Increasing Awareness for COPIs Mangrove Restoration Efforts

Our Team: Sai Vadlamudi (Computer Science ’23) Christopher Martin (Mechanical Engineering ’23)

Olivia Pineiro (Actuarial Mathematics ’23)

Sponsor: Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI)

Advisors: Professor Alex Sphar, Professor Brigitte Servatius

Co-Researchers: Paola Rolon Diaz (COPI), Shawn Halliburton Escalera (COPI), Angel Bermudez (COPI)


Link to Final Report

Link to Final Presentation

Visit Our Website


Project Sponsor

COPI is located in the northeast corner of Piñones. La Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI) is a non-profit organization incorporated in June of 1999. It was founded by Maricruz Rivera Clemente, a social worker and sociologist. The main focus of COPI is strengthening the Piñones community through various sustainable development initiatives. COPI seeks to create community participation so that residents can feel empowered through social improvement. With the assistance of Piñones residents, COPI is committed to establishing alternatives to existing processes that impact Piñones and the lives of its residents. Some of these include various cultural and ecotourism activities.


Project Abstract

La Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI), a non-profit organization, has responded to the damages caused by the 2017 hurricane season with the implementation of a mangrove restoration project. To aid in and fund their efforts, COPI utilizes volunteer workers and donations, both of which are lacking due to insufficient outreach. Our project sought to increase public awareness for COPI and the mangrove restoration project in an effort to increase the current volunteer base and funding. To do so, we created an informative website with a volunteer preparedness module, a brochure, and a business card. Each of these deliverables act as an additional resource for COPI to reach volunteers and donors.


Executive Summary

Mangroves are an integral part of coastal ecosystems around the world. Their benefits range from serving as nurseries for a myriad of organisms from shrimp, crustaceans, mollusks, and fishes (Importance of Mangroves, 2017). Mangroves also protect the shorelines from tropical storms such as hurricanes. They do this with their dense tangled roots that absorb the collision of waves in tropical storms and trap the rushing water from pushing inland. However this is not without a cost. In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria tore through the coastlines of Puerto Rico and left devastation in its wake. In Vieques, an island east of Puerto Rico, a large number of mangroves died months after Maria hit, leaving the coastlines vulnerable to future blows from tropical storms (Joosse, 2020).

This is where non-profit organizations like COPI that work on mangrove restoration efforts come in. COPI specifically works in the Piñones area in northern Puerto Rico to rebuild mangrove populations in the aftermath of tropical storms like Hurricane Maria. In order to assist COPI,  our team worked to increase public awareness on their mangrove restoration program to drive volunteers and funding to continue their efforts.


In response to Hurricane Maria that struck Puerto Rico in 2017, La Corporación Piñones Se Integra, or COPI, began a flood mitigation and a canal cleaning project around Piñones in order to aid in the conservation of mangroves. Five years later, the organization is working to set up proactive methods to defend against and prepare for hurricanes, including revitalizing the mangrove forests to protect coastal communities. Through conversations with people in Piñones and at COPI, we learned that the local residents once had a deep connection with the environment that has since diminished due to government regulations. These environmental restrictions pushed local residents away from benefiting and caring for the environment as their ancestors had out of fear of legal consequences. As a result, environmental systems such as the mangrove populations of Piñones have not been managed and restored after tropical storms. Our team has approached this problem by increasing public awareness about the importance of mangroves, and their historic importance to the Piñones community. Our project was created in hopes of rebuilding the connection between the local residents and the environment, and to  drive volunteers to COPI in their mangrove reforestation efforts.



