Skip to Main Content

From endangered species to complex ecosystems, we study the diversity of life at multiple levels in order to better understand and protect it.

Conservation

  • Amphibian Conservation

    Our work in cloud forests of the Amazonian slopes of the Andes and throughout the Andean cordillera is quantifying the impact of chytridiomycosis disease on amphibian biodiversity, and tracing the spread of the fungal pathogen and associated amphibian declines in the region.

    Learn more about our work with amphibian conservation

  • Bryde's Whales

    Gulf of Mexico Bryde's whales form an extremely small, isolated population with an estimated abundance of 33 individuals, a restricted habitat range, and very low levels of genetic diversity. In collaboration with NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, we develop a comprehensive ecological understanding of protected Gulf of Mexico Bryde's whales, including the physical, oceanographic, and biological features defining critical habitats and their ecological role in Gulf of Mexico marine food webs.

    Learn more about our work with Bryde's whales

  • Bycatch

    Bycatch, or the incidental capture of marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles and elasmobranchs, is the most significant threat to these species at the global level. We work in East Africa and Pakistan to assess marine mammal, sea turtle and elasmobranch bycatch in small-scale and semi-industrial gillnet fisheries.

    Learn more about our work on bycatch

  • Dominica's Parrots

    Residing exclusively on Dominica, the Imperial parrot is this Caribbean island’s national bird. It's also one of the most endangered in the world. The Rare Species Conservatory Foundation has been partnered with Dominica’s Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division for over 20 years, studying and protecting the parrots and helping establish protected areas for wildlife. The partnership is now launching a post-Hurricane Maria rapid wildlife assessment, to be followed by long-term monitoring and additional conservation actions.

    Learn more about our work with Dominica's parrots

  • Dwarf Crocodiles

    The Congo dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus osborni), a partially protected species endemic to the Congo Basin, is an important top-down and bottom-up trophic regulator  and is traded in the tens of thousands annually as a key local and regional wild meat resource. Ensuring the sustainability of this important wildlife resource has significant implications for local livelihoods and wildlife conservation in places like Congo's Lac Tele Community Reserve.

    Learn about our work with Congo dwarf crocodiles

  • Global FinPrint

    We unite researchers and collaborators from around the world to study sharks, rays and other marine life on coral reefs using baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVs). Our goal is to assess coral reef sharks and rays, understand how they affect these vanishing ecosystems, and inform emerging conservation actions. 

    Learn more about Global FinPrint

  • Green Turtles

    Our program investigates the impact of the invasive Halophila stipulacea seagrass on the fine-scale distribution, abundance and foraging ecology of green turtles in the French West Indies (Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin) using a wide variety of research methods. We have also produced a video-based project to raise awareness on the ecology and conservation issues of green turtles in the Caribbean region.

    Learn more about our work with green turtles

  • Manta Rays

    This project will aim at investigating the abundance, distribution, horizontal and vertical movements, and trophic ecology of reef manta rays in the lagoon of Mayotte (Comoros archipelago, SW Indian Ocean) using a combination of methods, including aerial surveys (using drones), satellite tagging, prey sampling, and stable isotope analyses.

    Learn more about our work with manta rays

  • Marine Protected Areas Project

    The sustainability of coastal marine ecosystems is of global concern given a variety of anthropogenic disturbances, including exploitative fishing practices, destructive coastal development, alterations to hydrological and nutrient regimes, and climate change. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are areas where fishing is not allowed, and they are valuable conservation tools. In Everglades National Park, our goal is to figure out how the absence of humans has benefited the fish communities in the Crocodile Sanctuary.

    Learn more about the Marine Protected Areas Project

  • Mountain Bongo Antelope

    The East African Bongo Antelope is one of the most strikingly beautiful animals to grace the high mountain forests of Kenya. It's also one of the most endangered antelopes on the planet with a wild population of less than 100 animals. Working closely with Kenyan partners, principally the Kenya Wildlife Service, Rhino Ark Charitable Trust and Mt. Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, our scientists are fostering the bongo's recovery on multiple fronts.

