Centro Tortuga was developed to connect students at two undergraduate-focused institutions in Puerto Rico, Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Gurabo Campus (Formerly known as Universidad del Turabo) and Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Cupey Campus (Formerly known as Universidad Metropolitana), with research experiences in the marine sciences that are more frequently carried out at large universities.

In collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, professors and students at Universidad Ana G. Méndez, Gurabo and Cupey Campuses, engage in year-round activities to build basic research skills, field camps that introduce students to the challenges and excitement of working in coastal ecosystems, and professional development activities such as personal statement writing, science communication, and networking. Students are given opportunities to carry out research themselves, exposure to marine science professionals through seminars, internships, and travel to national meetings.

Program Schedule

Year 1 students participate in exploratory field trips to coastal/marine habitats, visit non-academic institutions to discover geosciences work areas, and engage in hands-on activities. The result is an introduction to the culture of science and, in particular, to team science and problem-solving science.

Year 2 students engage in structured activities, led by faculty mentors from the core institutions who emphasize leaning the scientific method and gaining confidence in performing basic research techniques and communicating research results. These activities include supervised fieldwork, data collection, sample processing in the field and in the lab, data course work in marine science. Other activities include meetings with and presentations from geoscientists and interactions with graduate students from both our core and our external institutions.

Year 3 students will design their own mini-research projects in the geosciences working with guidance from their mentors. These students will also have the opportunity to be near-peer mentors for Year 1 students. Complementing these activities will be professional development support providing talks, workshops, or webinars on the nature of science, the importance of cultural diversity in science, the process for applying for internships and graduate schools, the techniques for writing personal statements and CVs and resumes and searching the web efficiently, the role of marine science career panels, and the networking skills and strategies for attending local and national professional science meetings seeking out one-on-one mentoring about science career paths. Mentors and students will use various communication tools including classes, individual and group meetings, emails, Skype, and other web-based technologies.

Field trips

Centro TORTUGA participants had the opportunity to complete five field trips during the academic year. The primary objectives of the field trips were to expose students to research and experiential learning, to learn about working collaboratively in teams, and to expand their understanding of the scientific method in applied marine and environmental science activities. Field trip topics include a beat profile exercise, introduction to Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Ecosystem, experiential learning activity between two types of forests, and introduction to marine science research.

Summer research workshop

Our summer research workshop is to provide students with hands-on research experiences focusing on a variety of projects, including zooplankton, phytoplankton, arthropods, chemistry and microbiology, and fishes.

Student club

We have created a meeting and study space at the university for students.