The following section discusses our plans to expand COPI’s mangrove restoration program by raising awareness, volunteers, and funds for the organization. The ways in which we plan to achieve this goal are:

Informational Deliverable:

  • Mangrove Informational Website
  • Web-based pre-arrival training module for volunteers

Public Awareness:

  • Website
  • Brochures
  • Business Cards


  • List of potential grants
  • Donations through website


Our long term goal for COPI is to build a self-sustaining organization that is able to advance the mangrove restoration efforts. In order to do this, there are three major aspects that we have fulfilled. Firstly, we created an educational module centered around the importance of mangroves that is displayed on the website so that viewers can understand the role mangroves play in the community and help support COPI in their efforts. Secondly, is the continued increase in public awareness of both COPI as an organization and their work with the mangroves. To do so, we created a brochure and business that can be distributed by COPI. Thirdly we created a list of grants for COPI as well as set up an online donation system through the website in order to establish additional forms of funding.


Findings and Recommendations


The biggest deliverable from our team is the informational website on the mangroves as detailed in section 3.2 in our final report The issue at hand now, is that there are two separate websites that exist for COPI. The first at “” and the second being the one that we created at “”. We created a website engagement survey that was taken by 45 individuals in the age range that Marcos Peñaloza, the director of the mangrove reforestation program, preferred as volunteers. The results indicated that 88.1 percent of the time, the website we created was more visually engaging. When we asked individuals what they thought of an organization with more than one website, the survey results indicated that 64.4 percent of people thought it was less credible. Based on these results, we recommend that the original website be merged into the newly created website so that there is one main hub for all information related to COPI

Brochure and Business Card:

In conversations with COPI’s Marcos Peñaloza, we have found that his ideal volunteer demographic is, teenage and older able-bodied individuals who are educated in forestry, or willing to learn. To accomplish this we have concluded, local businesses focused on eco-tourism or ecology will likely field large groups of those interested in forestry or the environment as a whole. Distributing COPI brochures and cards at such places could result in gaining interest for the project. From our research into locations and majors of local universities, we have found that the following campuses would best match the education demographic COPI seeks: University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras, University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, and any campus to which current COPI members have access that fit the above criteria.


During our time in Puerto Rico we researched different organizations that give money to non-profit organizations in Puerto Rico. The initial steps of the research process proved fruitless, as many websites that culminated information regarding grants had paywalls just to access the information required for grant application. As research continued, our team also had difficulty accumulating the information necessary from our sponsor in order to actually apply for any grants we were able to locate. After the different pitfalls and roadblocks we ran into, our team decided it would be most beneficial to accumulate a list of organizations and foundations COPI could apply for in the coming year, particularly during the fall season, when many of these foundations open their grant applications. 


We decided to create a list of potential grants and grant donors COPI could look into applying for in 2022. A large portion of the donors on the list have previously given grants to organizations based in Puerto Rico, many specifically for hurricane relief efforts, since Maria in 2017.



  • The most common information needed for applications appears to be:
    • IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN)
    • Program Materials 
    • Disbursement Information 
    • Names of senior staff and board members
    • Terms and conditions


  • The following list of organizations have the potential to help COPI acclimate more funds:


Check Out Our Deliverables Below


Informational Business Card

Informational Brochure



Our team would like to acknowledge the different groups and individuals that greatly helped and influenced our project. First, we would like to thank our sponsor organization La Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI) for the opportunity to work on such a project, as well as allowing us to utilize their space for meetings. 

Within the organization, we would like to thank Paola Rolon Díaz, Angel Bermudez, and Shawn Escalera, for supporting us throughout our time in Puerto Rico as well as providing us with valuable, translated documentation. 

We would also like to acknowledge Marcos Peñaloza and Julio Albandoz for guiding us through COPI’s mangrove restoration process and providing us with their invaluable expertise on mangroves and the Piñones area.

Our team extends our thanks to Maricruz Rivera, Nuria Escalera, and all other members of COPI, for their time as well as allowing our group to convene in the COPI headquarters.

Finally, we would like to thank Alex Sphar and Brigitte Servatius, our advisors, who provided us with support throughout the research stage of the project in C Term of 2022 as well as during our time in Puerto Rico. Without their feedback and advice, our project as a whole would not have developed and grown to its full potential.