The Team

Principal Investigator

Dr. Patricia Solís

Association of American Geographers 
Patricia Solís, Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives, AAG, will be the designated contact person for the Institute and will coordinate all logistical and content activities in conjunction with the organizing committee and lecturers from five countries. As PI, she will oversee preparation of the scientific program, institute agenda, digital environments, recruitment and selection, meeting administration, and the online publication of products from the institute. Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives, AAG, is Principal Investigator for the Institute. Dr. Solís has led large international projects under at least 50 major grants in excess of $7 million from corporate, foundation, government, and donors, such as the Ford and Kellogg Foundations, USDA, IDB, US State Department, USAID, NSF, and others on timely scientific topics. Recently she has managed similar international geospatial training programs for 120+ participants in 30 countries, including in Africa on Geospatial Technologies, in Central America on Biodiversity, in the Middle East on Science & Math Education, and in Southeast Asia on Environmental Science. She resides in Panama, where she has worked since 2005 on special projects, including the establishment of AAG’s Developing Regions Membership program.  Solís is the first female recipient of the Enlaces Award for building linkages with the Latin American research community.  She serves as POC for the AAG’s Observing Organization Status to the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP-15). AAG is the world’s largest professional society in geography with 10,500+ members in more than 60 countries.

Project Co-Organizers


MSc. Santiago Borrero Mutis
PanAmerican Institute for Geography and History
Santiago Borrero Mutis Secretary-General of PAIGH, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has amassed more than 28 years of experience in Information and Development, mainly in the production and application of spatial information to land administration and governance and the strategic value of geographic information for developing nations. Internationally, has chaired the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI), the Permanent Committee on SDI for the Americas (PC-IDEA) and the PAIGH Cartographic Commission. In Colombia, he has been Director General of the Agustin Codazzi Geographic Institute (1994-2002), General Manager of the Bogotá’s Water Supply Company and the National Fund for Development Projects. Established in 1928, with headquarters in Mexico City, PAIGH is the oldest specialized agency of the Inter-American System and the one responsible for the spatial component for the Organization of American States (OAS), whose Assembly consists of 21 Member States and four Commissions: Cartography, Geography, History, and Geophysics.
Dr. Betsy Bach
National Communication Association
Betsy Wackernagel Bach is the Associate Director for Research Initiatives at the National Communication Association (NCA) in Washington DC.  She served for 27 years as Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Montana-Missoula, and as President of NCA in 2009.  She has served as founding director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, Assistant Provost for Enrollment Management and Retention, and Interim Dean of the Davidson Honors College. Bach specializes in organizational communication with an emphasis in the mentoring and socialization of organizational newcomers.

Dr. Graciela Metternicht

United Nations Environment Programme
Graciela Metternicht is the Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment of UNEP, based in Panama, with responsibility for planning, direction and implementation of projects of the DEWA in LAC; formulation of regional strategies and projects for the implementation of DEWA activities in LAC in consultation with regional governments and DEWA Headquarters. Previous to this appointment she worked in research and higher degree education in Australia, for 13 years, as a Professor of Geospatial Sciences.


Jean Parcher
United States Geological Survey

Jean Parcher currently serves as the Federal Geospatial Liaison for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Reston, Virginia.  In this position she engages the U.S. Federal Geospatial Community to collaborate on data and uses for The National Map  and the National Framework databases produced by the USGS.  In addition to her duties, Jean represents the USGS on the Coordination Group of the Federal Geographic Data Committee , as the  Vice President of the U.S. National Section of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History, and as the USGS Liaison with the Mexican Census and Geography agency (INEGI).   Previously she served as the Geography and Central Region lead for the U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Health Initiative. In addition to supporting the multi-disciplinary research efforts of the project, she directed the development of the Binational U.S.-Mexico Border Geographic Information System.  Jean has more than 25 years experience with the U.S. Geological Survey as a geographer, cartographer, and computer specialist. Her research interests include the integration of geospatial data and standards across international borders, the effects of land use change on hazard risk and vulnerability, and environmental health risks. 
Sylvia Wilson
Texas State University

Graduate Student Research Assistant for the PASI, Sylvia Wilson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Science from the Universidad Nacional Agraria–La Molina in Lima, Peru. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in Geography at Texas State University–San Marcos.  Her research involves natural disaster risk and management with emphasis on Latin American communities living in the United States.  She first gained an interest in understanding the reactions of different cultures to natural disasters while working with culturally diverse communities in the Peruvian Amazon. She currently holds a Physical Scientist position at the U.S. Geological Survey, where she works on projects along the United States-Mexico Border.   

