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Panama research

The canopy crane allowed for close inspection of tree-top habitats.

November 2012

Grant-seeking experience caps tropical studies field work in Panama

Science majors who conducted field work in Panama over spring break are now developing full-blown research proposals as they delve deeper into their experience.

The proposals will conform to National Science Foundation (NSF) guidelines and some may ultimately be submitted for outside funding.

Six students undertook the tropical studies field course in Panama in March along with Anindo Choudhury (Biology) and Carrie Kissman (Biology). While there, they explored the forest canopy at Parque Metropolitano; sampled fish and invertebrates in Quebrada Juan Grande; observed bird life from their base in Gamboa; and explored marine diversity in the varied habitats of Galeta Island.

The students turned in outlines for their research proposals as their final assignment last semester. This fall, they are fleshing out those submissions, drawing on their experiences in Panama, on assigned readings and on literature research in tropical ecology. 

A real-world exploration of research design 
Choudhury says, “The goal is for a part self-directed, part guided experience in grant-seeking and -writing, which brings [the students] face-to-face with the opportunities and challenges of designing and executing field research in the tropics.     

“They get to read one or more actual NSF proposals, assimilate information from primary literature, learn best practices in designing research projects partly or wholly situated in the living laboratories of nature, and address some of the other human requirements of public grant-seeking.
Proposals in development include: 

  • The Effect of Local Climate Warming on Tropical Leafcutter Ant Communities (Phil Ohlinger ’14)
  • Vertical Stratification of Tropical Butterfly Species and the Mimicry Complexes Occupying Them (Amanda Brown ’13)
  • Mangrove Ecology and Effect on Disturbance in the Tropical Ecosystem (Tommy Purdom ’13)
  • Neotropical Pollinators: A Recreated Study Over 40 Years (Joe Schlueter ’14)  

In due course, Choudhury says, it is possible that one or more of these projects could be submitted for internal student-research funding, and later refined for submission for outside funding.  

Nov. 6, 2012

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