Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

Faculty and Staff

Rubén González, Academic Director

Rubén González, Academic Director
Rubén González is a Panamanian sociologist and activist who has devoted a large part of his life to working for environmental and indigenous rights. Rubén has spent most of his time in the field, working directly with communities to develop sustainable projects based on the needs of local people.

He served as the director of Sister Communities of San Ramón, a USA-based NGO that works on economic, social, and development projects in the municipality of San Ramón, Nicaragua. He has managed several research projects in Panama, including in Coiba Marine National Park, Bocas del Toro Archipelago, and Pearl Island Archipelago. Rubén has led training initiatives to strengthen the capacities of environmental and indigenous activists in northwestern Panama.

Rubén has worked to develop and implement health programs for rural communities in Panama. Additional experience includes: working for the Mexican National Institute of Public Health on a project that examined mobile populations and AIDS in Central America and Mexico; managing projects in the United States related to capacity development and environmental sustainability; and working in the Upper East Region (UER) of Ghana, where he conducted research on the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of charcoal burning in the region.

Throughout his career, Rubén has focused on training and supporting indigenous communities in their interactions and negotiations with governments and private companies on issues such as hydroelectric projects, land disputes, and human rights. He has led multiple research projects on land tenure, marine resources, and forest management in rural and indigenous communities. Rubén is a founding member of The Alliance for Conservation and Development (ACD), a Panamanian NGO that works to promote sustainable development, community-based projects, and the protection of environmental and indigenous rights.

Rubén is a former Rotary World Peace Fellow. He obtained a master's in international development policy from Duke University. He worked with SIT Panama as a program assistant between 2003 and 2004.

View his full CV.

Yariza Y. Jiménez Charles, Program Assistant

Yariza Y. Jiménez Charles, Program Assistant
Yariza Jiménez has worked with SIT since 2005. She studied hotel management and tourism at the Interamerican University of Panama. She currently lives in Panama City, but she frequently travels to indigenous territories and communities in Panama’s interior. As program assistant, Yari provides administrative support in addition to coordinating all program components such as food, transport, and excursions.

Omar López, PhD

Omar López, Ph.D.
Dr. Omar López holds a Ph.D. and an MSc in biology from the University of Utah and a BSc in botany from the University of Panama. He is currently the principle investigator for a nationwide inventory of alien plant species across Panama, which is a collaboration between Panama’s National Environment Authority and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Dr. Lopez has worked throughout the United States as a guest lecturer and researcher, and with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Panamanian government on many important projects. He also has worked in various cross-cultural contexts as a researcher, advisor, and lecturer on a wide range of topics.

Juan Maté, Ph.D.

Lecturers for this program typically include:

Juan Maté, Ph.D.
Dr. Maté completed his doctorate in marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami and has since been involved in numerous research projects both independently and with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) where he is currently a full-time field scientist. He has an interactive, dynamic, and visual field-based teaching style, which complements his vast theoretic, laboratory, and field experiences.

Milton García, M.Sc.

Milton García, M.Sc.
Milton García earned his master’s degree in ecology and natural resource conservation from the Universidad Santa María de Panamá. For the last twenty years he has been a full-time field scientist at the Smithsonian Institute where his focus is on eco-physiology.  His teaching methodology is very dynamic. His seminars incorporate short educational excursions and hands-on learning.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Panama City

Language Study: Spanish

Prerequisites: Coursework in environmental studies, ecology, or biology.


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

Connect With Us

Connect icons

888.272.7881 (toll-free in US)



Mailing Address:
PO Box 676, 1 Kipling Road
Brattleboro, VT 05302 USA

Contact us by email.