GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 66-12
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


MORGAN, Paris M.1, MITCHELL, Dawn R.2, MORENO-BERNAL, Jorge W.1, ROBINS, Cristina M.2 and WOOD, Aaron R.3, (1)Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, 1659 Museum Road, DICKINSON HALL, Gainesville, FL 32611; Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archaeology, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Roosevelt Ave, Building 401, Balboa, Ancon, Panama, (2)Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, 1659 Museum Road, DICKINSON HALL, Gainesville, FL 32611, (3)Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, 253 Science I, Ames, IA 50011,

The NSF-funded PCP PIRE (Panama Canal Project – Partnerships in International Research and Education) recently concluded a 6 year, multi-disciplinary geological and paleontological research program taking advantage of the new rock outcrops exposed during the expansion of the Panama Canal. The main goal of the project was to document and research Panama’s Neogene biodiversity, especially in regard to the Great American Biotic Interchange, while promoting science education and outreach for the next generation of scientists.

During the second year of the PCP PIRE project, an internship program was established to allow a mixture of undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and graduate students to develop their fieldwork skills in an international setting. Initially, internships lasted 3 or 4 months for groups of up to four interns. During the last year of the project, the internship program became more focused, allowing two interns to stay in Panama for a 10 month duration. Forty-one field interns lived in Panama in total over the course of the project.

While the primary focus of the internship was to survey canal excavation sites for fossil identification and extraction, the interns had unique opportunities to utilize and hone extensive geoscience skills. The interns learned exploration and reconnaissance techniques used to discover new paleontological resources at various locations throughout the country of Panama. They also learned to recognize and appreciate the urgency for intensive sedimentology and stratigraphy projects to document newly excavated hillsides ahead of the rapid growth of tropical vegetation. Through educational outreach programs in the community, the interns were able to emphasize and demonstrate the importance of field experiences for learning about and appreciating the environment, and they were also able to participate as field leaders in a ten day workshop for earth science educators from the United States.