May 2018                                                 View this email in your browser
The annual LUQ all scientists meeting will be held

June 5th and 6th, 2018

Public session with talks and posters will take place on June 5. Business and project planning will be on June 6. Location and agenda will be announced shortly.
"Teacher of the Year" is LUQ Schoolyard Participant

Elliot López, teacher at Escuela Superior Juan Ponce de León in Florida and long-time LUQ Schoolyard participant, was named "Teacher of the Year" by the Puerto Rico's Department of Education. Congratulations, Elliot!
2017 REU Student Co-Authors Publication
Recent REU participant Gabriela Ramírez de Arellano co-authored and published a paper with her mentor, Aaron Shiels. The study, published in Caribbean Naturalist, is an assessment of invasive rodent presence along the 191 elevation gradient through the LEF, and disturbed and undisturbed habitats. Gabriela is a student at UPR Mayagüez. You can access the article here or contact Sarah Stankavich or Aaron Shiels ( to request the PDF.

Abstract - Invasive rodents, particularly rats (Rattus spp.), occupy >80% of the world’s  
   islands and are among the greatest threats to native biodiversity and agriculture on
   islands.  At the time of their introduction in the 1500s, there was at least one native rat
   species in Puerto Rico.  Today there are no native rodents remaining in Puerto Rico but
   R. norvegicus (Norway Rats) may be found in urban settings while R. rattus (Black Rats)
   are the most common rat across the island including within natural areas; invasive Mus
   musculus (House Mice) may also be found in urban and non-urban habitats.  The
   Caribbean National Forest (CNF; locally El Yunque) in northeastern Puerto Rico has some
   native and endangered species vulnerable to rat predation.  The objective of our study
   was to determine the presence and distribution of invasive rodents (rats and mice)
   across elevations and habitats within the CNF.  We used 104 tracking tunnels, which are
   baited ink cards placed in tunnels so that foot prints of animal visitors could be
   identified, to determine presence of invasive rodent species.  We placed three tracking
   tunnels at each 50 m elevation-gain (n = 66 total tunnels), in forest from sea level to
   1070 m at El Yunque peak along the main road (Highway 191) through the CNF.  We
   established additional tracking tunnels (n = 38) in the major habitats in the CNF,
   including treefall and hurricane gaps, landslides, stream edges, and continuous forest. 
   House Mice had not been previously reported in the CNF, and were found only at the
   forest edge along Highway 191 at some elevations between 50-150 m and 300-1070 m,
   whereas rats (Rattus sp.) were found at all elevations and in all habitat types sampled. 
   Logistic regressions revealed that mice and rat presence increases with elevation (mice:
   P = 0.0352, rat: P = 0.0019).  Knowledge of the habitat types and elevations that these
   invasive rodnts occupy can inform management strategies for rodent control and native
   species protection.
"Terrific Trees" on PBS SciGirls
Dr. Grizelle González participated in a recent episode for the PBS SciGirls series. The episode, titled "Terrific Trees," was filmed around the El Verde Field Station and the IITF headquarters in Río Piedras. SciGirls encourages girls to pursue interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM. You can watch this episode and many others at
Schoolyard Alumni Wins Prize
Rocio del Mar Avilés Mercado, former LUQ Schoolyard participant and current student at UPR Rio Piedras, won first prize at The International Festival of Engineering Sciences and Technology in March. Rocio presented her research, titled "HuR Spatial Localization Is Affected By p38 MAPK Phosphorylation Upon T-Cell Activation" at the festival held in Monastir, Tunisia. Congratulations, Rocio!

