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Students & Postdoctoral Fellows


Loren Albert

Loren Albert is pursuing a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.  She is currently an NSF Amazon-PIRE fellow and attended the 2009 summer field course in Brazil and the 2011 summer field course in Peru.  Loren is excited to investigate how Amazonian plants will respond to climate change, as the Amazon Rainforest stores a vast amount of carbon, and much less is known about the physiological ecology of tropical plants than that of temperate plants.  She also hopes to examine how organisms associated with forest plants will mediate plant responses.  In her spare time, Loren enjoys hiking, cooking, and science outreach.

Luciana Alves

Lu Alves has been a research fellow for the NSF PIRE Program in Amazon-Climate Interactions at University of Arizona since July 2010. She is also a research scientist for the Institute of Botany in São Paulo, Brazil. She earned her B.A. in Biological Science and her Ph.D. in Plant Biology at the Department of Botany, University of Campinas, Brazil. Her research includes a focus on tropical forest structure and carbon dynamics, plant population ecology of tropical trees, and the effects of habitat fragmentation on tree species richness and abundance, emphasizing forest regeneration. The current emphasis of Lu’s research is to advance the understanding of the effects of disturbance dynamics and climate on aboveground carbon allocation and cycling in tropical forest ecosystems, focusing Amazonian and Atlantic forest sites in Brazil. In addition, she is also engaged in the analysis of existing biometric data of Amazonian forest sites (Santarem and Manaus) for integration with Amazon PIRE aircraft LIDAR surveys co-advised by Scott Saleska, and in collaboration with Ph.D. students Scott Stark (University of Arizona) and Maria Hunter (University of New Hampshire).

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Eliane Gomes Alves

Eliane is a first year PhD student in Climate and Environment at the National Institute for Amazon Research and the University of Amazon State, Brazil. She attended the 2009 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in Caxiuanã. Pará, Brazil. She worked with isoprene (quantitatively the most important of the BVOCs) emission on leaf level for her Master’s degree and is currently working with BVOC fluxes in central Amazon to better understand the possible seasonality of these fluxes in this ecosystem. She is also interested in studying Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (BVOCs) emissions from the Amazon forest into the atmosphere.

Aleix Serrat Capdevila

Aleix holds a PhD in hydrology from The University of Arizona on climate change impacts in water resources with a minor in anthropology. He was a participant in the 2008 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in Brazil. His main interests include climate change impacts on hydrologic processes and regional water budgets and energy balance; how to handle uncertainty and inform human adaptation; use of satellite precipitation products and other remote sensing products to support monitoring and hydrologic forecasts in un-gauged areas; participatory planning and management approaches; as well as capacity building and technology transfer. Aleix is currently working for the International Center for Integrated Water Resources Management (ICIWaRM), a UNESCO II Centre ( and has a Research Assistant Professor appointment at the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources. His role in ICIWaRM is to facilitate the transfer of new findings and science applications towards real-world water management uses, as well as supporting ICIWaRM’s international projects promoting integrated water resources management (IWRM) in developing settings.


Brian Chaszar

Brian is a PhD student starting Fall 2009.  He attended the Amazon-PIRE summer field course in 2009 as an Amazon-PIRE fellow.  He is broadly interested in utilizing a trait based approach to understand variation in ecosystem and carbon dynamics in both tropical and temperate systems.

Bradley Christoffersen

Brad Christoffersen is a Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.  His first exposure to tropical forest ecology was as an undergraduate student at Southern Nazarene University, spending a 4-week stint in the montane cloud forests of the Talamanca mountains of Costa Rica to study treefall gap dynamics.  In between undergrad and grad school, he worked as a research intern at the MacArthur Agro-Ecology Research Center of Archbold Biological Station in south central Florida, and later as a research assistant with the Environment Group at the Houston Advanced Research Center in The Woodlands, Texas.  Brad also attended the 2008 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in Brazil.  His current research is focused on improving our understanding of how root dynamics and phenology are related to the below-ground moisture environment.  He conducts his research on both modeling and observational fronts.  From the modeling perspective, he is intercomparing how different ecosystem models represent root water uptake and stress, and how this relates to model performance.  In the field, he is utilizing continuous measurements of soil moisture and time-lapse photography of fine roots using minirhizotrons to measure how fine root turnover rates vary seasonally and with treefall gap phase in the Tapajós Forest of Brazil.  Finally, he seeks to integrate both approaches by utilizing continuous moisture data and a small-scale hydrological model to more rigorously evaluate representations of root water uptake in ecosystem models.


