Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne, Principal Investigator (PhD in Geography, 2010, The Ohio State University): The PI is trained in community geography and GIS, PGIS, mixed methods, and geographic education. The PI is an Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Systems at the University of Central Florida in the Department of Sociology and serves as one of the leads in the GIS Research Cluster Initiative at UCF. He has published extensively on community-university partnerships using PGIS and service learning to address social and environmental disparities in diverse settings. Hawthorne was PI of the nation’s first REU Site in Community Geography and GIS where he mentored 42 students (NSF Award #1156755). His community geography, GIS, and STEM education work has been funded by several additional sources, including the National Geographic Society and the Verizon Foundation. In early August 2015, he was named The National Geographic Educator of the Week. Previously at GSU, he received the Georgia State University Honors College’s most prestigious distinction being named the 2015 Faculty Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year. In 2010 he received the AAG’s national award for his work with students and community partners in his cartography and GIS service learning course. Hawthorne has traveled to Belize on 11 separate research trips and is the Program Director for the Belize GIS research study abroad course and co-founder of the Belize GIS Exchange. The PI will manage the REU program, facilitate community partnerships in Belize, serve as a primary mentor for both research tracks, and lead dissemination of project results.  Email Tim at timothy.hawthorne@ucf.edu.

Dr. Christy C. Visaggi, Co-Principal Investigator (PhD in Marine Biology, 2012, University of North Carolina Wilmington): The Co-PI, a former Ford Foundation Fellow and inaugural P1070914University Teaching Fellow at GSU, is trained in geology and marine biology with work focused in paleobiology, community ecology, and science education. Dr. Visaggi co-mentored 27 students from 2008-2010 in field and lab research through a Biodiversity Conservation REU (NSF Award #0755109). She co-led the GSU Belize study abroad course (2013-2015), instituted mapping of shoreline litter and reef diversity/health, co-directed GSU Honors and M.S. theses in Belize, and co-founded BGX. She has received awards for promoting underrepresented groups in STEM and her contributions to large-scale collaborative projects include the development of international databases for natural resources. She will virtually co-mentor students studying debris in coastal communities.  Email Christy at cvisaggi@gsu.edu.

Dr. Hannah Torres, Key Personnel (PhD in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy, 2017, University of South Florida): Dr. Torres earned her doctoral degree in 2017 from the University of South Florida’s School of Geosciences, and she holds a master’s degree in coastal environmental management from Duke University. Dr. Torres has contributed to multiple NSF research grants including work on a project about climate change adaptation and resilience (metropole.marine.usf.edu) as well as her current work on a project about restoration and sense of place in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida (http://sciences.ucf.edu/sociology/cnhcc/). She also created an app to document inland sources of marine litter through a NOAA-funded project to prevent marine debris through outreach and education. Dr. Torres has earned awards for teaching excellence in a STEM field, having taught a variety of undergraduate courses including cultural geography, geography of Latin America, water resources management, and environmental science, which included a field component in the Florida Keys. Dr. Torres’ research is interdisciplinary, and centered around the themes of environmental sustainability, disaster resilience, and human-nature interactions. She will co-mentor students in all research tracks in Belize and Orlando. Email Hannah at Hannah.torres@ucf.edu


Mr. Antonio Cano, Primary University of Belize Collaborative Faculty Mentor. Mr. Cano is a Lecturer in Natural Resources Management (NRM) teaching environmental management/monitoring, GIS, and spatial analysis courses.  He will serve as the primary UB faculty mentor for REU students, provide vast local knowledge about environmental disparities and GIS, and facilitate student fieldwork. He will also foster informal learning opportunities with other UB faculty and staff. Cano will accompany students in some of the fieldwork and also help to set up connections for community fieldwork.


Dr. Olga Jarrett, Program Evaluator (PhD in Early Childhood Education, 1980, Georgia State University). Dr. Jarrett, a Professor Emerita of Science Education in the Early Childhood and Elementary Education Department at Georgia State University, has evaluated three NSF REU grants, including the PI’s previous REU. She has lived abroad for 14 years in Germany, Barbados, and Belize. Recent publications focus on service learning, inquiry and playfulness in science, the importance of school recess, and appropriate ways of teaching earth science concepts.


