February 15, 2018

ForestGEO welcomes a new postdoc at SCBI!

We are pleased to welcome a new postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Norbert (Nobby) Kunert, who will be working on a new ForestGEO project at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)!

Dr. Norbert Kunert

Nobby’s project will focus on plant-water relations and tropical forest function measuring leaf hydraulic and functional traits in species-rich tropical forests. Specifically, he will be conducting fieldwork in the forest dynamics sites at Barro Colorado (BCI) in Panama and at the Lambir/Pasoh sites in Malaysia. The aim is to identify key hydraulic, physiological, anatomical, and functional traits and to parameterize these traits for the use of tree growth models in response to climate change. Nobby will combine the collected data with forest plot census data to test the extent that trait variation is driving tree growth as well as how these traits can predict drought responses in growth and mortality.
The specific research questions that he will be addressing are:
  • Can hydraulic, physiological, anatomical and functional traits be combined to predict growth and mortality?
  • Can this relationship be used to predict climate sensitivity, drought vulnerability, and habitat filtering?
  • How does tree size affect hydraulically traits? 
Nobby will be based at SCBI in the Forest Ecosystems and Climate Lab with staff scientist Kristina Anderson-Teixeira. Nobby comes to ForestGEO after his time as associate lecturer of tropical forest ecology at the University of Freiburg in Germany. He has previously worked as a post-doc in Brazil and Panama and received his PhD in Forest Science and Wood Ecology at the University of Göttingen. Please join us in welcoming Nobby to ForestGEO!  
Publications by Dr. Norbert Kunert


January 24, 2018

2017 ForestGEO research grant awardees announced; 2018 call for proposals open!

Every year, ForestGEO awards a small number of students and early career scientists grant funding to conduct research at forest dynamics sites in the network. Since 2002, CTFS-ForestGE0 has awarded a total of over $1 million to 166 individuals. In 2017, ForestGEO awarded a total of $77,054 among seven individuals to work in nine ForestGEO plots. Read about their projects below!

2017 Research Grantee Iveren Abiem
Iveren Abiem, a PhD student at the Unviersity of Canterbury in New Zealand, will explore the role of clumping and inter-specific negative density dependence in shaping species in a typical tropical Afromontane forest in the Ngel Nyaki forest dynamics site in Nigeria. Her objectives include determining if patterns of seedling composition and abundance correspond to seed arrival patterns, determining if patterns of established seedling composition and distribution reflects the patterns observed for the large-sized tree, evaluating the effects of negative density dependence on seedling persistence, and investigating established seedling composition is driven by conspecific negative density dependence or interspecific negative density dependence. Iveren will attempt to answer these questions through field observations involving seed and seedling censuses and field and shade house experiments. There is very little information on seed dispersal, plant recruitment and community dynamics for tropical montane forests, and this study will be important in understanding community structure and biodiversity maintenance in these marginally species-rich ecosystems.

2017 Research Grantee Adrienne Keller
Adrienne Keller, a PhD student at Indiana University, will conduct a project entitled: A tree’s perspective of forest nutrient cycling: linking above- and below-ground tree nutrient strategies. The study will explore how various tree species use and store nutrients across three ForestGEO temperate forest sites – SERC, Lilly Dickey Woods, and Harvard Forest. The goal is to advance understanding of how different tree species influence carbon and nutrient cycling, ranging in scale from an individual tree to the forest stand and an entire ecosystem. This is particularly important as tree species distributions across forests are shifting under changing environmental conditions. This project will help researchers better understand how nutrient conservation strategies in a tree's leaves above ground may relate to the need to build new roots for nutrient uptake below ground.

2017 Research Grantee Justin Mathias
Justin Mathias, a PhD student at West Virginia University, will explore using dendroisotopes to disentangle processes of forest recovery from decades of acid deposition. Forest ecosystems play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, removing 30% of anthropogenic carbon emissions each year. Yet a large amount of uncertainty exists about the continued capacity of forests to sequester carbon emissions, particularly in areas experiencing high levels of atmospheric pollution. This project utilizes dendroisotopic techniques to examine the drivers of historical changes in growth and physiology of ecologically important tree species in the eastern US. Justin will analyze a suite of increment cores previously collected from red oak and tulip poplar trees at the SCBI forest dynamics site in Virginia, USA, to resolve the sensitivities of commonly occurring tree species to atmospheric pollutants.