Host of the Institute
Dr. Darío Solís Caballero 
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá

Dr. Darío Solís is Director of Research at the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá.  He has generated and implemented more than $16.5 million in competitively-awarded, national and international level research and education programs. Dr. Solís demonstrates effective leadership applying his expertise in science and engineering combined with keen administrative skills, evidenced by growing his department from a staff of two to a team of over 45 people in the past five years.  He has supported more than a dozen students at the university to compete and win international scholarships to study at the world’s best institutions in the US and in Europe.  US-educated himself with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering  on a Fulbright scholarship, Dr. Solís has produced scores of peer-reviewed publications in international journals; given invited presentations and lectures at major international conferences; represented Panama’s research community through national service positions (e.g. Consejo de Rectores, SENACYT strategic commissions) and through international appointments; taught graduate level coursework; supervised large numbers of research staff; and held positions in private sector engineering. As an internationally recognized scientist, he is respected by collaborators at renowned institutions and is entrusted with support from competitive funding organizations, including the US National Science Foundation.


Dr. Fabián Araya Palacios, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Universidad de La Serena, Chile, is also Coordinator of the History, Geography and Social Sciences Teaching Methodology Program. He lectures courses on Geography Teaching Methodology, and Teaching Practice Supervision. Professor Araya is co-director of national and international research projects and author of several books on geography and sustainability, rural environments, and didactic strategies. He will contribute to the institute with his in depth knowledge of transmitting scientific information in public settings, and K-12 school environments. He will also lend extensive experience on virtual learning environments not only to the content of the institute but also for the effectiveness of the knowledge environment that is a product of the program.



Dr. Craig Colten, Carl O. Sauer Professor, Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University has been engaged in the study of long-term human dimensions of hazards for over twenty years. His recent research and publications on New Orleans has examined the issues of race, vulnerability, and resilience in hurricane susceptible cities. He currently serves on the Advisory Panel for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Community and Regional Resilience Initiative. He teaches courses on historical geography, water resources, and urban environments. His contribution to the project will be to examine methods to (1) identify and incorporate traditional methods of community resilience into current hazard preparations and (2) develop plans to perpetuate resilience beyond the involvement of current hazard managers to the most vulnerable communities.


Dr. Susan Cutter, Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography and Director of the Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute, University of South Carolina is an internationally known scholar in hazards and disasters. Her primary research interests are in vulnerability science—what makes people and the places where they live vulnerable to extreme events and how this vulnerability is measured, monitored, and assessed. She brings a broad-based interdisciplinary understanding of hazards and disasters and a strong methodological background in spatial analysis as applied to vulnerability and hazards assessments. Dr. Cutter will contribute state-of-the-art understanding of societal vulnerability and metrics including the spatial representation of vulnerability to the PASI in the form of content lectures, discussions, and mentoring. She is a past-President of the Association of American Geographers, a past-President of COSSA (Consortium of Social Science Associations), and the present holder of the MunichRe Chair in Social Vulnerability at the United Nations University.


Dr. Dan O’Hair, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Communications and Information Studies, will contribute his rich experience in risk and crisis communication to the institute. He has published over eighty research articles and scholarly chapters in risk and health communication, public relations, business communication, media management, and psychology journals and volumes, and has authored and edited fifteen books in the areas of communication, risk management, health, and terrorism, the latest of which Terrorism: Communication and Rhetorical Perspectives and the Handbook for Risk and Crisis Communication will appear in 2009. He has directed over twenty doctoral dissertations and served on over sixty doctoral and masters committees at OU, has served as PI or CoPI on over $10 million in grants from business, non-profit, and government institutions and has consulted on education and training with dozens of private, non-profit and government organizations. O’Hair has served on the editorial boards of twenty-seven research journals and is past editor of the Journal of Applied Communication Research. His work has been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Communication Letter. 