Vermont-Puerto Rico High School Student Exchange & VT EPSCoR Student Research Symposium
By Noelia Báez
During March 16-21, the third Vermont-Puerto Rico high school student exchange took place.  This year the group, comprised of eight Puerto Rican science teachers, 16 high school students and me, traveled to Vermont and New Hampshire for 5 days full of educational and cultural experiences.  On March 17-18, we visited Hubbard Brook LTER Experimental Station in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There we met up with science teacher Tom Lane from Bellows Fall Academy and Ashley Lang, a PhD student of the Department of Biological Sciences Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth College. The weekend workshops focused on northern hardwoods forest dynamics and the importance of snow cover. Our group snowshoed through the woods and learned about the forest composition and trees species such aspen, hemlocks, black and yellow birch. We also visited the Climate Change Across Seasons Experiment (CCASE) and learned how global warming could affect seasonally snow-covered ecosystems in this region. The students learned snow cover evaluation techniques such as measuring the thickness of layers and calculating snow densities and were introduced to the concept of snow insulation and its relationship to soil fertility. Also, Tom Lane offered a talk about his research on permafrost in Alaska and open a discussion around climate change issues.  Rose Trinidad and Elliot López led a variety of motivational group activities that contributed to positive interactions among all participants.


On March 19, we returned to Vermont where the Bellow Fall Academy community in Fairfax welcomed us. The students had the chance to interact with students and visited Suncommon, a Vermont Community Solar microgrid system in Jericho, and learn about clean and renewal energy. In the afternoon, the Spanish teachers incorporated our group into their classes for a cultural exchange in which the Puerto Rican students and teachers shared stories about their experiences during and after Hurricane María.

The following day, the VT delegation presented at the 10th Annual VT EPSCoR Student Research Symposium, hosted at the Dudley H. Davis Center of the University of Vermont in Burlington.  This event showcased the results of the students’ projects they had conducted over the course of the school year. The research themes presented included the presence and abundance of macroinvertebrates as bioindicators and the chemical and physical parameters of numerous streams located throughout PR. This research experience was shared among a broader audience that included high school student peers, undergraduates, scientists, managers, government officials, and other interested state and local groups.


This summary encompasses most of the activities and many of the people who collaborated to make this effort possible. Special thanks are due to the PR students and teachers, as well as Veronica Sosa, Livia Donicova, Janel J. Roberge, and Michael J. Winslow – members of the VT EPSCoR Team who supported us throughout this adventure! Their efforts continue to build the foundation for an on-going program of cross-site and cross-cultural interchange, where students from VT and PR have opportunities to explore, experience and learn about science, and take on active roles as young leaders.
2018 Schoolyard Field Season
By Noelia Báez
When it comes to learning experiences, extreme climatic events generate opportunities. This Schoolyard field season has been marked by unique circumstances that allowed many of us to think outside of the box and become creative again! We adapted our field protocols to the post-hurricane conditions, allowing student participants to experience how the forest is recovering from the storm. The students have been assessing the Demonstration Plot at El Verde Field Station and establishing a baseline for future monitoring. Revised workshops focus on evaluating vegetation damage, measuring coarse woody debris, and testing chemical, physical and biological parameters of Quebrada Sonadora. We are grateful for the help of our workshop leaders, Dr. Omar Pérez Reyes, UPR-Río Piedras Biology Professor, Christopher Nytch, UPR-Río Piedras doctoral candidate in Environmental Sciences, Omar Gutierrez del Arroyo, UC-Berkeley doctoral candidate in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and Jamarys Torres, Research Manager of the Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot. This year, Carla López and Katherine Pérez, technicians of the Luquillo CZO, Gisela González, soil research technician at El Verde, and a group of technicians from Dr. Maria Uriarte’s RAPID team also joined our effort.

Despite the post-hurricane logistical and field-based challenges, every time I interact with teachers and students I encounter a positive force of motivation. Six schools have participated in workshops thus far, with each school bringing between 15-20 students to work on one protocol during a regular 6-hour school day. Two more schools are scheduled for May.  The students range in ages from middle to high school and vary in their level of experience with exploring forest ecology. During the workshops, they are exposed to data collection and entry, as well as analysis methods for each of the different focal areas. We then encourage the schools to adopt the learning protocols and apply the concepts at their school research sites during the rest of the semester. The results will be presented during the Schoolyard Annual Symposium at the Specialized in School Pa’ Los Duros in Carolina in May.
Other News
Recent Publications
Álvarez-Berríos, N., Soto-Bayó, S., Holupchinski, E., Fain, S., and Gould, W. 2018. Correlating drought conservation practices and drought vulnerability in a tropical agricultural system. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 1-13.
Click here to access this publication

Dornelas, M. et al. 2017. BioTIME: a database of biodiversity time series for the Anthropocene. Global Ecology and Biogeography. In Press.

