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The Tropical Conservation Internship Program is seeking 10 outstanding undergraduate students to participate in multiple research and hands-on training internship opportunities offered at our partnered organizations during the Fall 2021 semester.

Qualified students should possess an interest in conservation of plants and/or animals, and have basic knowledge of ecological research principles and procedures. Students must be self-motivated and willing to assist in research and work related duties. Participants must enroll in a 0-credit internship course in your department and prepare a professional presentation upon project completion.

How to apply: Interested applicants should submit a letter of intent, resume/CV, and one letter of recommendation along with this application form. A $2000 Fellowship Award will be provided to recipients in increments throughout the internship period. Please note that you will need to dedicate at least 12 hours per week on your internship project (some time may be spent off-site) and follow all Covid-19 related protocols at the individual internship site.

Due date: August 16 at 11:59 pm - please send all materials to environment@fiu.edu with subject line: Fall 2021 Tropical Conservation Internship.

Sites

Interns work on projects across a range of focus areas at sites throughout Miami-Dade County.

  • Deering Estate

    One intern is selected per semester to work at the Deering Estate with mentor Christopher Bumpus. Possible projects include:

    Mapping Data collected at Deering Estate

    Utilizing already published data sets and literature, this project would create a database of projects that have been conducted at and around the Estate. The data collected could be used for a literature review, meta-analysis and GIS map that would support future research projects.


    Tropical Hammock Bird Transect

    The Deering Estate is home to a large area of tropical hardwood hammocks. This project would look at the biodiversity within the area, specifically birds. One will see which birds are dominating the area and determine if any rare birds are utilizing the hardwood hammocks for any period of time.


    Plant-bird-relationships

    Utilizing all 450 acres of the Deering Estate, this project would determine any symbiotic relationships birds at the Estate have with plants. The student would survey for avian uses of plants throughout the estate and determine if there is a symbiotic relationship with specific bird species and specific plants at the Estate.


    Invasive Anole survey

    We find several different invasive anoles at the Estate. The project would entail surveying the estate to take an inventory of which invasive anoles we find, what the populations are like, and determine which habitat they are established in. The project will also determine why the invasive anoles are utilizing certain areas over others.


    Aquatic Inventory

    This project would study our seagrass and mangrove environment. The project will survey these different environments for biodiversity. Also water quality samples will be taken throughout to see if biodiversity is changed around the state pre and post-freshwater pumping from the C100 canal.


    Atala butterfly survival rate

    Students will utilize our pine rockland habitat to determine survival rates of atala butterflies. Atala butterflies only lay their eggs on the coontie plant, which is plentiful in our pine rocklands. Utilizing that fact students will determine which areas of the pine rocklands have the highest counts of coontie and also which areas have the highest number of atala butterflies.


    Native versus nonnative plant competition experiment

    Plants may compete directly or indirectly with one another for limiting resources. Students will choose a native and nonnative plant to conduct a competition experiment. Data will be collected from variables like growth rates of roots and shoots. Students will also compare differences in overall survival between native and nonnative plant species.


    Native versus nonnative salinity experiment

    Climate change, along with sea level rise will alter coastal habitats that may affect native and nonnative plants differentially. Students will to determine growth (i.e. roots and shoots) and survival rates of a native versus a nonnative plant across varying levels of salinity.


    Aquatic species inventory

    Students will conduct a survey of aquatic species in fresh and/or saltwater areas at Deering Estate. Baited video stations will be created across aquatic habitats and recorded. Students will then determine an aquatic inventory for species located in different areas around the Estate. Students would have to provide their own underwater camera or GoPro.


    Citizen science: monitoring and outreach

    Students will increase the interests of citizens by incorporating them in current programs and projects being conducted at the Deering Estate. This project will focus on flora and/or fauna surveys and the app, iNaturalist. In addition, students will help coordinate and run a bio-blitz event at the Deering Estate.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service online. Projects include:

    Analysis of Everglades Hydroperiod effects on Wading Bird Food Sources (virtual)

    Mentor: Ramon Martin and Shana DiPalma

    Short hydroperiod wetlands in the greater Everglades provide an important pre-nesting food source for wading birds and affect wood stork early nestling survival. The alteration of wetlands and the manipulation of wetland hydroperiods has reduced the amount of foraging habitat available to wood storks. Hydrologic changes caused by water delivery operations from the Central and Southern Florida Project in the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park would result in impacts to short hydroperiod wetlands within the Core Foraging Area (CFA) of active wood stork colonies. This project will evaluate the annual hydroperiod (i.e. # of discontinuous days inundated) and the daily water surface changes from October 1 to May 31 in water year 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, measured from the Everglades Depth Estimation Network (EDEN) to determine average annual changes to short hydroperiod wetlands (i.e., wetlands inundated 0 to 180 days per year). ​NetCDF files with water surface elevations will be downloaded from EDEN (https://sofia.usgs.gov/eden/) and analyzed in ArcGIS Pro. A map and table comparing observed annual hydroperiod with predicted hydroperiods from the RSM-GL hydrologic model will be produced. Knowledge of ArcGIS Pro is required for this internship.


