IRES: U.S.-Italy Student Research on Mediterranean Silvo-Arable-Pastoral Ecosystems

Project: Research project

Project Details


This International Research Experience for Students (IRES) project will provide experience in ecological modeling to U.S. students interested in ecology and agroecology through a partnership between The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Sassari in Sardinia, Italy. In the Sardinian setting with mentors of diverse background, student participants will examine the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in a Mediterranean silvo-arable-pastoral ecosystem, at the Berchidda Long Term Observatory (LTO). Ecosystems such as the Berchidda LTO have high biodiversity and cultural value, being the source of many domesticated grain and forage crops in use throughout the world. Such ecosystems are also important carbon and nitrogen sinks, and their integrity can be considered at risk due to climate and land use changes. The students' collective experience will encompass field research, laboratory work and computer modeling and follow a structured professional development plan. During each year of the three-year IRES, cohorts of five undergraduate and graduate students will train to integrate measurements and modeling to study landscapes with high temporal, spatial, and ecological diversity that are strongly influenced by humans. Overall, the students' research should contribute to our basic knowledge of relevant Mediterranean ecosystems, which may be extended to other ecosystems in the U.S. and abroad, at global and local scales.

Fifteen U.S. students, divided into three cohorts, will work on the diverse silvo-arable-pastoral ecosystem of Sardinia to understand carbon and nitrogen fluxes in the mosaic land-use of the Long Term Observatory of Berchidda, in northeastern Sardinia. Their IRES experience will consist of three phases: 1) scientific and cultural pre-departure preparation, 2) five-week research project at the Berchidda LTO, and 3) post-arrival work which will comprise preparation of posters, presentations or publications, and IRES evaluation. Students will be mentored by the U.S. PIs and three counterpart scientists from the University of Sassari who lead research at the Berchidda LTO. Additionally, graduate students will gain educational experience by teaching a workshop at the host institution in Sardinia and undergraduate students will contribute to a seminar at the Pennsylvania State University. As an international research team, the U.S. and Italian partners expect to deepen understating of the identified Mediterranean systems and the role human activity plays in driving the changes of carbon and nitrogen stocks. Furthermore, for broader impact, because the IRES students participate and gain this timely experience, they should benefit from the valuable early career exposure to collaborative research in a area where general ecological principles and modeling techniques may be applied to similar local and regional landscapes, for more sustainable environmental management.

Effective start/end date8/1/147/31/18


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