Ginny Fitzpatrick

As a BioME fellow Ginny Fitzpatrick collaborated with Amazon-PIRE during the 2010 field course in Manaus, Brazil to turn her experience into lesson plans for K-12 students. Both NSF-funded programs have been instrumental in advancing Ginny's ability to communicate her science and gain teaching experience. Ginny is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. She is co-advised by Judith Bronstein and Travis Huxman. Ginny is interested in mutualism, an interaction among species from which all benefit. Mutualism is often a complex interaction among multiple species, each of which may respond to temperature differently. Ginny studies the thermal ecology of the mutualism between the fishhook barrel cactus, Ferocactus wislizeni, and its common ant defenders at the Desert Research Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill in Tucson, Arizona.

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Matt Hayek

Matt Hayek is a third year PhD student in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University.  Matt attended the 2010 summer field course near Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil as an Amazon-PIRE fellow.  He works on understanding the exchange of carbon dioxide between plants and soils and the atmosphere using atmospheric measurements. Using eddy covariance towers to measure vertical fluxes of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and sensible heat in the atmospheric boundary layer above the forest can give us unique insights into forest growth dynamics and their response to climate on the hectare scale. He is interested in applying these techniques to understand more about what controls the photosynthesis and respiration of Amazon forests. He is also interested in refining our knowledge of atmospheric circulation above and below the rainforest canopy to help us better refine our approach measuring atmospheric fluxes. In the future, He hopes to combine eddy covariance with measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to provide better insight into the plant-based sources and atmospheric evolution of these chemically and climatically important compounds.


Lindsey Hovland

Lindsey Hovland is a third year graduate student pursuing a Masters Degree in Environmental Science in the department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science. Lindsey was a participant in the 2009 summer field course in Caxiuanã, Pará, Brazil, and is currently an Amazon-PIRE fellow.  Her passion for studying the natural environment started as a young girl growing up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Lindsey's research focuses on the biogeochemistry of tropical soils, with an emphasis on soil nitrous oxide flux dynamics. She hopes to strengthen the science behind understanding how soil physical and hydraulic properties affect trace gas production and the microbial populations that drive them. An understanding of these pore-scale processes is essential for scaling up to produce ecosystem level predictions of trace gas fluxes under predicted climate changes, such as drought. In her free time she enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring the beautiful landscapes of the desert Southwest.

Catherine Hulshof

Catherine Hulshof is a PhD Student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Arizona. For her dissertation she is investigating plant trait variation across latitudinal and elevational gradients throughout the New World from Oregon to Costa Rica. Her research aims to test several hypotheses of species coexistence by quantifying patterns of trait variation across broad geographical scales. She is also interested in plant phenotypic plasticity, soil-vegetation dynamics as well as herbivore-host interactions. Catherine attended the 2008 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in Brazil.

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Veronika Leitold

Veronika Leitold – a native Hungarian from the shore of Lake Balaton – is a research technician in the Saleska Lab in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Veronika received her BA in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University in June, 2009. She attended the 2008 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in the Tapajós National Forest near Santarém, Pará.  Her undergraduate thesis – “Canopy structure and function in the Tapajós National Forest in equatorial Amazonia, Brazil” – was based on field data she collected during and after the 2008 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in the Tapajós Forest.  At the University of Arizona, she has worked mostly with ground-based and airborne LiDAR data of vegetation structure in the forest canopy, and participated in various field research campaigns in the Tapajós forest near Santarém and in Reserva Ducke  close to Manaus.  Veronika feels most in her element when she is outdoors doing field work in the rain forest.  She is planning to apply to graduate school in Brazil in the near future.

Jacob Meuth

Jacob Meuth is in his second year of the hydrometeorology masters program at the University of Arizona.  He was a participant in the 2011 summer field course in Peru as an Amazon-PIRE fellow.   He is interested in precipitation and flooding. He is researching precipitation recycling in the Amazon Basin using stable isotope tracers in an effort to more about the hydrologic cycle there. Jacob majored in atmospheric science with a minor in geographic information systems at the University of Missouri.  He took a year off to pursue other activities before the learning bug bit him and he ended back in academia. Jacob grew up on farm, precipitation and flooding are part of daily life and has inspired him to do research in the hydrology field. Outside of school his interests include restoring classic cars and enjoying time on the many lakes of Missouri.


