IRES Track II: A Unique Opportunity for Graduate Training in Tropical Biodiversity Science Grant

IRES Track II: A Unique Opportunity for Graduate Training in Tropical Biodiversity Science .


  • This project will address the current shortage of organismal biodiversity researchers. The proposed Advanced Studies Institute will provide three weeks of field training in tropical biodiversity for eight US-based graduate students from underrepresented groups, in each of three years. These students will be integrated into an existing successful field training program supported by the French Excellence Center for the Study of Biodiversity in Amazonia (LabEx CEBA), with state-of-the-art infrastructure in Kourou, French Guiana. Students will work with researchers from Florida International University (FIU) and LabEx CEBA, taking advantage of extensive permanent field research sites and laboratories available in French Guiana. The faculty mentors will supervise student research projects with current cutting-edge research in the field, focusing on three diverse understudied groups - trees, arthropods and fungi. Students will also contribute to outreach led by the FIU Tropics program, to strengthen K-12 research in schools, museums and botanic gardens in the Miami metropolitan area. The project will thus foster the integration of these 24 scientists into both global and local research and education networks. Accelerating global changes highlight the urgent need to document and understand tropical organisms. As a response to the shortage of well-trained organismal biologists, this project aims to prepare the next generation of researchers in terrestrial tropical biodiversity science. The project addresses four complementary themes that respond to challenges in tropical biodiversity research. First, a fundamental understanding of the taxonomy of major groups of organisms is largely ignored in tropical biodiversity training. We will include the methodological sampling and cataloguing of three diverse understudied groups: trees, arthropods and fungi. Second, an emerging frontier in biodiversity studies involves the integration of species functional strategies that influence their distributions, demographies, and responses to environmental changes. Using the same taxonomic groups, students will learn the most accepted methods measuring functional traits in the field and in the lab. Third, most students in biodiversity science conduct statistical analyses and modeling exercises without incorporating the uncertainty underpinning their taxonomic hypotheses, or the ecological parameters used to describe species distributions and interactions. Students will learn the latest methods to describe biodiversity that integrate taxonomy and functional ecology, strengthen their capacity to develop and understand climatic models, and use this information to predict the future threats. Finally, it is rare but essential for biodiversity scientists to integrate a social component that acknowledges anthropogenic influences on tropical biodiversity. Accordingly, students will explore the themes of multiple use forest management and regenerative agriculture in local communities, so as to understand the consequences of management decisions not only for tropical biodiversity but also for livelihood strategies.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • August 15, 2019 - July 31, 2023

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 1855005