    Learn more about our work with mountain bongo antelope

  • Nosy Be Island

    Madagascar is one of the highest priority biodiversity hotspot in the world. Unfortunately, habitat loss, wildlife trafficking, unmanaged fisheries, and tourism disturbance, have led to unparalleled rates of wildlife decline and extinction. In collaboration with Mikajy Natiora, the University of Antananarivo and other Malagasy partners, we are monitoring the status, and identifying the factors affecting the abundance and distribution of marine and terrestrial flagship species on Nosy Be Island.

    Learn more about our work on Nosy Be Island

  • Pangolins

    Pangolins are the world’s only scaly mammal and are in dire need of urgent conservation action. Eight species occur in Africa and Asia, where they have been exploited locally for food and traditional medicine throughout history. Despite their importance to local communities as a protein source, their ecological role in tropical forest trophic webs, and their general charisma, pangolins are likely the least-known mammals in the world. We are researching pangolin basic biology, resource use, and utilization by local communities in Cote d'Ivoire to better support their in and ex situ management.

    Learn more about our work with pangolins

  • Pygmy Hippos

    The pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and is one of the least studied of Africa's charismatic, endangered fauna. Continuing population declines are due to habitat loss and degradation, industrial agriculture, logging, mining and an ever-expanding human population. We are implementing the most comprehensive study of wild pygmy hippo to date, producing the necessary ecological, health and abundance data to support the implementation of in and ex situ conservation action.

    Learn more about our work with pygmy hippos

  • Red-browed Amazon Parrots

    Our scientists are leading a 25-year captive-breeding program for the Red-browed parrot, South America’s most endangered Amazon parrot. Starting with 11 birds 30 years ago, we have produced a self-sustaining captive population and integrated recovery techniques and methods with Brazilian partners. The Red-brow is now recovering in the wild.

    Learn more about our work with red-browed amazon parrots

  • Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project

    Conservation of sharks relies on our ability to accurately monitor their populations through time, as well as space. An international research collaboration led by our researchers with the goal of understanding the dynamics of one of the world’s most pristine seagrass ecosystems. This information is critical to measuring the progress of current recovery efforts, as well as identifying and prioritizing which species are in greatest need of future conservation measures.

    Learn more about Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project

     

  • Slender-Snouted Crocodiles

    African slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops spp.) are the least-known crocodile species, and our estimates suggest that fewer than 500 adult West African slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus) are left in the wild. We aim to ensure the survival of the Critically Endangered West African slender-snouted crocodile through scientific research, capacity building and support of West African national partners.

    Learn more about our work with African slender-snouted crocodiles

  • Small Primates

    Our scientists have participated in the international Lion Tamarin Conservation Program for more than 25 years. This program works closely with agencies in Brazil to protect wild populations and expand protected areas. Our efforts in small primate conservation also benefit the pygmy marmoset; we have maintained North America's largest pygmy colony for over 25 years.

    Learn more about our work with small primates

Biodiversity

  • Amazonian Forest Plots

    Lead: Christopher Baraloto

    Project Title: A Network of Amazonian Forest Plots with Small Trees

    We have assembled more than 800 vegetation plots across South America that contain both large and small trees, which is leading to revised estimates of the diversity of these forests and the number of tropical tree species worldwide.

  • Ecosystem Services in Community Forests of SW Amazonia

    Lead: Christopher Baraloto

    Project Title: Monitoring Ecosystem Services in Community Forests or Southwestern Amazonia

    We are working with collaborators in communities across the tri-national frontier of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil to examine the impacts of road paving and associated infrastructure, on the ecosystem services provided by regional forests.

  • Multi-Taxonomic Biodiversity Inventories in Tropical Forests

    Lead: Christopher Baraloto

    We have carried out the first coordinated multi-taxonomic biodiversity inventories in more than 50 sites across French Guiana, leading to revised ideas of biodiversity hotspots and relationships between plants, animals and microbes in tropical forests.

  • Natural Enemies and Beta-Diversity in Amazonian Forests

    The NEBEDIV project represents a comprehensive evaluation of tropical forest beta-diversity across broad geographic and environmental gradients. We will integrate not only plot level analyses of more than 100 tree communities across Amazonia, but also the first characterizations of soil fungi and insect herbivore communities at this scale.