Gabriel Moreno

Gabriel Moreno is a second year Master's student in Atmospheric Science at the University of Arizona and an Amazon-PIRE fellow.  He received his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Arizona in 2010. His research focuses on the development and the application of land surface models.  He is currently involved in running regional simulations using the Community Land Model over the Amazon Basic as part of a larger model intercomparison project.  He is also involved in improving how the canopy within the Community Land Model calculates CO2 concentrations.  Gabriel eventually plans to pursue a PhD in Atmospheric Science.

Thomas Powell

Tom Powell is a PhD candidate in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a former Amazon-PIRE fellow.  He attended the 2008 Amazon-PIRE field course in the Tapajós National Forest near Santarém, Pará, Brazil.  Tom’s research uses a modeling approach to quantify the how severe drought across the Amazon basin will fundamentally alter its carbon and water budgets.  Presently, most large-scale dynamic vegetation models are limited in their ability to predict the dynamic evolution of forested ecosystems under novel precipitation environments because the physiological responses to water stress are poorly represented and they lack the relevant axes of competition.  Tom is addressing these two fundamental problems by incorporating a physiologically based hydrodynamic pipe model into a state of the art terrestrial biosphere model—The Ecosystem Demography Model v2 (ED2)—which is designed for predicting the dynamics of forest composition and structure.  In order to constrain the newly formulated ED2 model, Tom is measuring the magnitude and plasticity of key ecophysiological traits that control plant water-use for trees in the Amazon forest.  The troughfall exclusion sites located at the Tapajos National Forest and Caxiuanã National Forest Reserve are being used as the field sites for measuring drought tolerant or intolerant genera common to both locations.


Natalia Restrepo-Coupe

Natalia Restrepo-Coupe was a postdoctoral fellow in the Saleska Lab at the University of Arizona for 4-1/2 years, as well as a participant in the 2008 Amazon-PIRE field course in Brazil.  She was (and continues to be) actively involved in projects in the Tapajós National Forest near Santarém, Para working on data collection, processing, and analysis of EC flux measurements and 3-band reflectance camera (TETRACAM) images.  Her main interest is the study of the phenology and seasonality of ecosystem productivity and evapotranspiration in the Amazon Basin, including controls and scaling from ecosystem to regions.  Now at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, Natalia is a member of a C3-Remote Sensing Group, integrating remote sensing observations, from both tower-mounted optical sensors and satellites, with field eco-hydrologic and tower-based flux measurements.  The goal is to study and understand seasonal and inter-annual patterns of evapotranspiration and photosynthesis in different Australian ecosystems.

Rafael Rosolem

In 2010 Rafael Rosolem received his Ph.D. in Hydrology at University of Arizona. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of energy, water, and carbon exchanges between in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere system by using complex land surface parameterization schemes (a.k.a. land surface models) representing the characteristics of natural and artificial tropical ecosystems, such as the Amazon and Biosphere2, respectively. He is interested in improving land surface parameterization schemes through model optimization and data assimilation. He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from University of São Paulo, Brazil. Rafael was a participant in the 2008 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in Brazil.  He is currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate under the Cosmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing System (COSMOS) project (


Marielle Smith

Marielle Smith is a second year Ph.D. student in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department, co-advised by Scott Saleska and Travis Huxman. Marielle was a participant in the 2011 Amazon-PIRE summer field course near Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.  She is interested in identifying management techniques that achieve a balance between biodiversity conservation, ecosystem service provision, and sustainable development in human land-use systems in tropical wet forests (particularly the Amazon).

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Scott Stark

Scott Stark is broadly interested in theoretical ecology, metabolic scaling theory and community ecology. Scott has been a graduate student instructor for the 2008-2010 Amazon-PIRE summer field courses in Brazil, and the 2011 course in Peru.  His interests are in the connection between small footprint LIDAR collected on the ground and from airplanes and forest size structure, biomass, and dynamical properties (light, tree growth, and photosynthetic production.  He investigates how to infer small-scale spatial heterogeneity in leaf area from LIDAR, using this to understand light environments, and then connect the growth of thousands of mapped trees in two sites in the central Amazon to LIDAR-derived crown environments. 


