Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot & El Yunque Chronosequence -- Volunteer Internship Opportunities

We have a long history of volunteer support for our research projects on the Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot (LFDP).  The data that volunteer interns collect allow El Verde scientists to investigate natural disturbance patterns, land-use legacies, and tree community composition and diversity.  In addition, volunteers gain the opportunity to learn about diverse aspects of tropical ecology from scientists involved in the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research Program (LTER).  Information gathered in these projects is directed at understanding the factors that determine the diversity and structure of tropical forest communities.  A common understanding of these factors is achieved via identical studies in other tropical forests around the world (see www.ctfs.si.edu).  The application of this information, in turn, can help mitigate the compound effects of human disturbance and climate change on tropical forest dynamics, inform management decisions and guide conservation practices.

Volunteer interns assist as field researchers for three distinct projects: 1) a yearly seedling census of LFDP and Chronosequence plots; 2) a yearly tree census of Chronosequence plots; and 3) a 5-year tree census of the LFDP.  All projects are supervised by Dr. Jess Zimmerman, Director of the LFDP.  Day to day research and volunteer activities are coordinated by the LFDP Research Manager, Seth Rifkin.  Volunteers receive a monthly stipend to cover living expenses while in Puerto Rico, in addition to funds to support travel to and from Puerto Rico.

Please note that we are currently only considering US citizens and permanent US residents for these short-term opportunities, due to the difficulties of obtaining visas.


**********************************************************************************************************

Seedling Census Projects

Seedling volunteers conduct seedling censuses on the 16 hectare Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot (LFDP) and four 0.5-1 hectare Chronosequence Plots. The LFDP seedling census is conducted annually, usually from mid January through the end of April.  Six volunteer interns are contracted to help with the field work and data entry.  The volunteers work with a trained technician and the Research Manager, who collaboratively supervise field work and data processing.  After training in census protocol, seedling identification, and database management, volunteers work in the forest in groups of two or three, counting and measuring seedlings in 573 marked plots that are 1-2 m2.  At each plot, all surviving and new seedlings are identified, tagged, measured for height and diameter, and mapped.  Data are collected regarding substrate, canopy gaps and light availability.  Following field work, all collected data are organized and entered into a project database.  The Chronosequence seedling census began in the spring of 2012, with the objective of investigating forest dynamics in variable-aged stands along an elevational gradient.  Volunteers selected to work on the LFDP seedling census will continue during the month of May, censusing 80 additional 1mplots, and subsequently organizing and entering data into a project database.



**********************************************************************************************************

Chronosequence Tree Census Project

The Chronosequence tree census is carried out annually, and takes about 3.5 months to complete.  Six volunteer interns are contracted to help with the field work and data entry, in collaboration with the Research Manager.  After training in census protocol, tree identification, and database management, volunteers work in the forest in groups of two or three, measuring and mapping all stems located throughout four ~1 ha plots.  Data are collected regarding species type, stem diameter, and location.  Following field work, all data are organized and entered into a project database.


LFDP Tree Census Project

The LFDP tree census is carried out every 5 years, and takes 9 months to a year to complete.  Over the course of the census, we have several groups of 5-10 volunteers who work in phases, each phase being a period of about 14 weeks.  The volunteers work with trained technicians and the Research Manager, who collaboratively supervise field work and data processing.  After training in census protocol, tree identification, and database management, volunteers and technicians work in the forest in groups of three, measuring and mapping all stems located throughout the 16-ha plot.  Data are collected regarding species type, stem diameter, and location.  Following field work, all data are organized and entered into a project database.


**********************************************************************************************************************************

Crown Thinning Experiment

The Crown Thinning Experiment is a hurricane simulation that began with a series of branch felling in 2004.  A second trimming was completed in 2014. scheduled to occur at the end of this month.  The purpose of the study is to determine the effects of distinct components of hurricane damage on forested ecosystem characteristics such as tree species composition, soil processes, and food web dynamics.  We are not presently seeking any volunteers for this project.  

For the LFDP and Chronosequence seedling and tree censuses volunteer interns work long hours in the field (8am until 4 pm, Mon-Fri, weekends free) often in wet and muddy conditions.  Housing is communal, and provided free of charge at El Verde's historic facilities.  The field station is relatively isolated and transportation is available on a limited basis.


If you have questions about either the LFDP or Chronosequence volunteer internship opportunities, please contact:

Seth Rifkin

LFDP Research Manager
Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies
University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras
P.O. Box 70377
San Juan, PR 00936

lfdp@ites.upr.edu

Tel: (787) 764-0000, ext 80903