The Medvigy Lab is seeking summer undergraduate interns, contact Prof. David Medvigy to apply
Please contact Prof. Medvigy (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on applying for either of the opportunities below.
Position #1: Feedbacks between tropical forests, climate, and Earth's carbon budget
Tropical rainforests are central to Earth's climate, biodiversity, hydrology, and carbon cycle. In particular, more than half of the carbon stored in planet's forests is stored in tropical forests, and intact tropical forests are a stronger sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide than any other forest type. However, under the twin pressures of climate change and deforestation, the future of tropical forests is highly uncertain. Undergraduate interns will address fundamental questions that are central to this problem: (1) What ultimately limits growth and carbon sequestration in tropical forests? Is there a case for nutrient, water, light, or some combination thereof? (2) How will tropical forests respond to climate change? (3) How does plant biodiversity impact carbon budgets and ecosystem responses to climate change? (4) How does deforestation limit the potential of tropical forests to act as carbon sinks?
Internships will be based at Princeton. Interns will be fully integrated in the research labs of Profs. Medvigy and Hedin, regularly consulting with lab members and participating in lab meetings. Interns will be trained (i) in analysis of field data, and (ii) in the development of conceptual and quantitative models that can be used to explain the data. These tools will be used by the interns to address critical issues, including the use of a one-box or multi-box model to explain nutrient cycling, how ecosystem resiliency to climate change varies depending on ecosystem composition, and understanding the mechanistic controls on seasonal variability in tropical forests.
Position #2: Impacts of deforestation in Central America on regional climate
The rate of deforestation in Central America is among the highest of any region in the world. Central America has lost 19% of its forest between 1990 and 2005 alone, and the formerly forested land has been converted to pasture or cropland. The effects of these land cover changes on the region’s climate have not received much attention in previous research. This is a critical knowledge gap because theoretical considerations would suggest that deforestation leads to changes in temperature, rainfall, and the length of the dry season. These climate changes would feed back and affect agricultural productivity, natural ecosystems, and extreme events. The objective of this project would be to assess the impacts of Central American deforestation on regional climate. A novel feature of this project is the use of a variable-resolution computer climate model that is capable of resolving fine-scale variations in topography and land cover in Central America.
(1) The intern will use satellite data to reconstruct the history of deforestation in Central America.
(2) The intern will be trained by the Medvigy lab to use the computer climate model.
(3) The intern will carry out a set of climate simulations that make different assumptions about deforestation in Central America.
(4) The intern will analyze the model's predictions for precipitation and temperature in order to assess the effect of deforestation on climate.