Ruth Metzel, Co-Founder and Director

Ruth has a Master of Forestry and MBA from Yale University, and a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. In addition to working with the Azuero Earth Project, she has been a part of The Forests Dialogue, the International Society of Tropical Foresters, and the Governance, Environment and Markets Initiative at Yale. Ruth has written about Azuero in publications such as “Manejo de Nutrientes y Seguridad Alimentaria en Huertos Caseros Mesoamericanos” (2015) and “Farm to Forest: Factors Associated with Protecting and Planting Trees in a Panamanian Agricultural Landscape” (2015). Her field experience includes research projects with the Smithsonian in Panama, along with work in Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, Venezuela and the United States. If she is not in the office, you can find her dancing típico, kayaking, hiking or in a “junta de embarre.”

Vernon Scholey, Co-Founder

Vern has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fisheries Biology from the University of Washington. He has worked in the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, Washington State, Japan, Ecuador and since 1985 has been the Director of the Achotines Laboratory at the southern tip of the Azuero Peninsula. Investigations at the Achotines Laboratory, a field station of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, focus on the ecology and biology of tuna. Research is carried out at sea and on land where simulated ocean conditions allow scientists to work with eggs and larvae provided by captive spawning yellowfin tuna. Achotines Laboratory also hosts a number of research scientists in other marine and terrestrial disciplines as well as University short courses and field trips.

Jairo Batista Bernal, Organic Garden and Tree Nursery Coordinator

Jairo Batista Bernal was born in Pesé, Herrera on November 30, 1966. He attended Hipolito Pérez Tello Elementary School in Chitré, Pesé Secondary School Middle School and graduated from the Professional and Technical Institute of Azuero as an electronics technician. Afterwards, he obtained a clinical assistant degree from the Technological Center of Panama. Today, he lives in Los Asientos with his family, where he has participated in scientific investigations such as native species reforestation projects with the Smithsonian’s PRORENA project, tree studies with Princeton University and the University of Florida, and as a field guide for sighting wildlife (such as the Azuero Spider Monkey) with California State University, Northridge. In his free time he works in reforestation, agroforestry and to maintain his personal garden and native species tree plantation. He is a founding member of the Association of Agrosilvopastoral Cattle Producers of Pedasi (APASPE).  Jairo is in charge of the Azuero Earth Project’s model experimental organic garden and tree nursery in Pedasi. As a part of this effort, he gardens organically, with ornamental plants and vegetables, and coordinates with the garden team, which includes staff and volunteers. In addition, he contributes his knowledge of native tree species in the region to other AEP programs and is responsible for the management of the Pedasi office property.

Gricel García, Projects Assistant

Gricel grew up in Pedasí.surrounded daily by the marine environment. She finished her secondary studies at Manuel María Tejada Roca high school, and received an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and Limnology from the University of Panama. She has also supported her family, the Barrios Velasco family, in the collection of signatures to request the 2012 delimitation of the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge and the request for shared management. Over the years she has been involved in diverse environmental activities such as beach cleanups, environmental conservation workshops, academic congresses on marine and coastal issues, and as a university leader and student coordinator for a social work project in Pedasí, which was successful at allowing her to bring diverse socio-ecological activities to her home town. Among her contributions, she has worked on various occasions with fishermen and youth groups in the community. She is currently coordinating a final project on the frequency of Stenella attenuata dolphin sightings in the Pablo A. Barrios and Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuges in Pedasi.

Karen Rodriguez, Office Caretaker

Karen was born in Panama City and went to elementary school at San Antonio school in Chorrera and secondary school at De Lecert Professional and Technical School. She worked in the Ciadeli shrimp farm in Vacamonte, and moved to Pedasi in 2006, where she lives with her family and is currently in charge of the cleaning and maintenance of the Azuero Earth Project offices.

Gerwald Meulman – Reforestation Intern

Gerwald is a student from the Netherlands who is about to graduate from the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht to obtain his bachelor degree in International Business & Languages. In the past, he studied Wildlife Conservation & Management which gave him a deep insight into the importance of natural resources. So far, he has worked in Ireland, Spain and China to experience new cultures and learn from it’s people. At the Azuero Earth Project, he mainly assists in the preparation of the tree nursery for  the 2018 reforestation season. However, he also supports the many reforestation activities of the organization.

Marit Overgoor – Organizational Development

Marit is an International Business and Languages student from the Netherlands and is currently busy with her minor International development work.
In the past she has travelled to Southeast-Asia where she saw the damage that was done to the forest. After her travels she felt comitted to support reforestastaion activities.
Furthermore, Marit has lived and studied in Alcalá de Henares in Spain and Valencia in order to learn Spanish and experience other cultures.  
At the Azuero Earth project Marit is preparing the tree nursery for the reforistation in June 2018. She will help with the responsibilities of the organization to reforest the Azuero region.

Vicente Vasquez – Intern

Vicente Vásquez is a nature lover, active in different environmental movements in areas of Herrera and Los Santos, he likes to communicate and generate public opinions that influence the people consciences for a sustainable management of our environment, he has participated in activities with organizations like CATHALAC, Mi Ambiente and Friends of the Americas. He loves to know about trees, from the seed collection to later control. He is a muralist artist, chess player and essay writer. he declares: “I am everything my environment needs”.

Francisco Huang – Intern

I considered that every activity I develop in my life will carry with it a teaching that I will never forget. Although, I have little knowledge of what relates to the environment, this subject arouses a great curiosity on me which motivates me to be a practitioner in the Azuero Earth Project, which will allow me to learn about reforestation and each of the processes it involves from the collection of seeds up to the care against plagues.
The opportunity to practice in the Azuero Earth Project, allows me to be closer to one of my great passions, as is the sea, because in addition to every day’s work I try to appreciate the sunrises or sunsets on the different beaches of Pedasí.

Eloy Gonzalez – Intern

He was born on May 17, 2000, in panama, city of panama.
He completed his primary studies at the general school of Nuevo Emperador, and his secondary’s studies at the Plinio Moscoso Institute of Pedasi.
Eloy likes to play football, but his main sport is the body board (surf), besides this he likes to spend a lot of time in family, have fun with his friends and go a lot to the beach. In his free moments, he likes to listen to music and have fun with board games and stories with his friends.