Lain Graham, M.A, RPA, NSF REU Senior Research Mentor (PhD student, Sociology and GIS at the University of Central Florida). Lain has experience in community-based-research and GIS from graduate school, research abroad and her nine year career as Archaeologist for New South Associates. Lain specializes in research based on social inequalities and has extensive field experience in the subject. For her thesis she specialized in the excavation and analysis of human skeletal remains, and statistically compared these data to gain insight into diet, demography and disease of underprivileged populations in the southeastern US. Lain has led GIS based archaeological projects as a Field Director, performing cultural resource assessments on areas that have been proposed for development. Lain has extensive experience with GIS in the field. She has conducted data collection with a total station, various handheld GPS units, as well as subsurface equipment (ground penetrating radar (GPR) and magnetometer). Lain assists the PI in management of the REU program and mentors the scholars in the field, assisting them in the navigation of field work, data collection, GIS processing and day to day life abroad. Lain is also a founding member of the Open Reef Mapping Society and has experience mapping the islands with the DJI Phantom 3 and 4 quadcopters, and image processing using Agisoft PhotoScan.


Christine Munisteri, NSF REU Senior Research Coordinator.  Christine graduated from Skidmore College in May, 2016 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. In the summer of 2014, she participated in the CSAW REU at Georgia State University, where she used citizen science to better understand the barriers preventing community members from utilizing urban greenspaces. Christine spent the fall of her junior year studying Tropical Island Biodiversity and Conservation in Bocas del Toro, Panama with the School for Field Studies. In the summer of 2015, Christine was an Education Assistant for Dr. Hawthorne’s Urban Atlanta Geospatial STEM Academy. While at Skidmore, Christine worked in the school’s GIS lab and at a local elementary school through the American Reads program. She also played on the college’s softball team and was a member of the orchestra. She is a Senior Research Coordinator for the Belize REU and a founding member of Open Reef.

Nicholas Altizer, NSF REU Program Assistant Coordinator. Nick is a current graduate student in the UCF Department of Sociology and a 2016 graduate from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. During his time at UCF Nick worked on several faculty led projects as well as volunteered at the UCF Archaeology Lab. Nick also held the position of President of Hominids Anonymous, the undergraduate anthropology club on campus, during his senior year and worked to provide a variety of opportunities for students. In the spring of 2015 Nick was invited to join an archaeological field crew excavating abroad. He spent 6 weeks in Belize working under Drs. Arlen and Diane Chase as an Archaeological Field Assistant at the ancient Maya site Caracol. In the summer of the same year Nick spent 4 weeks in coastal Peru working at the archaeological site El Campanario. Nick enjoys traveling, outdoor activities, photography, and videography.  in 2017, Nick will be with us for a portion of the time to provide technical assistance (he will be in Belize for the summer doing thesis fieldwork with Open Reef).

Rigo Saqui, University of Belize Natural Resource Management major, is interested in being part of the Citizen Science GIS team because the research is “being conducted in my home country, and it will enable me to help create baseline data for future researchers to improve the quality of natural disaster preparedness so needed  in the environment where I reside.”  He explains that “this initiative will provide the opportunity to empower local communities and other interested groups to help manage their immediate resources properly with the current technology available such as GIS which will bring realization of the resources that can be used to prevent major catastrophes in the future.”

Andrew Castillo,  Natural Resource Management student at University of Belize.  Andrew is excited to join us for several reasons: “from when I was a kid, I enjoyed collecting maps of different places and countries and doing that hobby rooted my interest in geography. As I got older my interest in geography only grew and so did my desire to study and explore the subject. This is why I want to be a part of organizations like Citizen Science GIS because I believe this experience will expand my skills and knowledge of geography through GIS and research so that I can pursue a career related to geography. In addition I want to be able to use my knowledge and skills to help communities in dealing with concerning issues such as natural disasters, climate change and management of resources to improve people’s lives.”