Tyeen Taylor

How will tropical plant communities respond to climate and land-use changes?  Ty Taylor analyzed the response of the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 tropical rainforest biome to long-term warming and other selective pressures.  He found that the tropical plant community has shifted from one akin to wet and moist forests, to one more similar to tropical dry forests.   Is this the type of response we can expect in the Amazon?  What are the most important plant characteristics that determine whether a species will thrive or die in a warmer and drier climate?  Ty wishes to address these questions through assessments of community responses to warming and drying, as well as individual plant physiological responses to those factors, both at Biosphere 2 and in the Amazon basin.  Answering these questions will inform conservation efforts and efficient land-use, and help us plan for climate change.  To augment his field capabilities, Ty is also working on integrating lightweight back country travel techniques into applications for scientific field work, including canopy access and use of field instrumentation in remote areas and harsh climates.  Ty was a participant in the 2010 Amazon-PIRE summer field course near Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.

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Joost Van Haren

Joost van Haren, Assistant Research Professor at Biosphere 2, University of Arizona, is a recent graduate, specializing in biogeochemistry.  His dissertation focuses on plant soil interaction and how this affects greenhouse gas production.  A former PIRE fellow, he contributes to the PIRE project with our Brazilian partners by having taught in the 2009, 2009, and 2010 Amazon-PIRE summer field courses (and the 2011 course in Peru), and continuing research of tree species, climate, and land-use change affecting nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas production in soils at sites near Manaus, Santarem, and Belem. From 1996 to 2004, he was in charge of the analytical facilities at Biosphere 2, where he currently heads up the research in the tropical biome of Biosphere 2.

Van Haren

Sarah White

Sarah White was an Amazon-PIRE fellow for two years and attended the 2009 Amazon-PIRE summer field course in Caxiuanã, Pará, Brazil.  She received a Master of Science degree from the Department of Geosciences in August 2011.  Ever since taking the Global Change course as an undergraduate in the EEB department here at the University of Arizona, she has been interested in climate change and its effects on ecosystems. Therefore, it only makes sense that her research aims to help answer the question of the fate of Amazon forests under future climate change. More specifically, she uses lake sediments from the Peruvian Amazon to reconstruct precipitation over the past ~2000 years. Knowledge of past precipitation changes and associated vegetation changes will enable us to better predict future changes in vegetation associated with predicted climate changes. Her record of past precipitation variability, combined with a pollen record of vegetation changes created by colleagues at the Florida Institute of Technology, will give us insight as to what happened in the past, and thus, the range of possibility for the future.

Tara Woodcock

Tara Woodcock graduated from the University of Arizona in 2009 with a degree in Environmental Science.  She spent the last two years of her degree working on an invasive species study in the alluvial plains of the Chiricahua mountains of So. Arizona. She also attended the Amazon-PIRE 2008 summer field course in Brazil.  After graduation Tara took a position with the University of Arizona as a Research Technician for Amazon-PIRE, working at the eddy flux site in in the Tapajós Forest near Santarém. Pará, Brazil.  She helped with various projects including LIDAR projects, and those utilizing continuous measurements of soil moisture and time-lapse photography of fine roots using minirhizotrons.  In 2011 she took a position as an Environmental Engineer for a mining company where she coordinates the Water Sampling Program and sample data analysis.


Jin Wu

Jin Wu is a third year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, the University of Arizona. Before he became an ecologist, Jin was a remote sensing scientist. At that time, he felt very disappointed by remote sensing, but captivated by ecology. His motivation for ecology is very simple: what is the effect of global warming on terrestrial ecosystem, especially Amazon rainforest? Now, he is exited in doing research in this field, by using model simulations, and advanced observation techniques, such as plot survey, eddy tower, satellite image, and control experiments. Ironically, Jin seems to become back a remote sensing scientist; but ecological question comes first this time. Currently, Jin intents to link leaf reflectance spectral to leaf chemical state and leaf photosynthesis processes to directly test if plant’s greenness response is consistent with plant’s growth rate response, at least in short periods. He also attempts to develop a new kind of vegetation index to better monitor leaf chemical dynamics, thus to better estimate leaf photosynthesis response. Finally, Jin is interested in scaling photosynthesis from leaf scale to individual plant, and even to ecosystem level based on innovative remote sensing techniques to better monitor/predict Amazonian future under global warming.