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Every semester, 10 outstanding undergraduate students are chosen to participate in multiple research and hands-on training internship opportunities offered at FIU and partner organizations.

This opportunity is made possible by the generous support from the Fernandez Pave The Way Foundation.

Fall 2020 applications are now open.

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 offsite) and follow all Covid-19 related protocols at the individual internship site. 

Due date: August 7 at 11:59 pm. Send all materials to environment@fiu.edu with subject line: "Fall 2020 Tropical Conservation Internship". For more information, please contact environment@fiu.edu.

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 Vanessa Trujillo. Possible projects include:

    Mapping Data collected at Deering Estate (remote or on-site)

    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 (on-site)

    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 (on-site)

    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 (on-site)

    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. 


    Atala butterfly survival rate (on-site)

    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 (on-site)

    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 (on-site)

    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 (on-site)

    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 (remote or on-site)

    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.

    Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Hydrology Effects

    Mentor: Miles Myer

    The intern would utilize online tools such as DBHYDRO, the Everglades Depth Estimation Network, and the Sparrow Viewer to develop hypotheses about water depth, water management operations, and vegetation changes on CSSS habitat. The focus would be on subpopulation Ax (CSSS-Ax) and would include coordinating with Service staff and potentially with others including contracted researchers and Everglades National Park staff to gather information and historical observations. The intern could also work with Service GIS staff to analyze GIS layers for the species.

    Skills needed: Basic GIS knowledge/experience, ability and willingness to coordinate with multiple partners under guidance of mentor, excellent oral and written communication skills.


    Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Behavioral Study

    Mentor: Miles Myer

    We have hundreds of hours of nest camera imagery from Cape Sable seaside sparrow monitoring. This project would review that footage, note behavioral activities, assess nest success, and identify potential predators. This project is important to identifying nesting cues and the reasons that CSSS nests fail in the Everglades. The intern may interact with contracted researchers in interpreting the data.

    Skills needed: Ability and willingness to coordinate with researchers under guidance of mentor, excellent oral and written communication skills.


    Urban Encroachment Scenario Assessment

    Mentor: Shana DiPalma

    Many threatened and endangered species in Florida rely on natural corridors for dispersal. Development pressures have resulted in the reduction of these corridors and in many areas these corridors have been severed. This project would utilize GIS data to assess the impact of the 2070 future development scenarios on natural corridors and assess where urban development and listed species conflicts may occur in the future. The results of this project could be used to focus conservation efforts on those at risk areas or provide guidance for future conservation actions for those species.

    Skills needed: Basic GIS knowledge/experience, excellent oral and written communication skills.


    Listed and At-Risk Species Assessment

    Mentor: Nikki Colangelo

    The intern for this project would develop an Access database for our classification and recovery workload strategy. This database could include recovery plans, species/habitat management practices, habitat preferences and other data to assess where multiple species would benefit from focused habitat management practices. The idea is to link current schedules for recovery plans to increase the efficiency of our conservation efforts by finding areas where similar actions could benefit multiple at risk species.

    Skills needed: Microsoft Access knowledge/experience, excellent oral and written communication skills.

  • 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 (DIG) 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. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, DIG has amended its office policies, allowing interns to work remotely.

  • Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

    Learn more about Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden online.

    Connect to Protect Network

    Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Possley

    Fairchild's Connect to Protect Network (CTPN) is a citizen science program for Miami-Dade and Monroe County residents. Members plant native pine rockland species in their yards and provide data back to Fairchild conservation staff via photos or surveys. The goal of CTPN is to create connections for pollinators and dispersers between the scattered, tiny fragments of globally critically imperiled pine rocklands. The CTPN internship is available for a student who has time and interest to commit at least 8 hours a week. For the first 4-6 weeks, tasks will include remote data entry and outdoor tasks such as assisting with plant distributions at Fairchild’s nursery and assisting with maintaining Fairchild's pine rockland display garden. Assisting Conservation staff with rare plant monitoring in local pine rockland preserves will also be an option. After the first 4-6 weeks, much of the intern's time should be dedicated to a project to determine how well CTPN is meeting its goals in one or more select geographic areas. This project will be developed in conjunction with Fairchild conservation biologists and can be done remotely. By contacting members in these areas (email and/or phone), verifying that their gardens are still present, requesting photos, and surveying members about native plant health, wildlife use, etc., the intern will build a detailed report about on-the-ground effects of CTPN gardens. We will work with the intern to incorporate urban ecology concepts into this project, with the ultimate goal of publishing this information.

  • Montgomery Botanical Center

    Learn more about the Montgomery Botanical Center online.

    Palm Reproductive Biology

    Mentor: Joanna Tucker Lima

    The Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) has 381 different palm species and 232 cycad species growing on the property. MBC is joining other Miami gardens, parks, and urban spaces to provide important tree based data in support of the Miami Canopy Coalition. This project measures and assesses canopy cover and tree diversity across the urban landscape of Miami with the aim of capturing major ecosystem service of urban trees throughout the region and understanding and protecting trees and associated biodiversity and ecosystem services. We are looking for students interested in participating in this project, who will measure and map tree dimensions on MBC property to then assess canopy cover and tree diversity within the garden and explore how our tree cover contributes to ecosystem services. Other potential project ideas specifically related to palms and cycads include pollination ecology, the chemistry of floral color change, thermogenesis in inflorescences, leaf anatomy and viability of seeds produced in a garden setting. A good portion of the internship will require outside fieldwork on site, but computer work related to the field research, such as literature review, data entry, GIS work, and writing, can be conducted remotely.

  • The Kampong

    Learn more about The Kampong online.

    Introduced Peacocks in Urban Landscapes

    Mentors: Drs. Elizabeth Anderson and Chris Baraloto

    Peacocks are a common feature of the landscape in many areas of Miami and are particularly prevalent in neighborhoods around Coconut Grove. But anecdotal information suggests that residents of Coconut Grove are divided over their presence. Some residents are fond of the peacocks, feeding them and enjoying their presence around their homes. Other residents claim peacocks are a nuisance that create traffic jams, destroy plants and property, and cause waste and noise pollution. Using The Kampong as a base, this study will estimate current and historical populations of peacocks in Coconut Grove, create a timeline of introduction and population trends, and examine social perceptions of peacocks among residents of the neighborhood.

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.

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."