Bioscience

UA scientists receive $2.5 million to study Amazon forests, climate change

November 21, 2007

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: UA LQP Faculty/Staff News] – A University of Arizona-led international team of scientists has received a five-year, $2.5 million grant that will send students and early-career scientists to the Amazon to study tropical ecology and biogeochemistry, and conduct related experiments within the tropical forest biome at the UA’s Biosphere 2.

The National Science Foundation-funded project is called the Partnership for International Research and Education — Amazonia, or Amazon-PIRE. The grant includes $1.5 million for stipends and fellowships to support participating students and early-career scientists. PIRE students will take a field course in Brazil’s Amazon forest, conduct related experiments at Biosphere 2 and work with Brazilian scientists and students through exchanges at Brazilian scientific institutions.

The project combines international collaboration with interdisciplinary training in earth system science, remote sensing and modeling. “Our project has a globally important scientific goal ? which is to figure out how climate changes affect Amazon forests. And there’s an educational goal ?to help transform science education so the next generation of scientists will be successful in an increasingly globalized scientific community,” said principal investigator Scott Saleska, an assistant professor in the UA’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

“The purpose of NSF’s Amazon-PIRE program is to change how education works in this country by supporting new models for international collaboration and training. The educational goal is especially critical in environmental science, where cultural barriers can reinforce the disparity in knowledge between the most studied ecosystems, generally those in North America and Europe, and the ecosystems about which new knowledge and data are most needed, such as those in the tropics,” Saleska said. “Because the forests of the Amazon basin form the largest contiguous, intact tropical forest on Earth, Amazonia is a storehouse of carbon whose fate will influence the fate of climate change globally,” said Saleska, also a member of Biosphere 2’s science steering committee member and of the UA’s Institute for the Study of Planet Earth.

Saleska’s co-principal investigators on the grant are Alfredo Huete, UA professor of soil, water and environmental science, W. James Shuttleworth, UA professor of hydrology and water resources and atmospheric sciences, and Steven C. Wofsy, professor of atmospheric and environmental science at Harvard University. Other UA researchers participating in the project include Biosphere 2 Director Travis Huxman, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Brian Enquist, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Timothy Finan, director of the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology; Joellen Russell, assistant professor of geosciences; and Scott Whiteford, director of UA’s Center for Latin American Studies. [Read more at http://uanews.org/node/17038/0.]