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Biodiversity Initiatives in Central America

The MyCOE program focused on using geography to address issues related to biodiversity in Central America. After a competitive selection process, 12 teams of students and their mentors, from six countries, were chosen to carry out research projects which:

  • Used geographic technologies such as GIS and GPS
  • Incorporated activities that responded to local threats to biodiversity
  • Addressed local areas with biological significance
As part of the initiative, participants attended a workshop in Panama during January 2008 where they learned about project design, research techniques, and methods of data analysis. In addition, students gained access to software, data, tutorials, and mentoring, provided by MyCOE sponsors and organizers. Each team also received a modest stipend to conduct a research project of 3 to 6 month duration and to attend the workshop. The Biodiversity Initiative in Central America was made possible through the support of USAID, USGS, ESRI and other public and private organizations.     Instructor Dr. Sierra (center, at computer), demonstrates geographic analytical techniques for conservation applications to workshop participants in the lab at the Technological University of Panama.

 Download the FREE Workshop Materials in Spanish (haga clic aqui para descargar los materiales en espanol). 

About the teams
Participating students are citizens of the countries in which they work and are enrolled or completing studies at a university or similar educational institution (undergraduate or graduate). Participants were selected on the basis of their long-term potential to contribute to the region’s biodiversity issues.

Local support
Local and regional organizations proposed projects in response to the criteria below and worked in conjunction with students through appointed mentors.


  1. Colombia
  2. Dominican Republic
  3. Guatemala
  4. Mexico
  5. Nicaragua
  6. Panama


Research on the Floral Components of the Peñas Blancas 1
Protected Area
Luís Gabriel López Herrera and Francisco Alberto Rubiano
Ingeniería Forestal, Universidad del Tolima

Mentor: Noemy Medina Guzman
Corporación Ambientalista Bosque Montano

Summary and Project

Inventory and Morphometric Analysis of the1
Barrancabermeja Marshlands using GIS and Remote Sensing
Pedro Agustín Arguello Vargas
Ingeniería Ambiental y Saneamiento
Universidad de la Paz

Mentor: Luís Molina López
Grupo de Estudios Urbano-Regionales del
Magdalena Medio Universidad de la Paz

Summary and Project

Using Coffee Plantations as Biological Corridors in the 1
District of San Sebastián de Palmitas, Medellín, Colombia
Javier Alfonso Racero-Casarrubia
Biología y Ciencias Ambientales
Universidad de Córdoba

Mentor: Jorge Luís Vásquez Muñoz
Fundación Grupo HTM

Summary and Project

Participative Ecological Restoration of the Amatea Reserve1
Alejandro Alberto Castaño Gallego
and Andres Sarmiento
Administración del Medio Ambiente
Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira

Mentor: Isabel Bravo Baeza
Fundación Amatea

Summary and Project


Analysis of the Diversity of Aquatic Macroinvertebrates and Microalgae
based on the Longitudinal Gradient and Chemical Variables of a River in the Haina Watershed
Litay Amelia Ramos Pimentel
Biología, Universidad de Santo Domingo

Mentor: Bienvenido Santana Ferraras



Establishing a Reference Collection and Information System1
 For Biological Diversity and Conservation
Mayra Lisseth Maldonado Montufar
Biología, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala

Mentor: Enio B. Cano
Museo de Historia Natural de Guatemala

Summary and Project


Species Richness of Medium and Large Mammals in Deciduous 1
Lower Forest Fragments in the Huasteca Plains
Blanca Margarita Vazquez Villa

Mentor: Dr. Humberto Reyes Hernández
Universidad Autónoma de San Luís Potosí

Summary and Project

Diagnostic Study of Mangrove Degradation in the Coastal 1
Zone of Xcalak-Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México
Marina Hirales Cota
Recursos Naturales y Desarrollo Rural

Mentor: Dr. Julio Espinoza Avalos
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur

Summary and Project



Illegal Extraction of Marine Fauna and the Danger of Extinction1
of Marine Turtles in the Municipality of San Juan del Sur
Raquel López Ramos and
Ana Vega Guillen
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua

Mentor: Alfonso Jirón García
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua

Summary and Project
Note: This project inspired one of the MyCOE Digital Learning Adventures!

Study of Tree Biodiversity in Public Urban Spaces in Principal 1
Thoroughfares in Districts II, IV and VI of the Municipality
of Managua
Francisco Torrez
Ingeniería en Recursos Naturales, UNA

Mentor: Dra. Marcia Mendieta López
Universidad Nacional Agraria

Summary and Project


Establishing a Comprehensive Geographic Information System1
For Cocobolo and the Mamoni River Watershed
Emilio Espino
Biologia, Universidad de Panamá

Mentor: Michael Shiven Roy
CREA (Conservation through
Research Education and Action)

Summary and Project

Forest Species Native to the District of Santiago de 1Veraguas
Natalia D. Tejedor Flores
Ingeniería Ambiental
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá

Mentor: Teobaldo Hernández

Summary and Project

Following is a selection of responses sent to the MyCOE organizers from students and mentors who participated in the program.

"The projects have achieved meaningful objectives, which I hope could lead to new research questions among the students and their mentors. We have learned a lot from this experience."
- Jorge Luís Vásquez Muñoz, Colombia, mentor

"It was a pleasure and an honor to be part of MyCOE 2008. The workshop was a week of growth in all aspects, professional and personal. The interaction of the group was more than excellent. Now I can say that I have great friends in Central America, and that I am familiar with GIS applications that go beyond looking at images and polygons. I will return to my country with a huge motivation to apply knowledge acquired during the workshop. Thank you, MyCOE 2008!"
- Blanca Margarita Vázquez Villa, Mexico, student

"Now I have many many ideas and proposals, especially with regards to strengthening community participation and transmitting this knowledge to different actors who really need it but do not have access to it. A thousand thanks to all my colleagues for their experience and knowledge, and to for Patricia, Noris and Rodrigo for being so focused on us and show the desire to transmit knowledge and support these initiatives."
- Isabel Bravo Baeza, Colombia, mentor

"I send a big greeting wishing everyone has had a safe journey back to their country. I would also like to express my gratitude for the opportunity made possible through MyCOE and I wish to tell all my colleagues that it was a pleasure to know such wonderful people"
- Marina Hirales Cota, Mexico, student

"Dear friends, thank you very much for sharing with us this experience in Panama, which undoubtedly was unforgettable, both professional and personally."
- Marcia Mendieta, Nicaragua, mentor