This three-year International Research Experiences for Students project will provide undergraduate students, graduate students, and K-12 teachers with an international collaborative research experience in a tropical rainforest setting. Under the joint mentorship of Terrence P. McGlynn of the California State University Dominguez Hills and several U.S. and international research partners, participants will spend eight summer weeks investigating contemporary hypotheses in the field of trophic interactions by addressing the transfer of energy and nutrients across trophic levels. Projects will address spatial heterogeneity in resources and the consequences for ecological processes at the community and ecosystem levels. These experiments will take place at La Selva Biological Reserve in Costa Rica, in cooperation with Dr. Deedra McClearn of the Organization for Tropical Studies. In each of the three years the participant cohorts will include at least one graduate student, several undergraduate students, and an inner-city teacher. Each cohort will also be joined by up to two research recruits, talented students from underrepresented groups who are unable to commit for a full summer, but who would benefit from exposure to scientific research. The goal of this activity is to train talented students from underrepresented groups to become field ecologists with experience in international settings. To accomplish this goal the senior investigators will mentor the students in their long-term tropical-field research projects, first during an eight-week session at the tropical rain forest field station. The students will then continue their research at their home institutions in a year-round mentored research experience.
Among the broader impacts of this IRES program are the promotion of international research collaborations; the creation of mentorships in the sciences for undergraduates from underrepresented groups; involvement of undergraduates from primarily undergraduate institutions in an active research environment with graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty; and extensive field research experiences for minority undergraduates that should help increase the success of these students in graduate programs in the sciences. The project will also further research collaborations between U.S. and Costa Rican scientists and other international researchers pursuing ongoing projects in Costa Rica.