Field-based Research in Tropical Forest Diversity
The College has been awarded a new National Science Foundation grant in support of Assistant Professor of Biology Margaret Metz’s research on the maintenance of diversity in the tropical rainforests of the western Amazon. Dr. Metz’s field-based plant community ecology scholarship focuses on how trees respond to environmental variation and what these responses mean for forest diversity and dynamics through time. Dr. Metz and her students examine the importance of variation that stems from natural climate cycles and disturbances such as wildfire, as well as from anthropogenic influences, such as the introduction of novel pathogens or directional climate change.
Five year NSF funding for this collaborative project entitled, “Cyclic vs. anthropogenic causes of long-term variation in the regeneration of tropical forests with contrasting latitude and diversity” will allow Dr. Metz, Lewis & Clark undergraduates, and her colleagues from the University of Puerto Rico, Yale University, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador, Southern Illinois University, and Columbia University to extend their long-term studies of tree reproduction and forest regeneration in Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Panama. This is the 17th year of Dr. Metz’s research in Ecuador, and this new support from NSF’s Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) and Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) programs will extend the project into its third decade with the aim to link long-term quantitative studies of plant reproduction and seedling establishment with climatic history to understand tropical forest response to future climate change.
This NSF grant is Dr. Metz’s second since she joined Lewis & Clark in 2014—both of which include summer support for Lewis & Clark students. Past students involved in this research have described their experiences here, and more information about Dr. Metz’s research program is available here.