    Learn more about the NEBEDIV project

  • Plant Taxonomy and Conservation

    A native of the Canary Islands, Prof. Javier Francisco-Ortega has developed most of his projects on taxonomy, population genetics and phylogenetics of island plant. Member of his lab has been primarily working with species restricted the Macaronesian region (Azores, Canaries, Cape Verdes, and Madeira) to the Caribbean Islands. His laboratory is located in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the vast majority of these projects are being performed with botanists of this botanic garden. Montgomery Botanical Center (Miami) is also major research partners. It is well known that island floras have a high proportion of threatened species; therefore a high proportion of these endeavors target plants groups that are Critically Endangered or Endangered. All of these initiatives are conducted with partners working in research institutions from the region.

    Learn more about Dr. Francisco-Ortega's lab

    Pictured: Prof. Javier Francisco-Ortega, left, and Dr. Michael Calonje, Cycad Biologist of Montgomery Botanical Center, performing field work pertinent to the Critically Endangered cycad Zamia lucayana. This is a species restricted to a small area of Long Island, The Bahamas. Read the article published in The Tropical Garden, magazine of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

    To learn more on Caribbean Island projects performed in Prof. Francisco-Ortega see article published in the 2019 issue of Hemisphere devoted to Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean (pages 6-8). This is the official magazine of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center.

     

  • Revising Gentry: Neotropical Field Guide

    Lead: Christopher Baraloto

    Project Title: Revising Gentry: A Field Guide to the Families and Genera of Neotropical Woody Plants

    We are revising the most widely read field guide to Neotropical plants by the renowned botanist Alwyn Gentry, with updated descriptions of more than 1,500 genera and new descriptions of 650 additional genera expanding the coverage to all Neotropical woody plants.

  • Vegetation Monitoring in Hardwood Hammocks

    Lead: Christopher Baraloto

    Project Title: Vegetation Monitoring in Hardwood Hammocks of Florida and the Caribbean

    Tropical hardwood hammocks are a unique and threatened ecosystem of Florida and the Caribbean, and we are coordinating efforts to understand their composition and dynamics in the face of increasing pressures from urban development and climate change.

Education

  • Tropical Botany Course

    Tropical Botany is an intensive course of study in the biology and systematics of tropical plants. The class is largely based on the extensive holdings of tropical vascular plants at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, University of Miami's Gifford Arboretum and the Montgomery Botanical Center. These gardens have the largest living collections of tropical plants in the United States. Additionally, field trips to the Florida Everglades, the Florida Keys, and adjacent natural areas are included. The natural vegetation of South Florida, which includes littoral and dry land habitats, mixed tropical hardwood hammocks, pinelands, and mangrove communities, introduces students to the diversity of tropical vegetation.

    The object of the course is to provide advanced students and/or professionals with a detailed coverage of the systematics, phylogeny, diversity of structure, economic botany and conservation of tropical seed plants. Dr. Lucas Majure (University of Florida) and ICTB Director Dr. Christopher Baraloto teach this intensive month-long course along with Dr. Oscar Valverde (ICTB). Students can enroll in either BSC 6936 (graduate) or BSC 4934 (undergraduate) at Florida International University to receive credit for their participation. 

    Learn more about the Tropical Botany Course

    ires-madagascar-program.png

  • IRES Madagascar Program

    Madagascar is considered the single highest priority biodiversity hotspot in the world. Unfortunately, poor ecosystem management have led to one of the highest rates of habitat loss in the planet. Along with wildlife trafficking, unmanaged fisheries, and tourism disturbance, habitat loss has led to unparalleled rates of wildlife decline and extinction.

    Through our collaboration with local Malagasy NGO’s, Mada-Megafauna and Mikajy Natiora,we offer unique high-quality research and professional development opportunities in wildlife conservation and ecology for undergraduate and graduate students in Nosy Be, Madagascar.

    Learn more about the IRES Madagascar Program

    ires-madagascar-program.png

  • Communicating Conservation

    In partnership with FIU’s Department of Communication, we are offering a course for students interested in species conservation and communication. As part of a grant through the National Geographic Society, four FIU faculty members will work with students in developing strategic conservation communication to help conserve endangered species. This course will result in tangible media products that will be used to educate the public about conservation issues.

    Learn more about this course

    class-with-carta.jpg

  • Camera Trapping Workshop

    This two-week workshop, led by experts in the field, focuses on the use of camera traps for estimating animal density and occupancy probability, particularly for wildlife management and conservation.

