Panama Indigenous Intercambio Program (PIIP)

Panama Indigenous Intercambio Program (PIIP) is two-week agro-ecological research experience for undergraduate students based in Panama at the Batipa Field Station (BFI) run by the Universidad Tecnológica Oteima. BFI is located in the Batipa Peninsula, in the District of David, Chiriqui province. This is a distinctive place to do research on tropical ecology and agroforestry practices. The “Batipa Model ” supports a development of understory growth in the teak plots, thus strengthening biodiversity at BFI. The land (within the Batipa peninsula) includes approximately 2000 Ha of mangroves, 1000 Ha for teak reforestation, 400 Ha for livestock in silvopastoral systems, and 600 Ha are maintained as habitat for endemic wildlife. Students will work their scientific mentors to design their research projects under the main themes of wildlife corridors and biodiversity impacts of the Batipa model of teak forest cultivation.

Four Indigenous traditional ecological experts from the Ngöbe Bugle peoples of Panama will be invited to join the PIIP scholars and their research mentors, working with each group on their research projects. In the spirit of reciprocity, our students will also complete a community-based project on water quality education within the Comarca Ngöbe Bugle, in partnership with our Ngöbe colleagues. PIIP will provide an equitable program for participants that decolonizes study abroad experiences, empowering both students and host communities through respectful scientific inquiry. A collaborative global framework to foster a diverse community of STEM scholars will be created, particularly from Indigenous and Latinx communities, preparing them for the global STEM workforce. Many of our Hispanic participants are bilingual and will be able to translate for the non-Spanish speaking participants. PIIP students will complete a research project and present their research posters at the conclusion of the program.

Faculty Mentors and Staff:

Dr. Jessica L. Black, Heritage University

Dr. Dimaris Acosta-Mercado, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Dr. Alberto Puente-Rolón, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Dr. Benjamin Van Ee, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Karolynn Tom, Heritage University

Ngöbe Indigenous Experts

Celestino Mariano Gallardo

Victoria Guerra

Rodrigo Aguirre

Humberto Venado

Students and Blog Links:

Salvador Ayala Vaca, Heritage University

Mikayla Harris, Heritage University

Natali Hernandez, Heritage University

Alonso Hernandez, Heritage University

Deyaneira Rodriguez Munoz, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Ebony Schultz, United Tribes Technical College

Nick Tegen, Heritage University

Jordon Woodward, Heritage University

Camp Coordinator and Community Project Leader

Destry Seiler


Denise Silfee