Guatemala Field Station
The Maryland Language Science Center has established a research field station near the beautiful Lake Atitlán in the western highlands of Guatemala. This is the first of several planned field stations outside the US, which will support multi-disciplinary research involving local communities, languages and environments.
The field station officially opened in 2016 and activities so far include our first annual summer field school, the groundwork for several major research projects, and developing relationships with local organizations and researchers. (Find out more about the 2016 summer field school from the students' blog.)
Although the concept of a field station is not new and there are a number of them across the globe, the Guatemala field station has several distinguishing characteristics which are central to its mission:
It is founded on close connections with the local community. Incoming researchers and students are based in the community, living in local families and interacting with them on a daily basis. Based on a careful assessment of local needs and priorities, the field station is developing research in several areas relevant to the community, and combines local expertise with that of incoming researchers.
It is genuinely interdisciplinary, connecting expertise in fields as diverse as linguistics, nutrition, and business to address complex questions which are locally relevant.
Research in language is at the heart of the field station; access to local languages is crucial for developing cultural and communal trust, and language serves as the core connecting different research areas. Researchers working on different projects are all trained in at least one local indigenous language. For the 2016 summer field school, the language chosen was Kaqchikel, one of the more widely-spoken Mayan languages of the area.