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Speakers & Panelists

Program Schedule

ASP2023: A Virtual Conference

with Guest Indigenous Cultural Astronomers

Guest Speakers Biographies

María O. Ávila Vera is a Maya elder born in the village of Xul and raised in the town of Peto, Yucatán, México. She is a steward of the traditions of her ancestors, using her life experience and native language—Yucatec Mayan. Mother of eleven children and beloved grandmother and great-grandmother, she shares her time between Petaluma, CA, and Mérida, Yucatán. Over the past 20 years, she has collaborated with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in México, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA, and projects that bridge Indigenous knowledge and Western Science, funded by the National Science Foundation. She is one of the Maya curators of the bilingual (English and Spanish) website “Living Maya Time: Sun, Corn, and the Calendar” for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Doña María Ávila Vera serves as a bridge between Indigenous and Western ways of knowing in museums, the classroom, and community settings.

Ixquik Poz Salanic is Maya K’iche’ from Zunil, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. She is an Aj’q’ij (Maya Calendar Keeper) and an active member of the Association of Aj’q’ijab’ Komon Tojil in Zunil, Quetzaltenango. She is a Lawyer and Notary Public as well as a member of the Law Firm for Indigenous Peoples working on issues of Indigenous women’s rights and land sovereignty. She is co-founder of the Ki’kotemal Community in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. She has developed topics on Maya astronomy and on the Cholq’ij, Chol Ab’, and Choltun calendars. She coordinates the Mother Moon project in her community and facilitates workshops on solar and lunar observations in several Maya communities in the highlands of Guatemala.

Willy Barreno, Maya K’iche’, is originally from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. At age 23 he emigrated to the United States where he worked as a chef and community organizer in human and Indigenous rights in different states. After 12 years living in the USA, he decided to return to Guatemala to recover his identity and rediscover his roots. As part of his current work, Willy is the co-founder of the binational network DESGUA, which is working to promote fair trade and social enterprise initiatives in Guatemala. He is Aj’q’ij (Maya Calendar Keeper) and co-founder of the Ki’kotemal Community in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Isabel Hawkins, Senior Scientist, Exploratorium, will be the Panel Moderator for the Maya K’iche.


Aparna Venkatesan is a cosmologist in USF's Department of Physics and Astronomy, and a former NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow. She works on studies of the first stars and quasars in the universe and is also actively involved in projects in cultural astronomy and space policy. She has been recognized internationally for her research and DEI leadership, featured widely in the media, and received numerous prizes and awards including the USF Dean's Scholar Award, the USF Arthur Furst Award for excellence in research for the betterment of humanity, and the (co-recipient of the) USF College of Arts and Sciences Collective Achievement Award for Supporting Women in STEM Fields. Dr. Venkatesan is deeply committed to increasing the retention of underrepresented groups in astronomy and STEM and is active in developing scientific partnerships with Indigenous communities worldwide.

Kaimana Barcarse, Kanaka Hawai’i, works in Catalytic Initiatives at Strategies & Transformation for Kamehameha Schools. His focus is to improve the capability and well-being of kanaka Hawaiʻi through a healthy community ecosystem with a focus on education. He is the Vice-Chair of the Hawaiʻi State Board of Education and a deep-sea voyager and captain on traditional Hawaiian canoes. Kaimana also serves as board chair for Cultural Survival, board member of the Indigenous Education Institute, and Advisory Council of The Cultural Conservancy.  He earned a Master of Art in Hawaiian Language & Literature and holds a Master Mariners Credential.