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, Vocal

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.

Cristóbal Pérez, Program and Communications assistant

Presently, Cristóbal is finishing his Bachelor in Microbiology with an emphasis in Parasitology in the Centro Regional Universitario of Azuero. He participated in several programs that supported his academic growth all along of his studies, including the course Giants’ Field Biology, which was sponsored by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the 5th Pan-American Dengue Research Network Meeting, and a monitoring study on the Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi azueresis) taking place in the village of Pedasí, for which an article will be published in the near future. Cristóbal loves nature and all the extraordinary secrets that it continues to hide. He is passionate about his field and his major goal is to have the opportunity of realizing scientific research for the benefit of nature and for our quality of live. He has always believed that we are all interconnected with the universe, and that by harming the environment, we also harm ourselves.

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.

Nicole Meier, McGill University Practitioner

Nicole Meier graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Sc. in Forest Conservation and Environmental Studies, and will start a M.Sc. in Biology at McGill University in September 2018. Being half Swiss and Panamanian, Nicole has been involved in several projects dedicated to the conservation and understanding of temperate and tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity, getting the opportunity of working with organizations such as Credit Valley Conservation, one of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities in Canada, as a bat echolocation call identification intern and as an ecologist and research assistant; and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute alongside Dr. Stanley Heckadon, in programs dedicated to the conservation of mangroves and environmental education. She also had the opportunity to study unique ecosystems such as the Andes, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Basin in Ecuador, and getting involved in volunteer experiences including the Climate Justice for Young Canadians and Future Generations group at the University of Toronto in Canada, providing assistance in the rehabilitation of native wild animals at the Municipal Summit Park, and promoting the conservation of Panama’s national bird, the Harpy Eagle, through SOS Harpy Eagle. Nicole aspires to develop strong skills and knowledge on Neotropical ecology and climate change mitigation, and to dedicate her life to conservation and environmental care.