Meet your Neighborhood Researchers!

Michele Goodfellow: Michele Goodfellow is completing her undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Conservation at the University of Florida.  From May-June 2012, she is partnering with Eduardo Ducreuz, a student from Panama’s Technological University in order to map the trees in the Azuero peninsula and determine their contribution to carbon intake as an undergraduate field assistant to Stephanie Bohlman, professor at the University of Florida.

Michael Bauman: Michael Bauman is a Master’s student from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida and is here on the Azuero from May to July. The goal of Michael’s project is to use ecological and social characteristics of the province to determine areas important for forest conservation. This season, he will be conducting interviews with organizations and landowners throughout the province to assess levels of organizational support for forest conservation and restoration programs and landowners’ willingness to conserve and restore forests.

How to Save Money with Bio-Gas

César González, professor at INADEH (National Institute for Professional Formation and Training for Human Development) and UTP (National Technological University of Panama), showed Pedasi residents his car that runs on bio-gas from pig excrement at a community event on May 26th.

González emphasized that one of the advances that makes biogas usable is the ability to compress the gas in transportable tanks, just as you would with traditional gas brands now available on the market (Panagas, Tropigas brands, etc.). Biogas allows him to create systems that save money by using biogas to power homes and businesses.

Currently, the Panamanian government heavily subsidizes gas production, which costs them millions of dollars per year. If they invested in biogas, the gas could be produced at a much lower cost, thus saving money for the consumer and the Panamanian government, as well as providing extra income for livestock ranchers. ~César González

Community members asked about the workings of the biogas car, for which César González uses excrement from local pig farms, and inquired about the prices of installing home biogas systems.

For more information visit Guest Experts.

Barrios and McGill Revive History and Ecology of Local Wildlife Refuge in Community Discussion

Sabina Barrios and three student researchers from McGill University presented visions of the past and future of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge to the Pedasi community on Saturday April 21, 2012. To ensure the protection and conservation of the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, the “Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge” was created in honor of a Pedasieño who was a great defender of nature (G.O. 22,148). This Refuge includes the coastal area and ocean in front of Isla Iguana, permitting only artisanal fishing but prohibiting trawling and large shrimp boats. This Refuge contains diverse ecosystems like beaches, mangroves, dunes and marshes. It is more than 15 ha in size and borders in the North with Purio River, in the East with Isla Iguana, in the South with Punta Mala, and in the West with Purio, Mariabé and Pedasí townships.

Sabina Barrios emphasized the diversity of different ecosystems within the Refuge. “If we don’t protect the mangroves, we will not have fish for traditional fishing practices. Why do we have to protect the mangroves? Mangroves are the reproductive sites of many traditional fish.” She explained the significance of the dune structures to the Pedasi area; “What are dunes? They are mounds of sand. Not all Panamanian beaches and coasts have this advantage. These are a source of pride for Pedasi. The dunes are natural barriers to erosion and hypersalination.”

The coastal zone protected by the Refuge is in large part tropical dry forest. This tropical dry forest is the forest type least represented in the national system of protected areas (SINAP) and is the most endangered type of forest in the nation. Today, this coastal zone is in grave danger due to pressure from touristic development. For this reason, three McGill students, Flaam Hardy, Isobel Phoebus and Tanya Taggart-Hodge, chose to come to Pedasi as a part of McGill’s internship program. In the past three months, they have collaborated with the Ecotourism and Multiservice Cooperative of Pedasi and the Azuero Earth Project to interview local residents and fishermen about current practices and effective management strategies for the Refuge. An arrangement by which the Pedasi Cooperative, the Barrios Family and the Pedasi Community would actively participate in the Refuge’s co-management with ANAM is currently being considered, and thus the McGill students’ research results will inform this process and future management decisions in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge.

For more information and to view the presentation visit Guest Experts.

Annie Young inspires community conversation about Ecotourism

Annie Young from APTSO


Annie Young, from the Panamanian Association for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO), discussed possibilities of ecotourism with community members on March 31, 2012. Annie encouraged local landowners to consider joint ecotourism partnerships rather than land sales and emphasized the importance of proper management of Isla Iguana as one of the region’s principal tourist attractions.


Ecotourism is a great tool if it is used correctly. If we can learn to integrate social and environmental principles in business models of hotels, restaurants, realtors, tour operators, etc. Pedasi could lead the promotion of a positive development that has benefits for the whole community and could become an example for Panamá as a whole. ~Annie Young


At the event, community comments ranged from discussing how to prevent the destruction of the coral reef at Isla Iguana to asking about what elements are needed to spark the development of ecotourism in a community. Participants emphasized the role that past community organizations, such as the Isla Iguana Foundation, have played in the protection of Isla Iguana Island.