    By the end of this course, participants should be able to select the appropriate analytical framework to address their research questions, choose and deploy the right equipment, collect and analyze data, and troubleshoot throughout all stages of study.

    Learn more about the workshop

    camera-trapping.png

  • Connecting undergraduate students with plants: Alleviating plant blindness

    Leads: Dr. Melissa McCartney, Dr. Hong Liu, Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega

    Plant blindness is the widespread lack of awareness of plants in one’s environment by the general public. At an undergraduate level this has consequences regarding how our highly skilled future workforce will value plant conservation, services, and research. Starting in 2016, the team has developed educational initiatives centered in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) to identify and alleviate plant blindness among freshman undergraduate students. This educational project focuses on FIU undergraduates who are taking one of the two introductory courses of biology. Graduate/undergraduate students and botanists working in FTBG have also actively engaged in this initiative. Preliminary results have led to a project funded by NSF to discuss future educational actions on this issue. This new project involves the participation of other US universities and botanic gardens.

    Learn more about results of this project in The Tropical Garden, the magazine of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Engagement

  • Supply Chains Study

    FIU is working to ensure people can work and eat despite climatic and logistical challenges.

    With support from The Walmart Foundation, researchers in FIU's College of Arts, Sciences & Education and the College of Business will conduct a thorough assessment of Florida's tomato and strawberry production systems. They will evaluate the entire supply chain - from farmer to processor, distributor, retailer and consumer - to identify what works, what doesn't, and why. Learn more about the Supply Chains Study.

    supply-chain-study.png

  • Kampong Science Teacher Enrichment

    The Kampong Science Teacher Enrichment Program (KSTEP) exposes participants to several botanical and environmental science experts through in-depth lectures, field visits and hands–on activities. Our faculty present on topics for use in the environmental science, human geography, and biology curricula, and that include connections to the human populations. In addition, participants engage on in-depth discussions on aligning curricula with NGSS and Florida standards, and they have the opportunity to develop and share curricular materials learned with assistance from other STEM experts and veteran teachers.

    In KSTEP 2020 (Resilience of Caribbean Urban Ecosystems), FIU scientists will introduce participants to the Kampong’s vast collection of exotic fruit, palms, cycads, and flowering trees and discuss cutting-edge research related to:

    • Belowground ecological processes in the Caribbean region and root plant potential adaptations to climate change
    • Identifying Caribbean trees and monitoring Miami’s urban trees

    In addition, participants will receive a toolkit with starter materials to conduct all of the exercises presented in their classrooms.

    For more information about the program, please contact Nina Jungman.

    kampong-science-enrichment.png

  • Wildlife Trafficking Intervention

    We partnered with the Global Forensic and Justice Center to investigate and track smuggled animals, and address existing gaps in the fight against illegal trafficking in South Florida and other regions. We are working to educate local communities where poaching is persistent, train officials on conservation policies, and help law enforcement agencies expand their resources to implement current trafficking laws, confiscate smuggled animals and prosecute traffickers.

    Visit the project page for more information. 

    wildlife-trafficking-intervention.png

  • Grove ReLeaf

    Coconut Grove retains a lush tropical canopy that renders it unique among most South Florida neighborhoods. Nevertheless, neighborhoods are developing rapidly, and some apprehension has arisen regarding the future of this verdant landscape.

    Grove ReLeaf focuses on teaching plant identification and inventory skills while also developing a citizen science network for urban tree mapping and monitoring across the Miami area. The data collected from this program will help our International Center for Tropical Botany scientists to assign concrete values to the tree canopy, to identify threats, and to understand the consequences of different management options.

    Knowing the composition of our tree canopy is important. It will help our scientists and city officials to:

    • Determine which trees are at risk of falling during hurricanes.
    • Calculate the important ecological and economic benefits of trees.
    • Plan the best species to be planted in particular locations.
    • Monitor trees that can have negative impacts on residents and wildlife.


    To participate in the program, download the iNaturalist mobile app and join the Grove ReLeaf project. While in spending time in Coconut Grove, take pictures of trees and submit them through the app.

    If you are interested in scheduling a group workshop to learn tree inventory and valuation skills, please contact tropics@fiu.edu

    coconut-grove.png