FIU Research


Functional ecology of South Florida forests

Mentor: Michael Ross, FIU

Student(s) will work on the functional ecology of South Florida tropical hardwood hammocks, addressing the question of how these forests change over time, and may shift in the future as sea level rises. Internss will collect data on leaf functional traits of trees in Key Largo hammocks, as well as environmental conditions within the forest. Student research will supplement ongoing research in the Ross lab, and will be suitable for presentation in oral or poster form at a scientific meeting in 2017 or 2018.

Understanding the link between the ecology of tropical fish and freshwater inflows

Mentor: Jennifer Rehage, FIU

Coastal fishes in South Florida are of tropical origin and for many species, their ecologies are closely tied to pulsing hydrology and freshwater deliveries. We propose a study to examine the microchemistry of otoliths (earbones) from bonefish. Bonefish are a tropical Caribbean species that sustains an economically-valuable fishery throughout the Caribbean. In South Florida, bonefish are declining, concerning recreational anglers and guides whose livelihoods depend on this fishery. We propose to use analytical chemistry to examine the chemical composition of the ear bones of bonefish from South Florida, and thus better understand their dependency throughout their life history on freshwater deliveries. This will allow us to understand how altered hydrology is affecting this valuable recreational fishery.

Mapping and documentation of food forests in Miami Dade County Schools

Mentor: Cara Rockwell, FIU; Eddie Recinos, Education Fund

Urban agriculture, and specifically food forests, has been promoted as an alternative to the industrial food system and as a way to combat the so-called "food deserts" that are prevalent in impoverished neighborhoods in urban centers. The following project is a joint effort between Florida International University and the Education Fund, which has been working extensively with Miami Dade County elementary schools to develop food forests. This project has three goals: 1) to document the spatial extent of food forests located in 18 Miami Dade County schools; 2) to map the existing social networks in each of the neighborhoods associated with the 18 elementary schools (to assess community support); and 3) to map and document the species that have been planted in said food forests.

Plant Conservation at the International Center for Tropical Botany at The Kampong

Mentor: Christopher Baraloto, FIU and ICTB

The International Center for Tropical Botany (ICTB) at The Kampong has several opportunities for internships in programs related to tropical plant conservation. Projects include (i) the mapping and revision of the botanical determinations of the living collections at The Kampong on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove; (ii); horticultural assistance to plant orchids and tropical plants throughout The Kampong ; (iii) the development of databases and descriptive notecards for genera of tropical plants to be used in teaching and visitor displays; and (iv) work with the Young Explorers after-school environmental programs for middle school students.

Tracking One Million Orchids App

Mentors: Jennifer Fu, FIU; Hong Liu, FIU and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Fairchild is propagating one million native orchids to be planted in South Florida’s urban landscapes (http:/www.fairchildgarden.orgScience-Conservation/The-Million-Orchid-Project ). This project engages the general public, particularly school children, by giving them opportunities to plant native orchids on urban trees and to beautify our urban space. It will stimulate the public’s interest in South Florida’s native orchids and their conservation needs. To facilitate the documentation and tracking of the orchids after they are planted, the FIU GIS Center is in the process of developing a web and mobile GIS application, which will allow the user to document orchids and its ecological interactions with photographs, identify the location and record its XY coordinates, visualize the distribution of all planted orchids, and track the status of their growth. The FIU GIS Center will train the students in web and mobile GIS tracking and visualization tools to help with the development of the app.