Pacific Northwest forests contain some of the largest reserves of forests on the planet, but many questions remain unanswered about how drought and heat stress from climate change will change forest dynamics and biodiversity. RETs conducting research on understory biodiversity will work alongside Dr. Joe LaManna from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, his 2 PhD students, and other members of their research team to track understory plant populations and quantify interactions among the many important and diverse plant species in these understory ecosystems.

Researchers examining understory plants

Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0: Joe LaManna

Researchers examine understory plants.

RETs will be instrumental in conducting research into the causes of differences in biodiversity across a 1,000 m elevation gradient. RETs will be trained and mentored by Dr. LaManna and his two PhD students in plant identification in order to help conduct annual surveys of understory, which involve collecting data on survival, growth, and species diversity of all plant species within forest plots across a 1,000-m elevation and climate gradient at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest LTER site in the western Cascades of Oregon. RETs will also be trained and mentored by Dr. LaManna to analyze understory data from these plots and use data on variation in climate and other factors across the elevation gradient to predict biodiversity responses to droughts, heat waves, and other effects related to climate change. 

Time commitment for this research experience is from July 10th-August 4th. Daily research will involve some moderate hiking with field equipment in mountainous terrain to reach plots, but plots are generally located nearby to forest roads (from 50 m to 2 km, but generally less than 200 m from the road) and terrain is generally not too steep. RETs will live in apartment-style housing at the Andrews field station