Graduate Program

One of the characteristics of an emerging field of science is the development of training programs for the next generation of researchers and educators. At this time, the field of canopy studies lacks any formal graduate program. Students who seek training at the graduate level must currently either rely on a single researcher, or piece together courses and fieldwork from multiple institutions and mentors without a facilitating structure. Graduate-level courses in canopy studies have only been presented in a very few institutions (e.g., Dr. Steve Sillett, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California). However, interest in graduate-level classes and programs in canopy studies is high and increasing as the field continues to expand.

As a first step in creating a scientifically-sound curriculum in canopy studies, staff at the International Canopy Network (ICAN) are creating a set of lectures and supporting materials including power point presentations and accompanying readings in PDF format. These resources are aimed at students at the graduate level. When completed, ICAN will disseminate this set of “distance learning lectures” via the web so that it will be available to any faculty member or student around the world. The “Forest Canopy Studies Mini-Course” will augment the ICAN’s educational mission.

Faculty from The Evergreen State College and The Univeristy of Washington have written an integrative proposal (PDF) for the creation of a graduate program, at either the Master’s or Ph.D. level, in forest canopy studies. To date, the proposal has not been picked up by a higher-learning institution. If you, or your institution, are interested in furthering the progress of the proposal, please contact Dr. Nalini Nadkarni.


ICAN Graduate Program Lecture Series

The objective of this series of lectures is to provide graduate students with an understanding of the emerging area of forest canopy studies. Each lecture will provide an overview of a topic, with a discussion of several “case studies”. Each lecture will feature one study from a long-term canopy research project carried out in Monteverde, Costa Rica, which will provide continuity and a growing familiarity with multiple studies at a particular field site. The other study(ies) presented will concern research conducted at other field sites and forest types to provide a broader range of information. Readings for each of the lectures are cited; general references follow the course outline.

Lecture 1. Introduction to the field of forest canopy research
General development pathways of scientific fields
Methods of access in canopy studies
Progression of development in types of studies, data exchange, communication, relevance to society
Canopy Database Project
Current issues and challenges in canopy studies
Case studies: 
Nadkarni, N. M. and R. Solano. 2002. Potential effects of climate change on canopy communities in a tropical cloud forest: an experimental approach. Oecologia 131:580-84.
Cushing, J. B., N. Nadkarni, B. Bond, & R. Dial. 2003. How trees and forests inform biodiversity and ecosystem informatics. Computing in Science & Engineering 5:32-42

Lecture 2. The forest canopy environment and forest canopy structure
Historical approaches to studying canopy structure
Spatial categorization and spatial scaling of canopy structure
Physical gradients and stratification of light and temperature
Canopy soils
Physical modification of atmospheric particulates, fluids and gases
Functional aspects of forest structure (interception of energy, water, nutrients; wildlife habitat)
Canopy Structure Powerpoint
Case studies:
Bohlman, S. T. Matelson, & N. M. Nadkarni. 1995. Moisture and temperature patterns of canopy humus and forest floor soils of a montane cloud forest, Costa Rica. Biotropica 27:13-19.
Parker, G.G. 1997. Canopy structure and light environment of an old-growth Douglas-fir/western hemlock forest. Northwest Science 71:261-270.
Ishii, H., and N. McDowell. 2001. Age-related development of crown structure in coastal Douglas-fir trees. Forest Ecology and Management 169:257-270

Lecture 3. Nutrient cycling in forest canopies
Approaches for studying canopy nutrient cycling
Pools of nutrients within tropical, temperate, and boreal forests
Fluxes of nutrients within and outside of canopy nutrient pools
Mechanisms of nutrient conservation within forest canopies
Nutrient Cycling Powerpoint

Case studies:
Clark, K., N. Nadkarni, & H. Gholz. 2005. Retention and release of inorganic nitrogen by epiphytic bryophytes in a tropical montane forest. Biotropica 37:328-355.
Hietz, P., Wanek, W., Wania, R., and N. M. Nadkarni. 2002. 15N natural abundance in a montane cloud forest canopy as an indicator of nitrogen cycling and epiphyte nutrition. Oecologia 131:350-355.

Lecture 4. Canopy-dwelling vascular and non-vascular plants
Biodiversity and biogeography
Physiological adaptations to canopy life
Seed bank composition and responses
Responses to disturbance
Canopy Plants Powerpoint 
Case studies: 
Matelson, T. J., N. M. Nadkarni, and J. T. Longino. 1993. Longevity of fallen epiphytes in a neotropical montane forest. Ecology 74:265-269.
Laman, T.G. 1995. Ficus stupenda germination and seedling establishment in a Bornean rain forest canopy. Ecology 76:2617-2626.
Sillett, S. C., B. McCune, J. E. Peck, T. R. Rambo, and A. Ruchty. 2000. Dispersal limitations of epiphytic lichens result in species dependent on old-growth forests. Ecological Applications 10:789-799.

Lecture 5. Invertebrates and vertebrates in the canopy
Biodiversity & biogeography
Physiological adaptations to canopy life
Plant-animal interactions – pollination, dispersal, transport, frugivory, herbivory
Responses to disturbance
Canopy Animals Powerpoint 
Case studies: 
Nadkarni, N. M., and T. J. Matelson. 1989. Bird use of epiphyte resources in neotropical trees. Condor 91:891-907.
Longino, J., and N. M. Nadkarni. 1990. A comparison of ground and canopy leaf litter ants (Hymenoptera:Formicidae) in a neotropical montane forest. Psyche 97:81-94.
Emmons, L. H., and A. H. Gentry. 1983. Tropical forest structure and the distribution of gliding and prehensile tailed vertebrates. American Naturalist 121:513-524.
Erwin, T.L. 1991. How many species are there?: revisited. Conservation Biology 5:330-333.

Lecture 6. Future directions for canopy studies
Research – experimental, modeling, and remote sensing approaches
Education and outreach to non-scientists
Conservation and activism
Economics – links to conservation & market valuation
Political issues and global challenges
Case studies: 
Nadkarni, N. M. 2001. Enhancement of forest canopy research, education, and conservation in the new millennium. Plant Ecology 153:361-67.

Departmental Lecture: 
“Beyond Tarzan and Jane: new perspectives in the emerging field of forest canopy research”


Lowman, M. L., and N. M. Nadkarni. 1995. Forest canopies. Academic Press, San Diego, California, U.S.A.
Nadkarni, N. M., M. C. Merwin, and J. Nieder. 2001. Forest canopies: plant diversity. In Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, edited by S. Levin, 27-40. Academic Press, San Diego, California, U.S.A.
Nadkarni, N. M., and N. T. Wheelwright. 2000. Monteverde: the ecology and conservation of a tropical cloud forest. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

Global Canopy Programme-