AEP Delivers Azuero Map Puzzles to Local Schools

Student making her Azuero map puzzle, c. Ruth Metzel

On June 11 and 12, 2013, the Azuero Earth Project delivered puzzles to participating schools in its Annual Spider Monkey Educational Initiative in honor of Natural Resource Month and their participation in AEP’s annual initiative to conserve the Azuero Spider Monkey and its tropical dry forest habitat.

The Azuero Earth Project puzzle contains a map of the Azuero peninsula made by Guillermo Duran with data from AEP’s GIS Database of Conservation Priorities and AEP’s design team that shows students how their communities relate geographically to the peninsula’s major population centers and important protected areas.

AEP staff members Carmela Luciano and Ruth Metzel with students completing their puzzles, c. Ruth Metzel

Through working with the puzzles, students will learn to identify, value and protect the natural wonders that are found in their local protected areas and to develop the geographical understanding of the Azuero peninsula. Carmela Luciano, Ruth Metzel and Hannah Metzel of the Azuero Earth Project team helped teachers and students to put together their puzzles in celebration of their future use as a teaching tool in participating schools!

Azuero Peninsula Map Puzzle, c. Guillermo Duran

Meet AEP’s Newest Collaborators!

AEP´s new collaborators: Ashley Stonecipher, Sarah Graves, Lesly Oderay Candelaria, Hannah Metzel, Sabina Roan, and Victor Tran (from top left to bottom right), c. photo subjects

The Azuero Earth Project welcomes several new collaborators to the office in PedasĂ­ who will be conducting research and projects related to environmental conservation and sustainable development. They are eager to meet the PedasĂ­ community and to explore the Azuero Peninsula through their projects!

Ashley Stonecipher, PedasĂ­ School Gardens Consultant, Peace Corps

Ashley is working with the Pedasí school, Instituto Plinio A. Moscoso, to develop an organic garden with the school´s students and faculty. Ashley comes to AEP having recently completed 2 ½ years in Peace Corps Paraguay working on sustainable agriculture with local farmers and women and teaching about the importance of organic gardening. Ashley received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Horticulture with a specialization in Public Garden Management and a MS in Business Management and a MA in International Business at the University of Florida.

Sarah Graves, University of Florida Field Research Team

Sarah is conducting research to quantify the species diversity and carbon content of the dispersed trees throughout cattle pastures using high-resolution hyper-spectral aerial imagery and LiDAR data. Sarah is earning her Master of Science in Forest Resources and Conservation at UF, advised by Dr. Stephanie Bohlman. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Environmental Science. Sarah then attended the University of Wisconsin to earn a professional certificate in geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing.

Lesly Oderay Candelaria, University of Florida Field Research Team

As a part of her professional internship through the University of Panama in Penonomé, Lesly forms part of the University of Florida field investigation team that seeks to quantify the species diversity and carbon content of the dispersed trees throughout cattle pastures using high-resolution hyper-spectral aerial imagery and LiDAR data. Lesly is in the fourth year of her undergraduate degree in Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Panama in Penonomé.

Hannah Metzel, Environmental Education Intern

Hannah is collaborating with AEP to develop the curriculum for the Pro-Eco Pela´os program. She is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Government at Connecticut College. Through volunteering at the West Hill Park in her hometown and taking several courses in Environmental Science, she has developed an interest in the transformation from fossil fuels to renewable resources. After Connecticut College Hannah plans to attend law school and pursue a career in Environmental Law.

Sabina Roan, GIS Mapping Intern

Sabina is focusing on adding to and updating AEP´s GIS database, as well as participating in AEP´s recycling and the Pro-Eco Pela´os programs and the local turtle monitoring group. Sabina just completed a bachelor degree in Geography with a concentration in Urban Systems at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. Her minors were in Geographic Information Systems and Environment.

Victor Tran, Organiculture Intern

Victor is collaborating with AEP´s Organiculture program to research natural pest management systems and to help out in the experimental organic garden. Victor is visiting from the AEP from Montreal, QC in Canada where he studies Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University. He comes as a first time traveller to Panama. While not spending time in the gardens, he hopes to learn more about the Panamanian lifestyle by interacting with people in the community, and visiting local farmers in the region.

To learn about about these new collaborators, visit the Collaborators page.

AEP Collaborates with Peace Corps at Environmental Leadership Seminar

Environmental leadership seminar participants in Reserva Forestal el Montoso, c. Ina Hysi

AEP’s Eco-Guide Editor Leo Mena gave a presentation to a group of students and property owners attending the Environmental Leadership Seminar on February 20, 2013. The Environmental Leadership seminar was planned and organized by Natalie Petrucci, a Peace Corps volunteer in El Cedro de las Minas and was developed using materials developed by Peace Corps Panamá with funding from the community of El Cedro, Autoridad National del Ambiente (ANAM), and a USAID small project assistance grant. AEP’s presentation at the seminar highlighted the extent of deforestation using the Azuero map created through the use of geographic information system (GIS) software by AEP staff member Guillermo Duran. AEP provided a map of the community and led the participants of the seminar in a dialogue to visualize and discuss the effect of deforestation in El Cedro.

Participants of the seminar commented that they were shocked to see the lack of forest in El Cedro, especially along the edges of Rio La Villa, an important river that provides water to many parts of the Azuero peninsula including the cities of La Villa and Chitré. Using this map, El Cedro residents were able to identify parts of the community that they felt most needed to be reforested. The participants of the Environmental Leadership Seminar are motivated to reforest areas around their community of El Cedro. In the seminar, group members emphasized their goals to reforest around the streams of the La Villa river watershed and on the main road so that people in El Cedro can see the value of trees.

