Citizen Science GIS Summer Opportunity

UCF NSF REU Site in Belize

Welcome: 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! Welcome to the website for the University of Central Florida’s Community GIS and Citizen Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site 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 and America’s Partnership University. We are looking forward to hosting a group of at least 8 outstanding undergraduate students from across the country in summer 2016 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, geosciences, sociology, education, community development, public health, and land use planning.

REU Site Research Directions: Selected students will collaborate with our team in 1 of 2 research directions:

  • Research Track 1: Mapping disparities in flooding & disaster management
  • Research Track 2: Mapping marine debris & mitigating impacts on coastal communities

The research training program is the first of its kind for U.S. undergraduates given its explicit international focus on community geography/GIS and participatory methodologies. Student mastery of geospatial STEM research skills will be accomplished largely through students 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.

What Type of Undergraduate Students Do We Want in Our REU Site?  We want undergraduates 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

Priority Application Deadline: The UCF REU Site priority application deadline is Friday, March 25, 2016 at 5 PM EST.  Only complete applications will be accepted.  Applications received after this priority deadline are welcome, but may not receive the same consideration.

Access the UCF REU Application Form on Google Forms @

A complete application, includes: 1) an application form through Google Forms, 2) submission of a personal statement (limited to 3 double-spaced pages) and unofficial transcripts as attachments to, and 3) submission of 1 reference letter from a faculty, employer, or mentor to  The reference letter should be sent directly by the writer of the letter, not the REU student applicant.  Applications materials should be addressed to Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne (REU Principal Investigator).  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.  Learn more about the application process on our application instructions page.

Expanding an Already Successful Community Geography and GIS REU Site Model: 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 REU Site at  We look forward to sharing more about the UCF Community Geography and GIS REU Site in Belize and hope you find the website and social media informative.  Please contact us with any questions at

With our best wishes,

Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne, REU Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Systems, University of Central Florida

Dr. Christy C. Visaggi, REU Co-Principal Investigator and Lecturer of Geosciences, Georgia State University

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