When asked about future topics to pursue as community discussions, Annie Young suggested the following:

In the future, it seems very interesting to me to touch on themes that are indicators of sustainable community, hotel and business productivity. Much is said about touristic certifications, but I think that it would be interesting for a place like PedasĂ­ to start a conversation about ways to identify sustainable productivity and to recognize those products that are truly representative, not just greenwashing! Pedasi could become a perfect model for Panama.

AEP Celebrates Earth Day with community in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge

On April 22, 2012, AEP celebrated Earth Day in the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge.

Activities during the day included:

  • music by a Pedasi tamborito group called Remembranzas,
  • boat rides showing community members the extent of the Refuge,
  • painting of the first community sign informing visitors of the Refuge’s existence,
  • a beach trash collection contest,
  • a youth art contest to design a logo for the Refuge,
  • community signing of a letter requesting co-management of the Refuge with ANAM
  • speeches by local ANAM officials, the Pedasi vice-mayor, AEP staff and members of the Barrios family
  • a display highlighting the results of a study by 3 McGill students about current practices and effective management the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge

More than 100 people showed up to celebrate the existence and importance of the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, a national protected area that consists of more than 15 ha bordering Purio River in the North, Isla Iguana in the East, Punta Mala in the South, and Purio, Mariabé and Pedasí townships in the West. This event was organized by the Azuero Earth Project, the family of Pablo Arturo Barrios, McGill University’s study abroad program, the Pedasi Cooperative and ANAM (Panama’s National Environmental Authority). We hope everyone had a lovely Earth Day and we look forward to seeing you next year!

Easy-Make Neem Pesticide

Neem (Azadirachta indica) is a tropical tree species (from the mahogany family) which is native to India.  Although an exotic species, neem is commonly found in the Azuero on roadsides, parks and yards, mostly due to being a drought-resistant, fast growing evergreen tree, which provides dense shade during the lengthy dry season.  Besides providing shade, neem has medicinal properties derived from neem oil.  The oil is easily extracted from the leaves and seeds which can be used to produce an organic pesticide that is both less expensive and less toxic than conventional agrochemicals.


Neem oil basically affects insects by intervening at several stages of an insect’s life and therefore is a useful application on garden plants and agricultural crops as well as keeping insects out of your home[i].


I use the following recipe:

(Note: It is best to use the fruit and seed but if it is not the fruiting season, you can get the oil out of the leaves.)

  1. Use a five gallon bucket
  2. Fill 1/3 of the bucket with smashed/crushed neem fruit and seed or well chopped leaves
  3. Fill the bucket with hot water up to the 2/3 mark
  4. Cut a bar of organic soap into thirds, add 1/3 of the soap into the water and stir until it has dissolved
  5. Stir mixture repeatedly for one week twice a day
  6. Filter the solution
  7. Drip or spray onto plants in the later afternoon




Posted by Jacob L. Slusser, Forester and Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Yale F&ES Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative (ELTI) Training Program.

[i] National Research Council. 1992. Neem: A Tree For Solving Global Problems. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Scientist Presents Azuero Spider Monkey Study to Pedasi Community

Natalia Reagan


What are the differences between different monkey species on the peninsula? What is the Azuero Spider Monkey and why is this subspecies important? How can we work to save the Azuero spider monkey and other wildlife on the peninsula?

These are the questions that Natalia Reagan, master’s degree recipient from California State University Northridge, tackled in her presentation to the Pedasi community on February 25, 2012. In the talk she discussed the Azuero spider monkey study she conducted in 2010 with Jairo Batista (Los Asientos), Heraclio Solis (Los Asientos), and Daniel Essiambre (Canada).

It’s really confusing sometimes when you have several species of monkey in one area and they look similar. Both [the Azuero spider monkey and the Azuero howler monkey] are similar in size. You really need to check. Next time you go out there and think you see a “charro” (Azuero spider monkey) make sure to double check. The arms of the spider monkey are really, really, really long. The reason it is called the spider monkey is that it looks kind of like a spider if seen from far away, with very long arms and a fat belly. The howler has a distinct throat gland, its head is more of a slope, and it has a stooped position. The spider monkey, by contrast, brachiates and is more acrobatic. They both have a prehensile tail, meaning that they can pick up things and support their own weight. Howlers eat leaves, and that is why they can find food just about anywhere and it takes longer for them to digest. The Spider Monkey mainly eats fruit, and it is because of this specific diet that they are in such critical danger of extinction. ~ Natalia Reagan

During the discussion that followed Natalia’s talk, participants offered their own accounts of seeing spider monkeys on the peninsula, and debated the relative importance of the two main threats to spider monkey existence on the peninsula; habitat destruction and poaching.

