Our Mission Statement: To provide international experiences for students in community geography and GIS that connect research to real-world problem solving that is inclusive of knowledge production from local stakeholders.
Community Geography and GIS: The unifying theme of the UCF REU Site is the application of community geography and community-based GIS inquiry to understand social and environmental disparities in a developing country. Working with diverse international partners, 24 students over 3 years will a) learn and apply geospatial STEM research techniques to individual research projects focused on marine debris and flooding/disaster management and b) co-lead GIS training and community-based fieldwork with Belizean residents/collaborators. We define 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*). Community geography is particularly useful for training students in international, community-based research as it provides opportunities to learn and apply geospatial STEM research skills, including GPS data collection, GIS analysis, qualitative data analysis, and geospatial database design. Additionally, the subfield contributes to several STEM trends, including a) NSF efforts to increase public understanding of science and b) rapid growth in geospatial technology careers (identified as a U.S. Dept. of Labor high-growth industry).
REU Site Objectives: Drawing upon the experience of faculty mentors from multiple disciplines and the expertise of scientists from the
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Program, the UCF REU Site will:
- Provide intensive, community-based research experiences in Belize for 24 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 to encourage spatial decision making.
- Provide a mentored international research experience in which students learn all aspects of the research process from conceptualization to dissemination.
- Develop an appreciation for multi-disciplinary research, complementary research methods, and theoretical perspectives in international, community-based geographic inquiry.
- Increase understanding of research ethics, positionality, and identity as students work with diverse populations and community groups in a developing country.
- Disseminate a community geography conceptual and methodological framework for examining social and environmental disparities in developing countries in need of geospatial research.
*Hawthorne, T. L., Solís, P., Terry, B., Price, M., & Atchison, C. L. (2015). Critical Reflection mapping as a hybrid methodology for examining sociospatial perceptions of new research sites. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105(1), 22-47.