Iris Zhou ’13


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Project Title

The Role of Rainfall and Fire in Demographic Limitation of Tree Cover in Savannas

The goal of my project was to determine whether a model developed by my adviser accurately predicts the growth dynamics of savanna versus forest trees in regions of intermediate rainfall. My main task this summer was to do a thorough literature review of all long-term studies that measured growth over time of individual savanna and forest trees. I contributed to this project by finding and cataloging all studies that met our criteria and by pulling out growth data from these papers. The data that I collected will be used for a meta-analysis to parametrize my adviser’s model and to see whether it works. From this internship experience, I learned a lot about the rigors of doing research. In particular, I now have a profound respect for all types of scientific publication. Having done data entry myself, I now appreciate how much effort goes into producing the simplest graph or diagram. In addition, I learned a lot about savanna fires and the differences between savanna and forest trees. While this internship did not change my career plans since I had already declared my major and general career direction, it definitely provided me with important insights into academic work.

Internship Year


Project Category



Princeton University, Princeton, NJ


Simon Levin, Professor Ecology and Evolutionary Biology