Students of 2017 Research Grantee 
Crystal McMichael
Crystal McMichael, an Assistant Professor at University of Amsterdam, will conduct a project entitled: Assessing legacies of past human impacts on Neotropical forests. The aim of the project is to collect soil samples from three Neotropical forest plots – Sherman in Panama, Amacayacu in Colombia, and Yasuni in Ecuador – and analyze them for charcoal and phytoliths (silica microfossils of plants that preserve in soils) to determine the ages and history of fire and vegetation change. Crystal will work with two Masters students, Britte Heijink and Veerle Vink, to conduct the fieldwork and analyses. Crystal hypothesizes that increased numbers of cultivated or domesticated species result from post-Colombian, rather than pre-Colombian, influence. Crystal and her team will document the extent that past human influence affects modern forest composition, regardless of the timing of that influence.

From left to right: Suradat Chowtiwuttakorn,
2017 Research Grantee Nantachai Pongpattananurak,
Waritsara Chanteing, and Massalin Damnim
Nantachai Pongpattananurak, an Assistant Professor at Kasetsart University will conduct a project entitled: How Thailand's tropical tree seedlings respond to light. The project is focusing on studying light photosynthetic responses of tropical tree seedling species existing in the Huai Kha Kaeng (HKK) forest dynamics site in Thailand, comparing light photosynthetic responses across tree seedling species representing different canopy layers including upper canopy, sub-canopy and understory, and relating some functional traits of tree seedlings to their light photosynthesis response curves. Nantachai and his team will collect tree seeds (of 30 species) from the HKK plot, grow tree seeds, and plant tree seedlings in the nursery of Kasetsart University (KUFF), measuring for functional traits of those seeds and seedlings, and for the light photosynthetic responses for the growing tree seedlings.

2017 Research Grantee Nanette Raczka
Nanette Raczka, a PhD student at West Virginia University, will explore the interactive effects of plant litter and microbial community composition on the formation of stable soil organic matter. The research will utilize quantitative stable isotope probing (qSIP) to trace isotopically labeled substrates into specific microbial taxa found in the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) forest dynamics site in Virginia, USA. The use of qSIP will provide the analyses to identify the extent to which litter quality interacts with microbial community composition to drive stable soil organic matter formation.

2017 Research Grantee Daniel Zuleta
Daniel Zuleta, a PhD student at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, will conduct a project entitled: Inter- and intra- specific trait variability as response to changes in water availability at a small topographic scale in terra firme Amazon forests. He aims to evaluate the responses of tree species to small-scale changes in water availability across internal microhabitat units in the Amazon terra firme Amacayacu forest dynamics site in Colombia. He will test the relationship between drought tolerance traits, the tree species’ “preferences” for different microclimates/topographies, the species’ large-scale geographic distributions in relation to water availability, and the species’ observed responses to drought in the plot in order to better understand how water availability shapes the current and future distribution and performance of Amazonian tree species. These data will help to inform predictions of how these species will perform under climate change and expectations for changes in composition.

For further information about the ForestGEO Research Grants Program, please see our website and read the full call for proposals here

The closing date for proposals for 2018 awards is 13 April 2018.

Email ForestGEO@si.edu with any questions.

November 16, 2017

ForestGEO welcomes a new data intern!

ForestGEO is pleased to introduce a new intern!

Caroline Kittle is joining ForestGEO as an intern based in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. She is a senior at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA completing a degree in Applied Global Conservation. In the Spring of 2017, she was introduced to the network as a ForestGEO practicum student with Erika Gonzalez while studying at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC) at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, VA. There, she helped gather and organize data on tree growth and daily weather, as well as helping with the creation and installation of dendrobands in the ForestGEO-SCBI plot. Caroline will be working with the Director, Stuart Davies, to collect data regarding tree species present in the Asian plots.

September 11, 2017

7th Annual ForestGEO Analytical Workshop in Puerto Rico

Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) wrapped up its seventh annual data analysis workshop in July. Thank you to all 64 participants from 19 countries around the network; ForestGEO had another productive year in forest research!

Workshop participants in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Photo by Mauro Lepore.

The workshop took place near the ForestGEO Luquillo site from 16-31 July in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Every workshop is an opportunity to bring global participants together to foster research and scientific collaborations. All participants worked diligently and were pleased with the amount of science and training accomplished during the two-week workshop. Participants explored their latest research ideas with colleagues and had the opportunity to meet new network researchers in person.

From left to right: Yao Tze Leong, Daniel Zuleta, Sabrina Russo, Lillian Rodriguez, Stuart Davies, Musalmah Nasardin, Mohizah Mohamad, Pulcherie Bissiengou, and Matthew Luskin. Photo by David Kenfack.

The annual analytical workshops are an ongoing collaboration between ForestGEO and the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network (CforBio) with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The US National Science Foundation has provided financial support for the workshops since 2011 with the grant entitled, “Integrating functional, phylogenetic and genetic components of diversity for an improved understanding of forest structure, dynamics, and change.” The grant is geared towards funding workshops for graduate students, postdocs, and senior scientists to gather and collaborate on their research and exchange data and ideas.

