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Our study abroad group of students for 2013 will be involved in community-based participatory research with the residents of three rural communities located along the Orosa River. The purpose of their service research is to is to collect data useful to these communities in their ongoing efforts to develop strategies for the protection of the environment in their territories and the well being of their people.

Various techniques including interviews, mental mapping, content analysis, GPS mapping, and observation will be used to collect a wide variety of information. The students will work as a team to collect information about: 1) social and cultural aptitudes that would be of help to conservation agencies who wish to work jointly with the communities; 2) knowledge of the abundance, distribution, and use of natural resources valuable to the communities; and 3) knowledge of direct links between health and environment. These types of aptitudes and knowledge are considered to be "assets" useful in the development of a conservation strategy.

All research will be conducted in partnership with key individuals from each of the three communities to assist in the collection of data. The active participation of community members will serve to provide training to local individuals for the continued collection of data useful for the development of community-based conservation strategies after our departure.

To see projects from previous years click here.

If you want to sponsor students, please contact us at riachj@fiu.edu or at mionectes@aol.com.

The students will work in groups, with each group focusing on a distinct research area. The research areas covered by these groups include: social and cultural assets; natural assets; and  direct links between health and environment.

Cultural Assets Group: Tony Paz (Religious Studies), and Rachel Stevens (Politics & International Relations)Creation of mental maps that depict the self-perceived cultural identity of the members of the communities.

- Creation of maps containing the household distribution for each community.

- Creation of diagrams depicting kinship and support networks involved in determining patterns of communal work and resource sharing.

- Identification of examples of close cultural relationships to the environment found in multimedia sources, arts, and crafts produced by members of the communities.

Social Assets: Morgan Ferris (Non-degree seeking)

- Communal census

- Identification of existing community-based organizations within each of the  communities.

- Identification of external organizations that the communities interact with.

- Identification of external communities that the communities interact with.

- Creation of an organizational chart documenting the relationships between community organizations and between the community and external organizations and communities.

Natural Assets Group: Jessica Beck (Politics & International Relations), Kathy Loaiza (International Business), and Stephanie Puello (Politics & International Relations)

- Documentation of typical daily resource use, and identification of key or valuable resources.

- GPS mapping of key natural assets, and documentation of abundance, threats, and planned management of these resources.

- Mapping of areas targeted for future land use.

- Analysis of household resource use to estimate cash value of natural resources used

Health and Environment Group: Joey Tardanico (Biology), Priscilla Torres (Biomedical Engineering), and Angie Toscano (Dietetics & Nutrition)

- Documentation of common health problems experienced in the communities and identification of problems with direct environmental connections.

- Mapping of areas suspected to be sources of health problems, such as breeding grounds of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.

- Participatory brainstorming of environmental management strategies to prevent health problems.

All Groups

- Documentation of beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes of local residents about community-managed conservation.