Between the Fjords

Plant Functional Traits Course 5

The 5th International Plant Functional Traits Course will be held at Farellones in the Chilean Andes 9-22 March 2020

Cushion plant on a rocky plateau in Chile
Cushion plant at 3600 m asl in Valle Nevado, Chile
Lohengrin Cavieres

TraitTrain International Plant Functional Traits Courses offer hands-on training in different applications of plant functional traits ecology within a real-life field research project setting. During this 5th course, students will collect and explore plant functional trait data in the field and use trait-based approaches within climate change research and ecosystem ecology.

Trait-based ecology incorporates important methods and approaches that enable a powerful approach to predict how climate and biotic interactions shape plant community dynamics and ecosystem functioning. This course will provide students with essential background knowledge and the practical field, lab, and computational skills needed for conducting their own research within trait-based ecology.

The PFTC5 course will be held in Farellones, in the Chilean Andes (at 33°20’ S, 70°16’ W), 9-22 March 2020 with pre-course preparatory work in January-February 2020. The fieldwork will be carried out at different locations in and around Farellones, both along local bioclimatic gradients such as elelvation (2000–3600m asl) and in different already-existing field experiments and study systems related to climate, disturbance, and biotic interactions in dry, alpine to high-alpine ecosystems.

Students will be introduced to the environmental, ecological, and taxonomic diversity of the region, and given hands-on instruction in relevant theory and methods of ecophysiology; community, ecosystem, and climate change ecology; population biology; computational biology; and data management. The students will work in five groups, focusing on the following research projects:

  1. Assessing the role of climate and biotic factors in determining plant community leaf functional trait composition along an elevational gradient
  2. Assessing how temperature variation and leaf functional traits influence leaf ecophysiology
  3. Using a trait-based approach to assess how alpine forbs respond to facilitative interactions from cushion plants
  4. Measuring how trait composition influences ecosystem functioning by measuring CO2-flux within and across plant communities
  5. Assessing canopy traits through reflectance spectra: from leaf to landscape-scale using drone technologies.

Through developing and conducting research projects to explore the potential of plant functional trait-based approaches in understanding the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of the study area, PFTC5 students will build key research skills in planning and conducting trait-based field campaigns. You will gain practical experience in measuring plant functional traits and and related physiological, plant community, and ecosystem data in the field using standard protocols. You will become familiar with taking measurements using ecophsyiological equipment including LiCor 6400 and LiCor 7500. You will learn about the structure and analysis of trait data, be introduced to best practice data management and reproducible coding, as well as having the opportunity to analyse and interpret data yourself. You can read about previous courses in China, Peru, and Svalbard below.

An added element of this course is its innovative inclusion of a 'Science Communication Module’ (SCM). During the SCM, participants will complete a short research project, on-site, on local perceptions of climate change. We will then discuss these findings in light of current challenges to climate-science communication, the need to incorporate local ecological knowledge, and ethical concerns of conducting fieldwork in remote locales.

The course is aimed at graduate students – both MSc and PhD – and will give a broad introduction to and hands-on experience of different aspects of trait-based ecology. You will work with international instructors, in teams, and collect research-grade data in the field to address a specific research question.

The course fee (~6000 NOK) covers costs for accommodation, food, and transport in Chile. For internal students at the University of Bergen, the University of Arizona, and the University of Concepción, funding is available to help offset cost of travel to Chile. Some external participants may also be offered funding to support their travel to Chile.

To apply, send a short personal statement as to why the course fits into your goals and aspirations as well as your CV to Vigdis.Vandvik@uib.no or benquist@email.arizona.edu by the 15th of October 2019 and rank the five projects above in the order of your interest.

The course is organised by Professors V. Vandvik from the University of Bergen, Norway and B. Enquist from the University of Arizona, USA in collaboration with Professor Lohengrin Cavieres at University of Concepción, Chile.