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Georg August Universität Göttingen


Master thesis projects in Costa Rica        
Open Google Earth and zoom to any tropical forest you want - Borneo, Amazon, Congo.  You will immediately recognize that tropical forests are being cut and transformed into other land types (mainly agriculture), leading to severe fragmentation of the remaining forest. Despite increased awareness of the importance of these forests, deforestation rates have not slowed but increased by app. 8.5 percent from 2000-2005 when
compared with the 1990s.  
The literature on effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity is huge and most studies found strong negative effects of fragmentation on native biodiversity. Nevertheless, most researchers do not distinguish between habitat loss and habitat fragmentation per se, i.e., the breaking apart of habitat after controlling for
habitat loss (details in Fahrig, Biol. Reviews, 2003). In this project, we selected 40 forest patches in Costa Rica, in order to disentangle the effects of habitat loss and forest fragmentation on biodiversity and ecological processes. This project is a collaboration between the Agroecology Göttingen (Teja Tscharntke & Christoph
Scherber) and the Betts Forest Landscape Ecology Lab at Oregon State University (Matt Betts & Adam Hadley).  
We are looking for one or two enthusiastic MSc or diploma students who would like to join the project.  At the moment, the following two topics are available:  
(1)  Effects of fragmentation and habitat loss on tropical biodiversity in southern Costa Rica
Research areas could include:
-  Biodiversity of selected taxa such as Orchid bees, butterflies, amphibians or plants (depending on the
student’s experience and knowledge, also other taxa might be investigated)
-  Effects on trophic interactions such as predation, parasitism, pollination
Methods: Field work in Costa Rica, identification of focal taxa if possible, GIS, R
(2)  Landscape change and biodiversity patterns in a Costa Rican rural landscape
Research areas could include:
-  Reconstruction of land use history and its effect on current biodiversity patterns
-  Methods: Landscape classification of historical aerial photos, GIS, R, potentially in Costa Rica
-  Background in environmental sciences (biology, agriculture, geography), interest in tropical ecology
and conservation  
-  Ability to work independently, strong organizational skills, capable to work under tropical conditions
(climate, animals, people), especially for project  (1)
-  A good level of English, knowledge of basic Spanish (or Italian) is more than helpful
-  Basic to good GIS knowledge for project (2)
Funding may partly be provided by the project, but the student is asked to apply for a DAAD scholarship or similar (not necessary for project 2). Both projects will start in early 2013. Field work will last app. 2-4 month. If you have your own project ideas that suit the above mentioned framework, drop us an email - we would be
happy to discuss them with you. Please contact Urs Kormann until 20-11-2012. 


Georg August Universität Göttingen
Grisebachstrasse 6
37077 Göttingen
Forschung & Lehre