I study the physiological adaptations of trees to their environment, in order to better understand how tropical rainforests will be affected by climate change. In other words, how will tree species that have adapted to year-round rain cope with warmer and drier conditions in the next century? I work in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest , an eco-region that is recognized by UNESCO as a biodiversity hotspot, yet sadly only about 5% of the original forest remains. The coastal rainforests of southern Bahia , where I conduct my research, are a nucleus of extreme biodiversity within the Atlantic Forest -- a hotspot within a hotspot, so to speak. Yet despite the importance of preserving and restoring these forests, they have been relatively under-studied compared to other regions due to a lack of infrastructure and funding for science. My research aims to understand which adaptations will allow native species to survive in a warmer and drier climate, so that regional conservation efforts will be more effective in the face of climate change.
Working on a Ph.D. through UC Berkeley is a very special opportunity, but conducting research at a public university means depending mostly on external funding sources, since departmental support is very limited. Our current political situation has made funding opportunities for science – especially in areas of ecology, conservation, and climate change – much harder to obtain , and all of these constraints affect me directly. I do not have adequate funding to cover my research expenses for this field season, and as a last resort I have turned to crowd funding.
So, what do I need help with? The money I am asking for here will cover the following:
· Transportation – in order to get to my field sites, I need a car. And, since my collaborators in Brazil aren’t able to provide this type of support, I must rent one myself. I always go for the cheapest and simplest option, but over the course of a 3 month field campaign, the cost really adds up. It would be great to be able to cover some of my plane ticket as well.
· Field help – I would be nowhere if it weren’t for the wonderful field assistants who help me collect and process my samples, share their local expertise on plant identification, work miracles with machetes, and keep me from being eaten by jungle critters. I can’t effectively do my work without them, and they deserve a fair wage for all that they do.
· Supplies –I am able to bring some equipment from the US or borrow from a local university, but I will still need to pay for a number of things. To give an idea, this ranges from purchasing flagging tape and Ziploc bags, to shipping boxes of samples to the US, to renting tanks of compressed nitrogen and a high-precision GPS device. Yay, science!
Donations of any amount will be greatly appreciated! Even as little as $5 or $10 can make a difference. And whether or not you donate, you can still help by sharing this campaign with as many people as possible.
On a personal note, the rainforest of southern Bahia has had a very special place in my heart ever since my first trip to Brazil in 2009. Way back then, the thought of getting a Ph.D. in tropical forest ecology seemed like an unrealistic pipe dream. But over the years, I learned much more about the region, became fluent in Portuguese, developed friendships in the local community, and thought long and hard about how I might use my love of science to help to protect this amazing place. Now, Bahia feels like a second home to me, and when I stand back from all of the challenges of doing international field research and look at the big picture, I realize that I’m quite literally living the dream. I am profoundly grateful and humbled to have this opportunity, and I hope you will join me in keeping this dream alive.
- Shyam Morjaria
- Todd Shreiner
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