NSF REU & RET Site 2020

Science and society working together


Citizen Science GIS NSF REU and RET Site

Postponement of Citizen Science GIS REU/RET Site for 2020

After careful consideration in relation to the uncertainty related to COVID-19 both in the US and in Central America, we have made the decision to cancel our REU/RET Site for the summer of 2020. This is a difficult decision, but the health and safety of our students, faculty and community partners are most important to us. To our prospective applicants: we hope that you will continue to follow our work and also consider applying for the Summer 2021 program. We know this is disappointing news, but know that each of you will have many more opportunities to engage in research and international work if you keep aiming high and seeking out such opportunities. Please remember to keep people at the core of your work as you carry on in your life’s work. That’s what we’ll continue to do at Citizen Science GIS. To our community partners in Hopkins Village, Belize: we are sorry we won’t be able to work with you, learn from you, and experience the friendliest village in Belize with our larger team this summer. Know that we will return with our larger team in Summer 2021, and that Dr. Hawthorne and a smaller student team will return later this year to continue our important work together. With the uncertainty happening all over the globe, we remain optimistic that science will continue to shine and continue to connect with society, even in our most difficult moments.

With hope toward the future, Dr. Timothy Hawthorne and Dr. Hannah Torres

We are pleased to host a 2020 NSF REU and RET Site in Orlando and Belize focused on community geography, geographic information systems, and citizen science to explore and understand issues related to flooding and waste/marine debris. The priority application deadline is Friday, March 27, 2020 @ 5 pm EST.

U.S. undergraduates and K-12 teachers join us for a paid summer research experience that will change your entire perspective on what it means to be an international community scholar! The University of Central Florida’s Community GIS and Citizen Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates and Teachers Site is funded by National Science Foundation Award #1560015. Our international REU and RET Site is part of the UCF Department of Sociology and the UCF GIS Cluster Initiative at the second largest university in the United States. We are looking forward to hosting a group of at least 8 outstanding undergraduate students and at least 2 K-12 teachers from across the country in summer 2020 in Belize and in Orlando, Florida. We emphasize engaged, community-based research while also preparing students for future academic and non-academic careers in GIS, geospatial technologies, geography, sociology, geosciences, education, community development, public health, and land use planning. We prepare K-12 teachers to incorportate these approaches and technologies into their K-12 classrooms to inspire science's next generation.

The Research

The research training program is the first of its kind for U.S. undergraduates and K-12 educators given its explicit international focus on community geography/GIS and participatory methodologies. Student and teacher mastery of geospatial STEM research skills will be accomplished largely through students and teachers creating an open and freely available geospatial data infrastructure to address social and environmental disparities related to marine debris and flooding/disaster management in Belize. This objective will include the creation of an online, interactive geospatial data and mapping portal through ArcGIS Online.

Research Directions

Selected students and K-12 teachers will collaborate with our team in 1 of 2 research directions:

  • Research Track 1: Leveraging community geography and GIS to map disparities in flooding
  • Research Track 2: Leveraging community geography and GIS to reduce waste and prevent marine debris



March 27, 2020

Priority Deadline Application


June 8-June 14

Pre-Departure Training at UCF

In Belize

June 15-July 13

REU/RET Activities While in Belize


July 14-23

Post-Belize Final Preparations at UCF

August and Beyond

Post-REU/RET Conference Presentations, Mentoring, and Writing Retreats


Application Details

A complete 2020 application includes: 1) an application form through our Google Forms and 2) submission of a personal statement (limited to 3 double-spaced pages) to belizereusite@gmail.com.

The application link for undergraduates can be found in our Google Form at REU Undergraduate Application Form.

The application link for K-12 in-service teachers can be found in our Google Form at RET K-12 In-Service Teacher Application Form.

For undergraduate students applying to the REU Site, including pre-service students enrolled in an undergraduate program, the 3-page personal statement must include: 1) a description of research interests, including how international work fits into these interests; 2) an explanation of what it means to engage in community research and education in a developing country; and 3) a discussion of post-graduation plans.

For K-12 in-service teachers applying to the RET Site, the 3-page personal statement must include: 1) a description of education interests, including how international work fits into these interests; 2) an explanation of what it means to engage in community research and education in a developing country; and 3) a discussion of how you and your students might benefit from lessons and data created in the program.

Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Potential candidates may be contacted for a follow-up video interview within one month of the priority application deadline. If selected for an interview, the applicant will be asked to submit unofficial transcripts and a reference letter.

Previous REU Success

The 2020-2022 NSF REU and RET Site led by Dr. Hawthorne and Dr. Torres builds from the NSF REU Site funding of Dr. Timothy Hawthorne and Dr. Christy Visaggi from 2016-2020. The previous REU years were based in Orlando at UCF and included fieldwork across Belize. Prior to his arrival at UCF in August 2015, Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne was also the Principal Investigator of the nation’s first community geography and GIS REU Site in Atlanta, Georgia while an Assistant Professor of Geography at Georgia State University. The Atlanta REU Site was a tremendous success and a collaborative effort with Co-PI Dr. Katherine Hankins, Associate Professor of Geography at Georgia State University. The lessons learned from the first REU Site in Atlanta led Dr. Hawthorne to conceptualize the Community Geography and GIS REU Site in Belize and focus on expanding community geography models into international settings to include his previous Belize research and teaching experiences with Dr. Christy Visaggi. Read more about the Atlanta NSF REU Site.


Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne

Founding Research Director

Lain Graham

PhD Candidate & Key Personnel

Dr. Bo Yang

Postdoc | drone mapping

Dr. Hannah Torres

Assistant Professor

Sara Peluso

Student Staff

Amber Rutstein

Student Staff

Christine Munisteri

Key Personnel

Kate Brandt


Patricia Bencivenga

Student Staff

Kirsten Bouck

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Dr. Christy Visaggi

NSF REU Co-Principal Investigator

Nicholas Altizer

Key Personnel

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