At the workshop, participants worked meticulously on forest site analyses focused on biomass and carbon storage, spatial dynamics, demography, seed-seedling and phenology dynamics, and much more. The approach centered on small “break out” groups focused on hands-on mentoring by senior scientists associated with the Smithsonian Institution and ForestGEO. Participants were guided through the analyses and writing stages of their projects in order to produce manuscripts intended for submission to peer-reviewed scientific journals. For example, a recent publication in Science stemmed from the work at the 2016 workshop in Hainan, China.

Participants and mentors working in the meeting rooms. Photos by Lauren Krizel and Haley Overstreet.

Breaks from data analyses and computer screens ensued throughout the day as participants heard scientific presentations from their peers and provided feedback on forest research happenings around the global network. Participants also took part in lively group meals, trips to the beach and Old Town San Juan, and dynamic evening discussions.

Field Trip to Old Town San Juan. Photos by David Kenfack.

During the second week of the workshop, participants went on a day-long field trip to the 16ha Luquillo field site located in El Yunque National Forest. Jess Zimmerman, the PI of Luquillo, and Aaron Hogan, a PhD student who has research experience in the site, gave in-depth tours of the site and surrounding area. The participants began with an ascent to the Mr. Britton tower for views of El Yunque, followed by a visit to the nearby cloud forest on the El Yunque Trail through palm forest to the Palo Colorado Picnic Area. After lunch, participants departed for El Verde Field Station to walk to the 16ha Luquillo forest site and other research areas.

Jess Zimmerman, PI of Luquillo Forest Dynamics Site, discusses the Mr. Britton Spur at El Yunque National Forest. Photos by Mauro Lepore.

The workshop ended with a full day of scientific presentations where each participant gave a 5-minute lightning talk. All participants shared research findings from the workshop and received feedback and ideas about how to keep their research projects moving forward.

Top left: Mohizah Mohamad; top right: Nestor Engone; bottom left: Daniel Zuleta; bottom right: Pavel Fibich. Photos by David Kenfack.

A final rendezvous at the pavilion at the hotel celebrated the success of the seventh Dimensions of Biodiversity workshop. A big thanks to everyone who participated, and ForestGEO looks forward to hearing about your ongoing research projects and collaborations in the future!


August 22, 2017

Spotlight on: Aaron Hogan’s research in Hainan, China

Aaron Hogan, a PhD student at Florida International University (FIU), recently returned from leading a field campaign at the ForestGEO Jianfengling site in Hainan, China.

Aaron Hogan (left) and Shojun Ling (right) extracting a root sample (photo by Dr. Han Xu: PI of the 60-Ha Jianfengling plot).

At Jianfengling, Hogan studied the relationship between the quantification of root and leaf functional trait plasticity, such as intraspecific variation, and the soil and forest age gradient. Days were spent sampling root and leaf traits, while nights were spent washing, scanning, drying, and weighing root samples. Root functional trait will be related to leaf level traits, specifically focusing on chemical traits as they relate to soil chemistry.

Hogan became interested in studying below ground functional traits about a year ago when he started his PhD work. “Oscar Valverde-Barrantes introduced me to the joy of digging, looking at, and studying tree roots.  The more I got into the literature, the more I realized how little we know about roots and most belowground processes in tropical forests, compared to leaves or aboveground processes,” Hogan said.

A scanned root from a Lithocarpus pseudovestitus Fagaceae (oak family) individual illustrating the root morphology of a dominant species in the Jianfengling forest.

“I think one of the greatest potential findings that may result is the quantification of root and leaf functional trait plasticity (i.e. intraspecific variation) across a soil and forest age gradient. The sampled transect spans two mountain peaks from secondary forest deep into the more primary forest area of Jianfengling, Hainan, which incorporates a substantial amount of environmental variability found in the area,” said Hogan. 

Hogan has been an active collaborator with ForestGEO since 2011, when he volunteered to participate in the tree census at the Luquillo site in Puerto Rico. Hogan will continue his PhD studies at FIU, and ForestGEO looks forward to his future research findings within Jianfengling and other forest sites.

You can read more about J. Aaron Hogan's research on his website and blog here: http://www.jamesaaronhogan.com/.  

List of collaborators:


Dr. Hong Liu from (FIU), Dr. Ding Qiong (Hainan University) and Dr. Xu Han (Chinese Academy of Forestry). Field taxonomists from the local forest bureau, including Shaojun Ling, Yaxin Xie, Jaming Wang, Suhui Ma, Siqi Yang, Wenguang Tang, Zhiting Ma, Qiqi Zhang and Jiazhu Shi and Mr. Yu.


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