NSF REU & RET Belize 2020

People and science

About Project


2020 Update: More details will be revealed here in late January 2020 as we gear up for three more years of our NSF REU/RET Site. The pages (including below) will be updated then.

We are pleased to host a 2020 NSF REU and RET Site in Orlando and Belize focused on flooding and disaster management! The priority application deadline is Friday, March 20, 2020 @ 5 pm EST and can be completed at (link coming in January 2020). U.S. undergraduates 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 (REU) Site is funded by National Science Foundation Award #1560015. Our international REU 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.

Application Instructions A complete 2020 application includes: 1) an application form through the link here coming in January 2020, 2) submission of a personal statement (limited to 3 double-spaced pages) and unofficial transcripts as attachments to belizereusite@gmail.com, and 3) submission of 1 reference letter from a faculty, employer, or mentor to belizereusite@gmail.com. The reference letter should be sent directly by the writer of the letter, not the REU/RET applicant. Application materials should be addressed to Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne and Dr. Hannah Torres. Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Potential candidates may be contacted for a follow-up Skype interview within one month of the priority application deadline.

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 (Open in 2020): Mapping debris & mitigating impacts on coastal communities
  • Research Track 2 (Open in 2020): Mapping disparities in flooding & disaster management



March 20

Priority Deadline Application


June dates coming soon

Pre-Departure Training at UCF

In Belize

June-July dates coming soon

REU/RET Activities While in Belize


July dates coming soon

Post-Belize Final Preparations at UCF

August and Beyond

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


Applicant Requirements

What Type of Undergraduate Students and K-12 Teachers Do We Want in Our REU/RET Site? We want participants with the following traits: a passion for community-based research a desire to engage in a life-changing international field research experience a strong and creative work ethic a willingness to challenge yourself, while having fun, and being committed to collaborative learning an interest in living in Belize for the majority of the summer a desire to learn more about all aspects of research a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, learn about yourself, and challenge your world views The application window opens in late January 2020. The priority application deadline is March 20, 2020.

Previous REU Success

Prior to his arrival at UCF in August 2015, Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne was 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


Nicholas Altizer

Key Personnel

Patricia Bencivenga

Student Staff

Kirsten Bouck

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Dr. Christy Visaggi

NSF REU Co-Principal Investigator

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