Biosphere 2 Rainforest Resilience: Capturing and Communicating Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change


The Biosphere 2 rainforest—experiencing canopy temperatures well beyond what any Biosphere 1 rainforest experiences—is uniquely suited to determine long-term ecosystem and individual responses to climate change. Furthermore, it provides a fantastic testing ground for research tools to investigate tropical forest ecosystems.

Basic courses for the Rainforest Resilience VIP will include:

  • Honors Internship (3 units), which guides students through a research project from idea through proposal and research to presentation in one semester. The internship also examines the scientific method, how it and the scientific results are communicated within the science community as well as to the general public.
  • A basic tropical forest seminar, featuring student-led discussing papers on a wide range of topics, including ecosystem carbon and water cycling, influences on tropical forest species distributions, tropical forest climate, human impacts on tropical forests.

Issues Involved or Addressed

In the rainforest, we have the capacity to include students in projects that investigate these responses at multiple levels, asking questions such as:

  • How does ecosystem carbon and water exchange impacted by climate change, such as increased temperature or drought?
  • How is photosynthesis impacted by increases temperature or vapor pressure deficit?
  • What different strategies do tropical forest plants have to manage water and how do we best measure those?
  • What are the environmental drivers of greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forest stems and soils?

To address questions like these we have: 1) long-term environmental data collected and stored in the Biosphere 2 database, 2) datasets collected during previous experiments that can be (re)analyzed, and 3) instrumentation (or connections for short-term loans) to make new measurements.

In the short-term, integrating the Biosphere 2 Honors Interns, Honors thesis students, and Carson Scholars (both undergraduate and graduate) would be the first step. The main goal is to provide students at multiple stages in their academic career to be involved in and lead research in the Biosphere 2 rainforest and discussions about tropical forests in general.

Methods and Tech

  • Scientific programming (R, Python, etc.)
  • Statistical data analysis and visualization
  • Science communication
  • Data curation and archiving

Academic Majors of Interest

Open to all majors, with particular interest in the sciences and mathematics, including:

  • School of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Data Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Biosystems & Systems Engineering
  • Sustainable Built Environments
  • Sciences: Physics, Atmospheric, Hydrology, Soil, Geo, Microbial
  • Technology
  • Math
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Environmental Economics
  • Health Sciences
  • iSchool

Preferred Interests and Preparation

  • Self-motivated
  • Comfortable with uncertainty
  • Work well independently and in teams
  • Passion and dedication
  • Creativity, collaboration, and leadership skills
  • Organization and attention to detail
  • Ability to work in hot and humid environments

Team Advisor