never identified herself as someone who was tech savvy but as time went on, she developed an appreciation, which eventually blossomed into a liking, for the software. In her second GIS course, Dr. Hawthorne and a few members of his team gave a special lecture on their Citizen Science and Open Reef research, along with a Drone demonstration. From that moment, she realized that she would like to get more involved with the real-world application of GIS. As someone who used to be hesitant about engaging with the software and its related tech, she would love to help mold young minds and help them to realize that anything is possible if they open their minds to it and believe in their own capabilities.  



Eric Buenrostro

Eric Buenrostro is a senior, undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. He is majoring in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Sciences. Eric was first exposed to GIS through courses in his major and it did not take long for him to see the immense potential that GIS has for a multitude of fields. He is especially excited to be working with the Citizen Science GIS team to not only further his own knowledge but to also advance the team’s goals in bridging the gap between science and society by bringing GIS to communities for their needs. Knowledge is power, and Eric wants to give power to the people. When Eric isn’t collaborating with the Citizen Science team, he enjoys anything outdoors and is an avid rock climber.