A University of Redlands travel course to Panama builds on University of Redlands Professor Monty Hempel’s legacy in environmental studies, Experiential Environmental Education, and geographic information systems (GIS) instruction at the University of Redlands. It follows his experience developing social relationships in Panama, and nearly 20 years leading an EEE travel course to Palau.
This Panama course, nicknamed “GIS in the Jungle,” tasks students with activities such as trail mapping, gathering original data with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), landcover mapping of pastures and forests, and visualizing the distribution of above-ground forest carbon content. These GIS activities help students construct an understanding of rainforest conservation that integrates their experiences living, hiking, and collecting original data in that environment. UAV and GIS also provided a platform for interacting with indigenous peoples struggling to defend their rainforest territory from colonist deforestation.
As Monty Hempel observed about this course, students use GIS and UAV to integrate their direct experience with ground-level fieldwork in the rainforest with a birds-eye view of the interlocking ecosystems and human impacts. Combined with direct rainforest experiences, GIS projects help students develop an understanding of nature’s interlocking systems and the interdependence of life on Earth.