rocks and water in forest
News Blog

Announcing 2021 Awardees: J&J Ruinen Fellowship in Tropical Forestry and ForestGEO Research Grants Program

Since 2002, ForestGEO has awarded $1.3 million to more than 175 scientists to conduct research at forest dynamics plots in the network. During the 2021 grant year, ForestGEO awarded $61,000 to six students and early career scientists who will carry out research in 11 ForestGEO plots.

Iveren Abiem

Iveren Abiem, a lecturer at the University of Jos, wants to investigate how demographic processes, plant functional traits, and abiotic factors affect biomass carbon storage in Afromontane forests. She will be carrying out her study at ForestGEO’s Ngel Nyaki Forest Dynamics plot in Nigeria. Using data from two censuses, she will estimate net biomass change in the forest. She hopes her research will make a significant contribution towards a more holistic synthesis of the role of tropical forests in carbon sequestration.  

Group photo of Papua New Guineans outside.

Zacky Ezedin, a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota, seeks to examine the links between scientific and indigenous taxonomy in the lowland forests of New Guinea. Working closely with traditional land owners at ForestGEO's Wanang plot, this study will document indigenous names of tree species within the plot to uncover patterns and associations underlying the traditional naming systems at Wanang. To facilitate this, Zacky will be compiling a detailed tree flora for the plot which currently lacks a comprehensive taxonomic treatment. Additionally, this project will help to further conservation of traditional ethnobotanical knowledge in the critically endangered Magi̵ language of Wanang, which has less than 400 remaining speakers.

Priscila Figueira de Souza Costa, a PhD student at the National Institute of Amazonian Research, is interested in unraveling the existing lineages within the Eschweilera coriacea species complex, one of the hyperdominance tree species in the Amazon. Her project seeks to understand the evolutionary processes and distribution patterns of Eschweilera coriacea lineages and thus help to elucidate possible solutions for a non-monophyletic clade, as in the case of the genus Eschweilera. Furthermore, this knowledge can inform more efficient public policies for the conservation of tropical forest species. Priscila will use morphological, near infrared spectroscopy and genomic data from individuals of Eschweilera coriacea from the entire Amazon Basin, including the forest dynamics plots at Manaus, Amacayacu, Yasuní, and San Lorenzo.

Lukas Magee, a PhD student at the University of Florida, is exploring how legacy effects of canopy trees may influence species regeneration and eventual canopy replacement. Using a combination of annual mortality censuses and NEON remote sensing data, he is categorizing time of canopy tree death to explore regeneration along a gradient of gap ages. Lukas is monitoring seedling regeneration plots along these gradients at ForestGEO’s Ordway-Swisher, SERC, SCBI, and Harvard Forest sites. He hopes his research will provide a better understanding of how species interactions persist through time, particularly during gap phase regeneration.

Sofía Montalvo, an undergraduate student at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, is interested in testing for differences in standing herbivory and herbivory rates on female and male Duroia hirsuta trees in the Yasuní plot and assessing variation in ant defense behavior.  The mutualistic relationship between Duroia hirsuta trees and Myrmelachista ants creates low-diversity vegetation-free zones known as devil’s gardens. D. hirsuta trees may harbor several ant species that may confer different benefits to their host. This study will provide a better understanding of resource allocation and ant-mediated defense in dioecious plants.

Harry Wells, a PhD student at the University of Leeds, is interested in ecosystem restoration. In his project, Harry will investigate the role that native woody plants play in modulating a savanna ecosystem’s resistance to invasion by an exotic cactus, Opuntia stricta. This plant is the second most widespread cactus in the world and is among the 100 worst plant and animal invaders globally. By conducting a survey of O. stricta in ForestGEO’s Mpala plot, he and his collaborators hope to gain a deeper understanding of the facilitative and competitive dynamics between the cactus and native vegetation, to help predict the development of the invasion and inform ecological restoration efforts.