    Analysis of Hydrologic Effects of Canal Backfill on the Picayune Strand Restoration Project (virtual)

    Mentor: Kim Dryden

    The student will perform an analysis of hydrological data from the South Florida Water Management District’s hydrological database (DBHydro) for the PSRP and downstream public lands; assessing the potential effects of restoration and emergency water management operations on estuaries and listed species such as the Florida manatee.  Online training for DBHydro  https://www.sfwmd.gov/media-page/dbhydro-training-welcome will be provided for the intern who is selected for this project.


    Assessment of Mosquito Control Practices on Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Projects (virtual)

    Mentor: Kim Dryden

    The student will compile and analyze mosquito control management, application practices and extent on CERP projects in South Florida, using Picayune Strand Restoration Project and surrounding public lands as a test case to assess consistency with wetland restoration efforts and protection of listed species and prey for species like the wood stork and Florida bonneted bat.

  • Zoo Miami

    Learn more about Zoo Miami online. Projects include:

    Butterfly Bunker Laboratory

    Mentor: Tiffany Moore

    The internship will assist the lab manager in maintaining the Lepidoptera colonies of the targeted species, collect data on the colonies, propagate and collect host plant material, maintain the host plants immediately surrounding the lab and likely participate in field surveys of adults, larvae and host plants. Surplus from the colonies will be used for targeted releases for public engagement, reintroductions, and possible urban rewilding programs. The Butterfly Bunker is a repurposed 1940’s era military munitions bunker from the former Richmond Naval Air Base that has been converted to a dedicated hurricane resistant imperiled Lepidoptera research lab that is entirely solar and wind powered.


    Boa Constrictors Diet

    Mentors: Frank Ridgley

    Boa constrictors are another large invasive constrictor that has become established in Miami-Dade County. It is already known that these top predators prey on a variety of animals and therefore impacting many of our coastal imperiled ecosystems. Another aspect of invasive species that is often overlooked is the transmission of pathogens and parasites from the exotic species to native species. During this internship, the student will be trained and conduct boa constrictor necropsies where gut contents will be saved and processed for later prey identification and any parasites detected will be preserved. Through a partnership with the University of Florida, any parasites found will be sent to a parasitologist for identification and see if they are native parasites or exotic ones that could pose further threats to native species.


    Gopher Tortoise Conservation and Ecology

    Mentors: Steven Whitfield

    Zoo Miami's pine rocklands habitat hosts a significant population of gopher tortoises - native threatened tortoises that construct deep burrows that provide a home for the tortoises - as well as hundreds of other species of vertebrates and invertebrates.  The Conservation & Research department is conducting a thorough study of gopher tortoises, and is conducting zoo-wide surveys for gopher tortoises burrows, observing tortoise behavior at burrow entrances using motion-sensing video cameras, investigating seed dispersal by tortoises, and conducting radiotelemetry to understand movement patterns and habitat use. 

  • Dream in Green

    Learn more about Dream in Green online.

    Water and Energy Learning and Behavior Project

    Mentor: Barbara Martinez-Guerrero

    WE-LAB, or the Water and Energy Learning and Behavior Project focuses on delivering urgent and highly relevant environmental education about the water-energy nexus to South Florida residents. Through educational workshops, online community forums and interactive tools, WE-LAB seeks to motivate community-wide water-energy saving behaviors and foster long-term environmental stewardship through money saving actions. Participants in the program learn to track and analyze their water and energy use at home and apply the knowledge learned and tools provided in order to take action and make improvements. An intern for Dream in Green would help to evaluate the current activities, participate in planned workshops, help to improve pre/post surveys, help update the current WE-LAB website, and promote participation. Additional activities may include: (1) Research & compile scientific articles relating to climate change & its effects, (2) Current research & laws/regulations related to protection of environment, (3) Compile information on effects of environmental education on schools, (4) Ted Talks/videos compilation to use as resources, (5) Conduct site visits to schools to present on water & energy nexus.

  • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

    Learn more about Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden online.

    Environmental Education

    Mentor: Tatiana Castro

    Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is currently seeking undergraduate Environmental Education Interns for the 2021-2022 school year! Responsibilities will include organizing and inventorying program materials, assisting with virtual/ in-person field trips for K-12th grade students, and learning how to implement virtual/ in-person teaching program material. Field trip program content will have a focus on conservation issues, plant adaptations, and real-world research we are completing at the Garden. Interns will report to the Education Department Field Studies and Outreach Specialist. Additionally, interns will choose a project area to help with program tracking, evaluation, or standards alignment. Interns will work 8 hours/week.

  • Fruit & Spice Park

    Learn more about the Fruit & Spice Park online. All projects will be mentored by Vanessa Trujillo. Projects include:  

    Accession Project

    Assist horticulturist in the accession project, which is cataloging the trees in the collection at the Fruit & Spice Park. Research plant names to identify most recent scientific name, its common name and place of origin. And install plant labels onto trees using a drill and screwdriver.


    Mapping Data collected at Fruit & Spice Park

    Utilizing already published data sets and literature, this project would create a database of projects that have been conducted at and around Fruit & Spice Park. The data collected could be used for a literature review, meta-analysis and GIS map that would support future research projects.


    Citizen Science: monitoring and outreach

    Students will increase the interests of citizens by incorporating them into programs and projects being conducted at Fruit & Spice Park. This project will focus on fauna surveys and the app, iNaturalist. In addition, students will help coordinate and run a bio-blitz event at Fruit & Spice Park.

  • Montgomery Botanical Center

    Learn more about the Montgomery Botanical Center online.

    Palm Reproductive Biology

    Mentor: Joanna Tucker Lima

    The Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) is a botanical research garden dedicated to advancing research, conservation and education through living plant collections, emphasizing palms and cycads. MBC’s collections include 389 different palm species and 237 cycad species, providing numerous opportunities to conduct in-person botanical research and explore questions related to conservation, biodiversity, and even climate change. Potential project ideas include studies related to palm reproductive biology and phenology; leaf anatomy in palms or cycads; thermogenesis; fruit morphology and fruit viability in a garden setting; pollination ecology; and collection of floral volatile samples for comparisons across species. Also for cycads, MBC carries out research related to cone and pollen collection, hand pollination, phenology, and seed viability, as well as taxonomic work with herbarium specimens. We also welcome other novel research ideas that advance botanical knowledge of palms and cycads through the use of our diverse living collections.

Interns

Hands-on training lets our interns develop their research and professional skills while advancing tropical research and conservation. Learn about the experiences of some of our past interns:

Brianna Chin

As part of the Spring 2018 internship cohort, Brianna worked at Zoo Miami tracking the movements of gopher tortoises throughout the pine rocklands surrounding the Zoo using a handheld radio receiver, antenna system and GPS. Through the completion of her research project, Brianna learned about Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and using two different kinds of software to keep record of GPS points. Brianna presented a poster based on her research at the 40th annual Gopher Tortoise Council Conference. Find out more about Brianna's internship experience.

Jessica Rodriguez

Jessica was an intern at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation in Spring 2017. During her internship, she worked on a project that aimed to create a scoring system to rate the fitness of individual mountain bongo antelope - an endangered flagship species native to the high mountain forests of Kenya - to be repatriated to its native ecosystem. In her time as an intern, she gained hands-on experience in animal husbandry and creating research proposals and presentations. After the internship, Jessica worked full-time at FIU as a communications and outreach coordinator and was accepted into FIU's Earth Systems Science PhD program to research environmental policy.

Adrian Figueroa

As a Tropical Conservation Intern in Spring 2017, Adrian examined seed consumption by gopher tortoises in the globally imperiled pine rockland ecosystem surrounding Zoo Miami. He discovered that most of the tortoise seed diet comprised native species, including the seeds from the only known host plant for two federally endangered butterflies.

Daniela Leal

Daniela began her internship with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Spring 2018. During this experience she worked on the Garden's "The Million Orchid Project," which aims to restore native orchids to South Florida's urban landscapes. Daniela worked in the micropropagation laboratory and took on science education roles such as participating in STEMlab and the Discovery Program. Working at Fairchild provided Daniela with more direction regarding her path to finding a career: "Nothing can prepare you better than experience, and that is exactly how I feel about my internship." Find out more about Daniela's internship experience.