Dr. Carmen Reyes, is Director of CentroGeo Mexico, a Public Research and Educational Center supported by the Mexican National Science Foundation that is focused on integral solutions for the sustained and sustainable development of public, private, national and international organizations through the generation, transmission and application of knowledge in the fields of Geomatics and contemporary Geography. Project use GIScience and theory, spatial analysis and modeling (regionalization, contextual algorithms, environmental modeling), thematic mapping, cybercartography and core knowledge in Geomatics and its graduate programs offer high level academic education as well as serve to build the human resources for addressing increasingly complex modern problems. Dr. Reyes is a specialist in GIS and Digital Cartography, with twenty-six years of experience in research and graduate training in collaboration with a number of institutions, including Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Simon Fraser of Canada, University of Queensland, Asociación Mexicana en Sistemas de Información Geográfica y Estadística, and the working group on Gender and Cartography in the International Cartographic Association (ICA).


Dr. Tania Maria Sausen is Director of the Brazil Campus  of the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, based at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais-INPE in Brazil and affiliated with the United Nations.  She has published more than 70 papers on remote sensing and education, and specializes in space science education, training, and technology transfer to developing countries around environmental applications, including climate change, deforestation, natural disasters, and disaster management, with experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch and flooding in Brazil.  She will contribute to the institute’s capacity building in the use of remote sensing technologies and with technical case studies.


Dr. John Tiefenbacher, Professor, Department of Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos has focused his research on the geographical patterns of hazards and environmental problems, agricultural and land use changes in response to hazards, environmental management in the United States-Mexico borderlands, wildlife in human spaces, the implications of politics and boundaries for environmental management and human adjustment to hazards, human behavior and perception of hazards. His work has involved the use of data acquisition in the field, via perceptual and attitudinal surveys and from archival sources and analyses, both quantitative and qualitative, and employs geographical information systems to manage data and assess spatial relationships. His main contribution to the institute will be to serve in the role of integrator of human and geophysical/meteorological information that study specific human and physical components of the climate-society system. In particular he will focus attention on the perceptual and behavioral aspects of climate change and the spatial outcomes in terms of land use, economic activities, settlement patterns and development, etc. He will lead analysis of case studies and discussion of scenarios to enable students to engage with methods to mitigate and plan for barriers to safety, prevention of social disruption, patterns of hazard and disasters.


Dr. Shari Veil, Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication, University of Oklahoma, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication is the Education and Outreach Core Director for the Center for Risk and Crisis Management at the University of Oklahoma. She teaches public relations and crisis communication and has consulted with the USDA and Department of Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense conducting seminars on crisis planning and the best practices in risk communication. Recent research has focused on the communication practices of emergency managers to promote pre-event preparedness and bridging corporate social responsibility and issues management in a risk/crisis context. Her contribution to the institute will include a session on how researchers can take advantage of the socially responsible and currently trendy public relations tactic of “going green,” creating corporate partnerships in preparing for and responding to natural hazards, and working with the media before, during, and after a crisis.


Dr. Nathan Wood, Research Geographer, Western Geographic Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, has focused his research on geospatial and geographic techniques to understand and communicate societal vulnerability to natural hazards, including tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricane storm surge, coastal erosion, and climate-change-related modifications to natural processes. His work has involved assessment of spatial relationships and regional patterns of vulnerability and has engaged local and State managers, policymakers, and stakeholders to help guide research questions, to include qualitative data into assessments, and to help ensure results support emergency and mitigation-planning efforts. He will contribute to the institute with his in-depth knowledge of geospatial techniques to assess social vulnerability to natural hazards and transmission of scientific information to local and regional managers and planners. Wood will lead analysis of case studies that integrate quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding societal vulnerability and adaptation to climate-change-related hazards.


