Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group


Plant Functional Traits Course 2

The 2016 International Plant Functional Traits Course will held between 8th and 18th August 2016 at the Alpine Ecosystem Observation and Experiment Station of Mt. Gongga, Sichuan, China

Landscape view looking upriver towards mountains in Sichuan, China, with large rounded boulders on the side of the river covered in red lichens
Kevin Rechsteiner

The 2016 International Plant Functional Traits Course will offer a hands-on, field-based exploration of plant functional traits, along with experience in the usage of plant traits data in climate-change research and ecosystem ecology. Trait-based ecology offers an important set of methods and new approaches that enables a more powerful approach to predict how climate and biotic interactions shape the diversity of communities and functioning of ecosystems. This course will provide students with the essential background and skills needed for trait-based ecology.

The course will focus on addressing 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 background and methods of ecophysiology, community ecology, population biology, and computational biology.

The course will be held along an elevational gradient in Gongga Mountain in the Sichuan Province in China in the transition between the Tibetan Plateau and lowland forest ecosystems. The field work will be carried out along an elevational gradient (3000–4200 m a.s.l.) that includes our experimental TransPlant project. 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 within and across the specious clade Rhododendron.
  3. Quantifying how plant communities and local populations respond to experimental warming treatments along the elevational gradient.
  4. Measuring how functional traits composition and experimental warming treatments influence ecosystem functioning by measuring CO2-flux within and across plant communities.

The course is aimed at graduate students - both Masters and PhD. Participants will work with international instructors and in teams to focus on collecting data in the field to address a specific research question. They will gain experience in measuring plant functional traits and will learn standard protocols and multiple methods. They will get basic knowledge of the structure and analysis of trait data, and have experience with analyses and interpretation of these data. They will become familiar with taking measurements using ecophsyiological equipment including the LiCor 6400 and LiCor 7500 as well as introduction to trait-based ecology.

The course will run between 8th – 18th August 2016 and be held at the Alpine Ecosystem Observation and Experiment Station of Mt. Gongga. We will provide costs for accommodation, food and travel in China. Funding is available to help offset the cost of travel and some participants will be offered funding to support their travel to Chengdu.

To apply, send an email to Vigdis.Vandvik@uib.no or benquist@email.arizona.edu before the 15th of May 2016 and rank the four projects above in the order of your interest.


The course will be organised by Professors V. Vandvik from the University of Bergen in Norway and B. Enquist from the University of Arizona in the USA together with Yan Yang from the Chinese Academy of Science in Chengdu, China.