Panama, June 4, 2001. An innovative program promoted by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in the Western region of the Canal watershed will enable university students from Cocle province to participate in groundbreaking watershed research.

The research consortium contracted by the ACP — formed by URS-Dames & Moore, IRG and GEA Consultores — will conduct several studies in the Western watershed and is required by contract to employ local residents in the project. That requirement has evolved into a program to provide training opportunities for regional university students to collect data and form part of ground research teams.

The consortium and the Cocle Regional University Center signed an agreement to structure the training program and research trainees will learn how to use data collection equipment and techniques to optimize the validity and reliability of the data they collect. They will also receive emergency and first aid training, and the Cocle Regional University will receive computer equipment, as well.

The first group of trainees consists of 28 Cocle university students, many of whom live in Penonome or in nearby communities such as El Harino, Llano Grande, Coclesito, La Pintada and Toabre.