GIS Scholars Impress at the Embassy


UCF assistant professor of geographic information systems Timothy Hawthorne, Ph.D., of the UCF Department of Sociology and the College of Sciences GIS Cluster Initiative led a group of eight students to the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan, Belize as part of the Community Geographic Information Systems and Citizen Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU).

Citizen Science GIS REU is an international program funded by the National Science Foundation that sends undergraduate students to Belize to prep them for future academic and non-academic careers in fields such as GIS, geospatial technologies, geography, geosciences, education, public health and sociology.

The REU scholars had the opportunity to individually present their research projects and explain their ArcGIS mapping applications to some of the Embassy’s highest ranking representatives including the Deputy Chief of Mission, the Economic and Political Advisor, the Political and Security Advisor for Gang Suppression and Narcotics, and an International Affairs representative.

13654237_986643488125225_1358580096814489025_nAfter each presentation, the Embassy staff congratulated the students on their work and discussed opportunities for further partnership between the NSF REU team and the Embassy.

“It was incredibly reassuring to receive our Embassy’s support of our work and insightful to hear the wealth of connections and ideas they had for our project,” said Sarah Kuo, Citizen Science GIS REU participant and junior studying Geological and Environmental Science at the University of the Pacific. “Their enthusiasm and dedication to similar projects around Belize propels us back to Hopkins with buzzing minds for the final days with the community.”

Towards the end of the meeting, United States Ambassador Carlos Moreno introduced himself to the REU team, listened to a quick summary of each project, and responded to each presentation, emphasizing the importance of their work to the people of Belize and U.S. citizens overseas.

“As an international research team committed to collaboration and communicating our work with diverse stakeholders, we fully appreciate the significance of meeting with Embassy staff, including the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission,” said Dr. Hawthorne who is also the principal investigator of the GIS REU team. “Our students were well prepared, presented their work effectively, and were deeply humbled by this once in a lifetime opportunity to dialogue with such important diplomats in Belize.”

The team of eight students, including UCF sociology student Amanda Ashby, will continue their research in Belize through August 5, 2016. Learn more about their work on the website and participate in their final research presentations beginning at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live on Thursday, August 4: 

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