“In the past, it was fairly common to see spider monkey poaching to keep as pets – you would see them in people’s houses – but now that is very uncommon,” commented Sr. Nicolas Solis, President of the Ranching and Agrosilvopastoral Association of PedasĂ­.

“Monkeys, as much as we like to think that they are cute and adorable, are not good pets,” commented Natalia, “For every pet monkey you see, if it came from the wild, you have to assume that four or five adults were killed to get it, because monkeys, like humans, will fight for their offspring.”

Natalia Reagan suggested reforestation of streams with native tree species important to spider monkeys as a key strategy for protecting this uniquely endemic subspecies of spider monkey. Here is a list of key tree species the scientific team found important for spider monkeys in English and Spanish.

View Natalia Reagan’s presentation


AEP Announces Regional Map of Azuero

The Azuero Earth Project is proud to announce that the AEP Regional Map of Azuero is now available! This comprehensive, bilingual map includes extraordinary detail of the Peninsula including local roads, protected areas, and points of interest.

The map was created using data collected through the AEP Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping Initiative which has partnered with scientists, students, and volunteers to create an immense database of ecological and sociological information specific to the Azuero Peninsula.

This truly is the Azuero map for every need – from planning an Azuero vacation, to finding the nearest hospital, recycling center, gas station, and tree nursery, to teaching local children about the value of their surroundings. Our unique map makes the perfect souvenir to remember the breathtaking beaches, abundant sea life, rolling hills, farmland, forests, and picturesque towns of Azuero.

To purchase the map, contact us, come to our office in Pedasi, or purchase it at locations listed on website.

Special thanks go to Guillermo Duran, AEP GIS Administrator and the designers at Topos Graphics for their work on this project.

Coming soon! Visit us again to access the map electronically on our website.

Knowing Azuero through Maps

A map showing connectivity between forest patches in Azuero


On Saturday afternoon, the 21st of January, Guillermo Duran, AEP GIS Administrator gave a presentation entitled “Knowing Azuero through Maps” as part of the AEP monthly lecture series. The lecture demonstrated what the AEP Mapping Initiative has accomplished in the past year and discussed the kinds of in-depth information that has been gathered about many aspects of peninsular life and its ecosystem.


The event was attended by a mix of young people, local Pedasi residents, farmers, scientists, and friends of the Azuero Earth Project who came to learn about the program and get a glimpse of its GIS database of conservation priorities.  This comprehensive, digital database paints a vivid picture of how land is being used across the peninsula and contains a total of 143 layers of information including climate, infrastructure, natural geography, social information, environmental risks, such as garbage disposal, and species sightings. In the presentation, Guillermo showed how the database can be used to visualize details such as forest regeneration over specific time periods.


“The benefit of these lectures is that we can let the community know what we are doing and what tools we have available. The challenge is presenting the information for a wide-ranging audience to find the balance between explaining basic concepts and the more technical aspects,” said Guillermo following the event.  He explained what sources were used to create the database and what kinds of maps the database can generate. The audience was eager to ask questions about the availability of the data as well as about the satellite and aerial imagery which the program utilizes. Local producers and researchers were particularly interested in learning about the program and how GIS can be used a tool for conversation, research, and many other relevant purposes.


AEP recently produced a Regional Map of Azuero, which is now available for purchase in the area and demonstrates just some of what the GIS program can do.


To view the complete presentation from this event, click here.

Trees and Cattle: They can live together!

Attendees of the December 10 lecture


On December 10 the Azuero Earth Project hosted a Guest Lecture entitled Trees and Cattle: They can live together!

Nearly thirty attendees gathered on the Azuero Resource Center patio to hear a lectured presented by the Association of Cattle and Agrosilvopastoral Producers of Pedasi, APASPE.  For the past year APASPE has been implementing a revolutionary project to diversify the forage species that they use to feed their cattle and to reforest key parts of their farms.

The presentation included an overview of environmental challenges in the region, the aims of APASPE’s projects, and was followed by a visit to a nearby silvopastoral demonstration farm. The farm’s owner, Clímaco Barrios, explained how the Intensive Silvopastoral System (ISS) was established and shared plans for its management.

Climaco Barrios of APASPE and Jacob Slusser from ELTI/Peace Corps at the demonstration farm

View the APASPE presentation in Spanish. To learn about ISS, visit the APASPE blog and for more information about this event, click here.