Dr. Brent Yarnal, Professor and Associate Head of Geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Pennsylvania State University, conducts research and teaches at the intersection of climate change, hazards, geographic technologies, and communication. He currently teaches advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on the human dimensions of climate change, the human dimensions of natural hazards, and vulnerability and adaptation to environmental change. His integrative perspective will enable meaningful contributions to the program on the basis of a broad and deep understanding of the ways in which these themes and topics inform each other. Dr. Yarnal has contributed to the development and implementation of advanced training on hazards, climate change, and geospatial technologies through several two-week REU intensive short courses and most recently for a NATO Advanced Training Course where he lectured on vulnerability, coastal hazards, flood hazards, and stakeholder participation.

Dr. May Yuan is Brandt Professor and Associate Dean, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, University of Oklahoma. Dr. Yuan’s research interests are in temporal GIS, geographic representation, spatiotemporal information modeling, and applications of geographic information technologies to dynamic systems, such as wildfires, rainstorms, air-pollution plumes, and behavior and activities in complex social systems. She explores multiple perspectives of dynamics, analyzes the drivers and outcomes of geographic dynamics, extracts spatiotemporal patterns and behavioral structures of dynamic systems, and draws insights into the system development and evolution to derive an integrated understanding, interpretation, and prediction of activities, events, and processes in dynamic geographic systems. She will lead discussions and lab activities on these topics of GIS analysis for climate change and hazards in the institute.

PASI Supported Participants
Andreas, Dorothy Collins, USA. PhD Candidate (Communication), Texas A&M University

Broad, Garrett, USA. PhD Candidate (Communication), University of Southern California

Burton, Christopher, USA. PhD Candidate (Natural Hazards), University of South Carolina-Columbia

Campbell, Donovan, Jamaica. PhD Candidate (Geography), University of the West Indies-Mona

Chavez Michaelsen, Andrea Birgit, Peru. PhD, (Geography), University of Florida

Coles, Ashley, USA. PhD Candidate (Geography, Latin American Studies), University of Arizona

Coronel, Claudia, México. PhD Candidate (Hydroinformatics), Centrogeo

Eosco, Gina, USA. PhD Candidate (Communication), University of Kentucky

Esquivel, Maricarmen, USA. Master’s Student (City Planning- Environmental Policy Planning), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Finley-Brook, Mary, USA. Assistant Professor (Geography), University of Richmond

Frazier, Tim, USA. Assistant Professor (Geography), University of Idaho

Haeffner Melissa, USA. Master’s Student (Urban Studies and Planning), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Heslop-Thomas, Charmaine, Jamaica. PhD Candidate (Environmental Management), University of the West Indies

Howe, Peter, USA. PhD Candidate (Geography), The Pennsylvania State University

Janes, Enessa, USA. PhD Candidate (Urban Planning), University of Colorado

Montaña, Elma, Argentina. Researcher, Human, Social and Environmental Sciences Institute (INCIHUSA), CONICET

Murtinho, Felipe, USA. PhD Candidate (Geography), University of California Santa Barbara

Norton, Todd, USA. Assistant Professor (Communication), Washington State University

Nuñez, Javier, Bolivia. PhD Candidate (Geographic Information Technologies), Universidad de Alcalá-España

Ramírez, Iván Jorge, USA. PhD Candidate (Geography), Michigan State University

Reyes Hernandez, Humberto, México. Professor (Social Sciences), Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí

Rowe, Dan, USA. PhD Candidate (Mass Communication), Syracuse University

Ruiz, Jorge, Colombia.  Associate Professor, Universidad Pedagógica Tecnológica de Colombia

Sprain, Leah, USA. Assistant Professor (Communication Studies), Colorado State University

Tambie, Jason, Trinidad. PhD Candidate (Geography), University of the West Indies

Tate, Eric, USA. PhD Candidate (Geography), University of South Carolina

Viand, Jesica Melina, Argentina. PhD Candidate (Geography), University of Buenos Aires

Weathers, Melinda, USA. PhD Candidate (Health Communication), George Mason University

José Fábrega, Panama. PhD, Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

Reinhart Pinzón, Panama. PhD, Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

María Lourdes Peralta, Panama. PhD, Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

Ariel Grey, Panama, Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

Rhona Díaz, Panama. Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

Diana Laguna, Panama. Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

Noris Martínez, Panama. Universidad Tecnológica de Panama

Special Thanks to Susan Gallagher, Matthew Hamilton, Marcela Zeballos, and Astrid Ng.