Franklin, J., Andrade, R., Daniels, M.L., et al. 2018. Geographical ecology of dry forest tree communities in the West Indies. Journal of Biogeography 00:1–14. 
Click here to access this publication

Hudson, L. N. et al. (511 authors including M. R. Willig). 2017. The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity in Changing Terrestrial Systems) Project. Ecology and Evolution 7:145-188.
Click here to access this publication

Martins, A. C. M., M. R. Willig, S. J. Presley, and J. Marinho-Filho. 2017. Effects of forest height and vertical complexity on abundance and biodiversity of bats in Amazonia. Journal of Forest Ecology and Management 391:427-435.
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Mauerhofer, V., T. Ichinose, B. D. Blackwell, M. R. Willig, C. G. Flint, M. S. Krause, and M. Penker.  2018.  Underuse of social-ecological systems: A research agenda for addressing challenges to biocultural diversity.  Land Use Policy 77:57-64.
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O’Connell, C.S., Ruan, L. and Silver, W.L. 2018. Drought drives rapid shifts in tropical rainforest soil biogeochemistry and greenhouse gas emissions. Nature Communications 9: 1348.
Click here to access this publication

Pfeifer, M., Lefebvre, V., Peres, C.A., Wearn, O. R., Marsh, C. J., Banks-Leite, C., Butchart, S. H. M., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Barlow, J., Cerezo A., Cisneros, L., D’Cruze, N., Fariah, D., Hadley, A., Klingbeil, B. T., Kormann, U., Lens, L., Medina-Rangel, G. F., Morante-Filho, J.C., Olivier, P., Peters, S., Pidgeon, A., Ribeiro, D. B., Scherber, C., Schneider-Maunory, L., Struebig, M., Urbina-Cardona, N., Watling, J. I., Willig, M. R., Wood, E. M., Ewers, R. M. Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates. Nature.
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Prather, C.M., Belovsky, G.E., Cantrell, S.A. and González, G. 2018. Tropical herbivorous phasmids, but not litter snails, alter decomposition rates by modifying litter bacteria. Ecology 99:782-791.
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Presley, S. J., L. M. Cisneros, C. L. Higgins, B. T. Klingbeil, S. M. Scheiner, and M. R. Willig. 2017.
Phylogenetic and functional underdispersion in Neotropical phyllostomid bat communities. Biotropica 50:135-145.
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Scheiner, S. M., E. Kosman, S. J. Presley, and M. R. Willig. 2017. Decomposing functional diversity. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 8:809-820.
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Scheiner, S. M., E. Kosman, S. J. Presley, and M. R. Willig. 2017. The components of biodiversity, with a particular focus on phylogenetic information. Ecology and Evolution 2017:1-11.
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Van de Perre, F., Willig, M. R., Presley, S. J.,Beeckmann, H., Boeckx, P., Cooleman, S., de Hann, M., De Kesel, A., Dessein, S., Grootaert, P.,  Huygens, D., Janssens, S., Kearsley, E., Lachenaud, O., Leponce, M., Van den Broeck, D., Verbeeck, H., Wursten, B., Leirs, H., and Verheyen, E.  2018.  Reconciling biodiversity and carbon stock conservation in an Afrotropical forest landscape. Science Advances 4:eaar66032
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Willig, M. R., and S. J. Presley. 2018. Biodiversity and disturbance. Pages 45-51 in D.A. DellaSala and M.I. Goldstein, Editors. Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
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Willig, M. R., and S. J. Presley. 2018. Latitudinal gradients of biodiversity: Theory and empirical patterns. Pages 13-19 in D.A. DellaSala and M.I. Goldstein, Editors. Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene. Elsevier, Amsterdam

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