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Project: Smart Reforestation Forest Restoration Intern

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Project title

Smart Reforestation Forest Restoration Intern

Mentor name

Jefferson Hall,
Co-mentor name and position: Katherine Sinacore, STRI Postdoctoral Fellow
Note- Primary mentors must be current STRI scientific staff


Agua Salud Panama; Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca; interns will spend time in Panama City as well and, depending on housing options, may travel daily to Agua Salud or weekly to the Comarca.

Project summary and objectives

Tropical forests provide a suite of benefits to local communities, people living far removed but connected by virtue of being within watersheds, and across the world. Agua Salud is advancing our understanding of the ecosystem services forests provide in a seasonal, moist climate. Smart Reforestation studies and develops strategies to restore the diverse set of environmental and social values lost with deforestation. STRI scientists and their colleagues have been studying forest restoration for more than 20 years in Panama. Recent Smart Reforestation studies have expanded in scope and breadth, working at larger spatial scales and with individuals, families, and communities to improve livelihoods and well-being. The Smart Reforestation internship encompasses a variety of different reforestation and restoration projects including studies in plantations looking at the dynamics and performance of native and exotic species, studies of carbon capture by naturally regenerating secondary forests, and those where tree species with demonstrated environmental, social, and economic value are planted into areas of young secondary forest or areas where succession is stalled and the vegetation is a perpetual state of brush and scrub forest. Sites include those managed entirely by STRI for science, to those which are owned and managed by rural farmers and/or indigenous communities.

The Smart Reforestation intern will work with STRI scientist and Agua Salud technicians to measure trees in different experiments (the project depends on the arrival of the intern and follows a schedule of annual measurements). S/he/they will have the opportunity to help collect different sets of biophysical data. Examples include making light measurements, collecting soils samples for chemical and microbial analyses, and undertaking measurements to characterize competition with adjacent vegetation. S/he/they may also work on collecting social science data related to the motivations of people participating in reforestation projects or collecting baseline data on livelihoods that would be required by a carbon sequestration certification process.

Mentorship goals

The intern will receive practical experience in undertaking research and gain an understanding of sampling design and techniques. S/he/they will learn about the process of tree measurement campaigns and how the data collected are processed and analyzed for survivorship, growth, and carbon sequestration. Depending on the specific project and the intern’s interests s/he/they may also learn and study, through interpreting and analyzing data, the importance of site characterization (e.g. light availability, soil fertility and physical status, and neighborhood competition) on tree species survival and growth. Interns specifically interested in the social aspects of reforestation will learn about survey design, the importance of governance, and what it means to work with local people to take research to scale. The intern will have the ability to work with Agua Salud interns charged with other aspects of research during his/her/their stay.

List of suggested readings

Boeschoten, L.E, van Breugel, M. Bailon, M., Balbuena, J. Nuñez, M., Cerezo, A., Hall, J.S. 2020. Framework species approach proves robust in restoring forest on fire prone invasive grass: A case study from Panama. Journal of Sustainable Forestry,

Breugel, M.van, Hall, J.S., Craven, D.J., Gregoire, T.G., Park, A., Dent, D.H., Wishnie, M.H., Mariscal, E., Deago, J., Ibarra, D., Cedeno, N., and M.S. Ashton.  2011.  Early growth and survival of 49 tropical tree species across differing soil fertility and rainfall gradients in Panama.  Forest Ecology and Management 261, 1580–1589.

Hall, J.S., Ashton, M.S., Garen, E.J., Jose, S., 2011.  The ecology and ecosystem services of native trees: Implications for reforestation and land restoration in Mesoamerica. Forest Ecology and Management 261, 1553-1557.

Hall, J.S., Love, B.E., Garen, E.J., Slusser, J.L., Saltonstall, K., Mathias, S., van Breugel, M., Ibarra, D., Bork, E., Spaner, D., Wishnie, M.H., and M.S. Ashton.  2011.  Tree plantations on farms: evaluating growth and potential for success.  Forest Ecology and Management 261, 1675–1683.  

Marshal, A., McLaughlin, B.P., Zerr, C., Yanguas-Fernández, E., Hall, J.S., 2020. Early indications of success rehabilitating an underperforming teak (Tectona grandis) plantation in Panama through enrichment planting. New Forests. 52, 77–395

Mayoral, C., can Breugel, M., Cerezo, A., Hall, J.S. 2017. Survival and growth of five Neotropical timber species in monocultures and mixtures. Forest Ecology and Management

Sinacore, K, García, E.H, Howard, T, van Breugel, M, Lopez, O.R., Finkral, A.J., Hall, J.S. (2022). Towards effective reforestation: growth and commercial value of four commonly planted tropical timber species on infertile soils in Panama. New Forests

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