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.