Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group


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MSc Project

Alpine NorESM

Sonya Geange

A poster outlining the main theme of the EMERALD project
Sonya Geange for EMERALD


The EMERALD project 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 projects already underway at UiB (for example SEEDCLIM, FunCAB, INCLINE) along with broader data synthesis ideas to improve our understanding and modelling of vegetation feedback processes.

Potential Master's projects include:

1. Linking ecological data to vegetation models

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 the University of Oslo. 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, such as including new physiological processes or designing new plant functional types, for example mosses or lichens
  • climate and ecosystems such as drought in coastal heathlands
  • climate-change impacts across alpine gradients.

In this project you will gain experience in understanding how we turn hands-on field science into modelling parameters for climate--land models (FATES in particular). As there are a broad range of experimental data to draw from, there are opportunities to learn about various plant functional traits, growth forms, and climate-change experimental designs. Developing insights into the model structure and design itself will be a key outcome.

2. Strengthening communication between ecologists and modellers

A more education focussed master’s project involving the design and development of a graphical user interface (GUI) form for the FATES model to allow non-specialists to engage with land-surface models. This introduces interdisciplinary research ideas and highlights the importance of open science and coding-based education.

3. Harnessing the refelctance properties of vegetation

Examine how spectral imagery can be used to provide non-destructive insights into plant responses along environmental gradients. The reflectance properties of vegetation, the percentage of light reflected throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, can provide insights into a broad range of vegetation characteristics, including: plant structural and chemical traits, plant functional types, and identifying invasive species. Rreflectance measures can be taken at the leaf, individual, plot, landscape, and global level, and there is increased interest towards linking these responses in order to better understand patterns of plant performance, and to use them in broad-scale global models, especially as these approaches are often more time-efficient and less destructive than traditional harvest-based methods. With the wide range of experiments underway in the Between the Fjords research group, there are opportunities to looks at leaf and canopy level reflectance (NDVI) across experimental systems including: drought in coastal heathlands, responses along elevation gradients, or how alpine species respond to experimental warming. There are also database opportunities, integrating existing data from within the Between the Fjords projects, or conducting meta-analysis or systematic reviews.


To discuss any of these ideas further, please contact Sonya Geange.