Amy Tourgee, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to work in the Hedin Laboratory at Princeton studying the role of fire in nutrient limitation. For one project, I worked on a meta-analysis to determine whether there was a difference in composition of nitrogen-fixing woody species along the forest-savanna gradient in neo-tropical areas of Brazil and Africa. Because savannas in these areas experience a much higher fire occurrence than forests, the goal of the meta-analysis was to determine whether fire might be a driver of this composition difference. Another project also involved studying the interaction between fire and nutrient cycling, but in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. I was able to design an experiment and conduct fieldwork in areas of the Pinelands that had drastically different fire regimes and soil fertility. Working in the Hedin lab was always fascinating because we were trying to answer a question that had never really been explored before. Overall, the internship was a transformative experience as I learned about the rigors of research, and subsequently grew tremendously as a scientist. I’m continuing work on the meta-analysis for my thesis, and I look forward to sharing the final results of the analysis later in the year.