For more information on reforestation on the Azuero Peninsula, visit AEP’s Guest Experts page on a reforestation seminar held in April 2013. For more information about reforestation in general, visit AEP’s Resource Center online or at the AEP office in Pedasí, Los Santos, Panamá. AEP now offers an online tool for planting trees native to the Azuero Peninsula. Check out the AEP Plant Database for more information.


AEP Presents to ELTI on the Creation of a Biological Corridor

Map of AEP proposed biological corridor, c. Guillermo Duran

On January 31, AEP Director of Programs Ruth Metzel presented to an Environmental Leadership Training Initiative (ELTI) seminar on AEP´s use of geographic information systems (GIS) to create a wildlife habitat corridor in Los Santos. The presentation, titled “The Creation of a Conservation Corridor in Azuero”, explained AEP’s project to find a route to connect the dry forest in Los Santos where the endemic subspecies, the Azuero spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azurensis) is known to live. AEP created the potential route using biophysical and socioeconomic variables to select the properties optimal for inclusion in this biological corridor. The final route is 80 kilometers long, stretching from Cerro Hoya National Park to the Achotines Forest. This information will help to inform AEP’s programs to conserve the Azuero dry forest and to protect the native habitat of the spider monkey and other species that live on the Azuero Peninsula.

This presentation formed only part of ELTI’s seminar, titled ¨Environmental Services and Rainforest Restoration¨, that focused on training professionals and technical experts basic techniques for conservation and restoration projects through presentations, discussions and fieldwork. The course took place from January 28 to February 2 at the Achotines Laboratory to give participants the opportunity to explore the local dry forest on the Azuero Peninsula.

Course Objectives*:

1. Understand the fundamentals affecting the ecological functioning of forests, land use planning and the provision of environmental services in tropical regions.

2. Analyze the causes and consequences of environmental degradation have on natural regeneration and restoration of tropical forest to local and regional scale.

3. Recognize the different strategies, tools and technologies available to guide decision-making in land and forest landscape restoration.

4. Learn techniques to evaluate the properties of the tropical forest ecosystem and the progress of the restoration and management strategies, at both local and landscape.

*Taken from ELTI “Course Summary” document

The Environmental Leadership Training Initiative (ELTI) is a joint program through the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to provide individuals with the tools to conserve tropical forests in Latin America and Asia.

View the Powerpoint presentation ¨Creation of a Conservation Corridor in Azuero¨ (in Spanish)

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

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.

GIS Corps Volunteers help AEP digitize streams of Azuero

Josh Garver’s presentation on AEP-GISCorps Streams Digitization Project

After months of collaboration with Guillermo Duran, AEP’s GIS Administrator, GISCORPS volunteers Josh Garver of Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Ohio, and Emily Cheadle of the town of Babylon Department of Planning and Development in New York have digitized the streams of Azuero!


The streams network created by GISCORPS volunteers will form a key part of the Azuero Earth Project’s database of conservation priorities because most of the small and isolated forest patches in the Azuero landscape are in the riparian zones adjacent to creeks and rivers on the peninsula.


The Azuero Earth Project’s goals of creating habitat for wildlife and increasing habitat connectivity on the peninsula are supported by the data contributed by Emily and Josh through their GISCORPS volunteer service. Riparian forest areas are some of the last remaining habitat for the critically endangered Azuero Spider Monkey, a subspecies endemic to the peninsula. With the streams layer and a forest cover dataset that AEP is currently working on, it will be possible to identify the streams that have been most affected by deforestation, and in this way focus efforts to work with landowners who have the most degraded lands or whose lands form critical linkages for habitat connectivity.


The work Emily and Josh performed with GISCORPS will serve as a resource layer that will allow visiting students and researchers to build upon their work to further study the ecology and environmental issues on the peninsula.


For more information about the GIS project , contact  Guillermo Duran at

Guillermo Duran Joins AEP as GIS Administrator

Guillermo Duran, c. Karina Varela


Guillermo Duran recently joined the Azuero Earth Project as GIS Administrator. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) capture, store, analyze, and present data with reference to geographic location. Simply put, GIS is the merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology.

“GIS is a relatively recent and powerful tool that provides a new perspective to addressing various environmental problems,” remarked Guillermo, adding that “using GIS for conservation allows for more efficient planning than in the past. With this tool it is much easier to learn and show with maps what exists and what we want to preserve or manage.”

Guillermo is creating a GIS database to establish a geographical record of priorities for conservation, including forest patches and places of environmental and historic significance. From this we can determine how forest cover is changing on the peninsula over time. These maps Guillermo serve as a resource for scientists, researchers, and the community and help landowners understand the importance of their land and appropriate land-management strategies.

Originally from Costa Rica, Guillermo has always been attracted to the forest and the meaning that is has for people. “Promoting appropriate uses of forest resources is of great importance for the present and future of humanity,” he said. He has an undergraduate degree in Forestry from the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica and a master’s degree in Geography from San Francisco State University. “In studying forestry, my desire was to help with technical knowledge for producers and farmers and in studying geography I sought to gain a less technical, and more human, perspective of the environmental situation.”

For more information about Guillermo, visit Who We Are.