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, PhD
Dr. Omar López holds a PhD 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, PhD

Lecturers for this program typically include:

Juan Maté, PhD
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, MSc

Milton García, MSc
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.

Angel Vega, MSc
Mr.Vega currently serves as a professor of Marine Biology at the University of Panama. He studied in the University of Havana and the University of Costa Rica and has been a speaker at national and international conferences, facilitating classes on fishing management and protected areas. He is an expert in fishing resources and the relationship between mangroves and fisheries. Professor Vega has served as an advisor for numerous undergraduate theses in marine biology and master’s theses in Ecology and the Management of Coastal Zones. He has participated in oceanographical studies about the ship Miguel Oliver in the Pacific of Panama and was also a part of the scientific team that conducted the first scientific exploration aboard a small submarine on the submarine mountain Banco Hannibal in the Gulf of Chiriquí. In his work with SIT, Angel lectures on the study of several species of fish, marine gastropods, clams, and lobsters of the estuaries and coasts of the Gulf of Chiriquí.

Osvaldo Jordan, PhD
Osvaldo Jordan is a Panamanian biologist who holds a PhD in political science from the University of Florida, Gainesville. He has worked with several governmental and nongovernmental organizations in Panama, including the National Environmental Authority, the Panama Audubon Society, and Conservation International. In the last few years, he has devoted most of his effort to the creation of the Panamanian-based organization Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarrollo (ACD), which has been working with Ngobe and Naso leaders for the defense of the natural ecosystems and traditional cultures in the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve. He also serves as an advisor for several national and international NGOs such as Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, and UICN. Professor Jordan was the first academic director of the SIT Panama program. He specializes in ethnic studies and political autonomy among indigenous groups and his lectures are focused on poverty, indigenous people, Panamanian political systems, and the environment.


Costs Dates



Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Panama City

Language Study: Spanish

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

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

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


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