Internships in alpine vegetation ecology and climate change. We offer several internship opportunities within our ongoing projects. In any of these projects, we provide options for distance internships (e.g. working with already collected data).
Alpine plant ecology and climate change: SeedClim grid in western Norway
Alpine regions contribute important ecosystem functions and services, yet are at the same time particularly vulnerable to the ongoing climate change. We try to understand how the direct (e.g. warming) and indirect (e.g. changes in species interactions) effects of climate change will affect alpine systems.
We study these subjects in a climatic grid in the fjord landscapes of western Norway, consisting of 12 sites along independent temperature and precipitation gradients. This way we can study vegetation dynamics in a warmer and wetter climate. We have several ongoing experiments, such as INCLINE and THREE-D, in which you can join as an intern, gaining experience with climate-change experiments, fieldwork and plant ecology.
The INCLINE project explores the indirect effects of climate change in detail by studying how changes in species interactions will affect the alpine plant community. In the alpine sites of the climatic grid, we have started a transplant and warming experiment to simulate species moving into mountain habitats as it warms and creating interactions between species that have not co-occurred previously. We investigate how the plant communities and specific species population dynamics are affected by novel competitors and warming.
THREE-D investigates the effect of three global-change drivers on alpine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. We simulate warmer climate (via transplanting), nitrogen deposition, and different levels of grazing and assess their single and combined effects on plant species composition and carbon cycling along a productivity gradient. This year we will start to measure carbon fluxes and apply the grazing and nitrogen treatments.
As a field assistant in these projects in western Norway, you would be a part of the ongoing projects in our study system. You will gain practical training in all the different parts of running a climate-change experiment from experimental set up, to fieldwork and lab work. This would include experimental treatments such as removal of functional groups, set-up of open top chambers, and transplants. You could also be involved in the data collection of plant communities, demographical studies of alpine species, registration of seedlings, above- and below-ground biomass, floral traits, root traits, carbon fluxes, soil properties, pH and soil moisture. With such big experiments, we also need some maintenance work, which could include fencing and work with climate loggers. Data processing in the lab, data documentation, and data analysis are also a big part of these projects and offer opportunities for distance-based internship options.
More accurate climate modelling: EMERALD
EMERALD is an interdisciplinary and nationally coordinated research project, which aims to improve the representation of high-latitude and alpine ecosystems, along with their climate interactions, in the Norwegian Earth System Model (NorESM). Here, we look to integrate empirical data from the SeedClim, FunCaB, and INCLINE projects along with broader data synthesis ideas to improve our understanding and modelling of vegetation feedback processes. We have a couple of options available this year.
First, we are developing a downscaled version of the FATES platform (a Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator) for some of our field sites –led by Dr. Hui Tang from UiO (https://www.mn.uio.no/geo/english/people/aca/metos/huit/). Here we have opportunities to assess how well the FATES model works when we input our local field parameters compared to literature or database derived standards. There are also exciting possibilities for asking questions related to how physiological or community shifts in parameters may influence model outcomes, including drought in coastal heathlands and broader climate-change impacts across alpine gradients.
The second opportunity we have is working on a meta-analysis of plant thermal tolerance responses across the globe, but especially within alpine and artic systems. Here, we are building upon the results of a global systematic review of approaches to assessing plant thermal tolerance, and now seek to understand how these insights on a single plant functional trait can be best incorporated into FATES modelling. We will investigate how to take the outputs from several different methodological approaches for measuring thermal tolerance and turn them into comparable parameters for modelling. There is also scope for exploring how tolerance to both hot and cold extreme events may link to plant functional trait expression (i.e. specific leaf area, leaf area, longevity), plant functional type, biome, or even geographic distribution.
As an assistant in the EMERALD projects, you would be part of the ongoing research in our study systems. You will gain experience in understanding how we turn hands-on field science into modelling parameters for the land component of climate models (FATES in particular). As there is a broad range of experimental data to draw from, there are opportunities to learn about varying plant functional traits, growth forms, and climate-change experimental designs. Clearly, developing insights into the model structure and design itself will be a key outcome. For the plant thermal tolerance project, in addition to knowledge on a critical plant functional trait and experimental methodology, experience in data synthesis, meta-analysis processes, and comparative analysis will be gained. As these are quite data-driven projects, they are particularly well suited to working from an office or home environment (given the current circumstances) using programming languages such as R or Python.
You need to be a bachelor or master student in biology or a related subject and, for the data analysis parts, an understanding of R. Students at the University of Bergen, The University Center in Svalbard, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, University of Arizona, University of British Columbia, and University of Minnesota will be prioritised in the selection process. Be aware that due to COVID-19, conditions may change. Note that when you apply for a field- or lab-based internship, you need to be a resident of Norway. Data-based internships that can be done at a distance, are possible internationally.
If you prefer one project (INCLINE, THREE-D, EMERALD) or task over the others, feel free to include this information in the cover letter. We cannot guarantee any specific project, but we will include this in the planning process when we are making the schedule for the summer. Please indicate whether you would like to work at a distance or on location.
To apply, please send a cover letter along with your CV and the names and contact information for two professional and/or academic referees to
Travel costs (if applicable) and a fixed per diem rate will be covered by the RECITE project. The application deadline is 15th May 2020.