Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group


Plant Functional Traits Course 3

The 2018 International Plant Functional Traits Course will be held at the Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station, Peru 12-23 March 2018

A view of the Andean treeline with trees on the left and grassland on the right
Imma Oliveras

The 2018 International Plant Functional Traits Course will offer a hands-on, field-based exploration of plant functional traits, along with experience in the use of plant-trait data in climate-change research and ecosystem ecology. Trait-based ecology incorporates an important set of methods and new approaches that enable a more powerful approach to predict how climate and biotic interactions shape the diversity of communities and the functioning of ecosystems. This course will provide students with essential background information and the skills needed for researching trait-based ecology.

The course will address several core scientific questions with an emphasis on key skills: (i) collecting original data in the field, (ii) developing data management skills, (iii) developing computational and statistical skills; and (iv) generating summaries of our findings. Students will be given hands-on instruction in the theory and methods of ecophysiology, community ecology, population biology, and computational biology.

The course will be held in the Andes in Peru (in the Puna grassland and alpine or Janca habitats), 12-23 March 2018. The fieldwork will be carried out along an elevational gradient (3000m to 5000m a.s.l.) that will range from the treeline of tropical high-elevation forest up through the Puna and alpine ecosystems. Participants will be introduced to the ecological and taxonomic diversity of the region, and will be involved in one of the following projects:

  1. Assessing the role of climate and biotic interactions on plant community leaf trait composition
  2. Assessing how temperature variation and leaf functional trait influences leaf ecophysiology
  3. Quantifying how plant communities and local populations respond to past disturbance and experimental fire treatments along the elevational gradient
  4. Measuring how functional trait composition influences ecosystem functioning by measuring CO2-flux within and across plant communities.

The course is aimed at graduate students – both MSc and PhD – and will give an introduction to trait-based ecology. Participants will work with international instructors and in teams and focus on data collection in the field in order to address a specific research question. You will gain experience in measuring plant functional traits and will learn standard protocols and several methods. You will learn about the structure and analysis of trait data, as well as having the opportunity to analyse and interpret such data yourself. You will become familiar with taking measurements using ecophsyiological equipment including the LiCor 6400 and LiCor 7500.

The course will run in March 2018 and be held at the Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station at 3000m. The course fee covers costs for accommodation, food and transport in Peru. For internal students at the University of Bergen, the University of Arizona and the Chinese Academy of Science in Chengdu, funding is available to help offset the cost of travel to Peru. Some external participants may also be offered funding to support their travel to Peru.

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 17th of September 2017 and rank the four projects above in the order of your interest.


The course is organised by Professors V. Vandvik from the University of Bergen in Norway and B. Enquist from the University of Arizona in the USA.