The 6th International Plant Functional Traits Course will be held in Aurland, Norway 23. July - 5. August 2022.
Plant Functional Traits Courses (PFTC) offer hands-on training in applications of plant functional trait ecology within a real-life field research project setting. During this 6th PFTC course, students will collect and explore plant functional trait data in the field and use trait-based approaches within global change research and ecosystem ecology. Following the course, students will have opportunities to participate in / lead publications using the data. See our current publications.
Trait-based ecology incorporates methods that enable powerful approaches to predict how climate and biotic interactions shape plant community dynamics and ecosystem functioning. This course will provide students with essential background knowledge and the practical field, lab, and computational skills needed for conducting their own research within trait-based ecology.
Application deadline: 27. February 2022 Due to technical issues around the application date, we have extended our deadline by one week, until the 6th of March 2022.
The PFTC6 course will be held in Aurland in the fjords of Western Norway, between the 23. July and 5. August 2022 with online pre-course preparatory work in April-May 2022. We will work in boreal and alpine grasslands, from sea level to 1500 m a.s.l., in and around Sognefjorden. The PFTC6 will exploit the already existing research infrastructure of climate change experiments and gradient approaches in this system (for more information see Between the Fjords lab). It is a fascinating and truly beautiful study system.
Students will be introduced to the environmental, ecological, and taxonomic diversity of the region, and given hands-on instruction in relevant theory and methods of ecophysiology; community, ecosystem, and climate change ecology; population biology; computational biology; and data management. Students will work in five groups:
- Plastic trait responses to climate change. This group will harness existing climate change experiments (Open Top Chambers) to assess plastic trait responses to experimental warming and biotic interactions in plants from alpine vs. warmer-climate origins. This group will collaborate with group 3 to understand how this variability impacts leaf ecophysiology. Group leader: Sonya Geange
- Plant trait responses to global change. This group will assess community trait distribution responses to the interactive effects of warmer climate, nitrogen deposition, and grazing along an elevational gradient, and explore consequences for plant community assembly and ecosystem functioning. This group will collaborate with groups 3 and 4 to understand plant and ecosystem functional consequences of these community shifts. Group leaders: Julia Chacon & Aud Halbritter
- Leaf traits as a tool to understand climate impacts on photosynthesis and respiration. This group will study how plant temperatures and photosynthetic rates vary between plants with alpine or warmer-climate origin, along elevational gradients, and in response to global change drivers. Group 3 will collaborate with groups 1 and 2 to put these responses in context of broader plant and community responses to global change. Group leaders: Sean Michaletz & Joseph Garen
- Climate change impacts on traits and ecosystem functioning. This group will study how trait composition influences ecosystem functioning by measuring CO2-flux within and across plant communities. Group 4 will collaborate with group 2 to access data on community trait shifts, and mainly focus on ecosystem carbon dynamics in response to climate change, but also nitrogen deposition and grazing. Group leader: Joseph Gaudard
- Remote assessment of plant traits and ecosystem functioning. This group will use technologies based on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV/drone) in combination with measurements from the experiments to assess how remotely-sensed data (e.g., reflectance spectra) can capture plant and ecosystem functional shifts from leaf to landscape-scale. The group will collaborate with groups 1-4 over community-level data. Students applying for this group should have experience with geospatial analyses. Group leaders: Marc Macias-Fauria & Marcus Spiegel (TBC)
- Culturally relevant science communication. This group will use questionnaires and interviews to engage with the local community, with the aim of learning their knowledge and perceptions of climate change (especially relevant to local considerations). Group 6 will conduct research locally in Western Norway, compare with results from previous PFTC courses in Peru and Svalbard, and draft a manuscript for publication. Group leader: Sehoya Cotner
Through developing and conducting these research projects to explore the potential of plant functional trait-based approaches in understanding the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of the study area, PFTC6 students will build key research skills in planning and conducting trait-based field campaigns. You will gain practical experience in measuring plant functional traits and related physiological, plant community, and ecosystem data in the field using standard protocols. You will become familiar with taking measurements using ecophysiological equipment including LiCor 6400 and LiCor 7500. You will learn about the structure and analysis of trait data, be introduced to best practice data management and reproducible coding, as well as having the opportunity to analyse and interpret data yourself. You can read about previous courses in China, Peru, and Svalbard here.
An important element of this course is its cross-disciplinarity, spanning from leaf physiology via remote sensing to science communication. While students will receive in-depth training within their speciality, they will also contribute to, collaborate on, and gain insight into the work of the other groups. We will discuss lessons across groups in light of current challenges in climate-change science and communication, the added value of incorporating local ecological knowledge, and ethical concerns of conducting fieldwork in remote locales.
The course is aimed at graduate students – both MSc and PhD – and will give a broad introduction to and hands-on experience of different aspects of trait-based ecology. You will work with international instructors, in teams, and collect research-grade data in the field to address a specific research question. There will be opportunities for participating in publications based on the course data.
Students are selected based on:
- How well this course fits into and will contribute to their career plans
- The student's specific need for practical experience in the research approaches offered (e.g. students applying for group 1 or 2 should not have extensive prior experience with measuring plant traits). Note the exception for group 5, where specific prior experience is requested.
- Location (within-continent students are prioritized to reduce our carbon footprint)
- Diversity of educational, academic, cultural/ethnic backgrounds of the team as a whole will be considered
- Other relevant factors - students are encouraged to motivate their need and interest for participating in the course by including any information that they see fit
The course fee (6000 NOK) covers costs for accommodation, food, and transport between Bergen and Aurland. Aurland can also be reached by train or bus from Oslo, but this has to be organized by the participants. For students from the course partner institutions (University of Arizona, University of British Columbia, University of Pretoria, The Institute for Mountain Hazards and Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Oxford University) funding is available to help offset the cost of travel to Norway. Participants from low income countries may also be eligible for funding to support their travel to Norway. Applicants should indicate if and why such funding is requested.
In case of cancellations due to Covid-19 or other Force Majeure situations, course fees will be reimbursed in full. A condensed online course will then be offered, consisting of some traits DIY practicals, but making use of existing data from previous courses for hands-on data management and analyses. This will be offered for a reduced course fee.
- April 1st: course fee due
- April 1st: Group leaders will contact you with a list of publications relevant to each project to read and review.
- Thursdays (May 5th, 12th, 19th) and (June 2nd): Online lectures and discussions over theoretical and empirical approaches to trait-based ecology, and the natural history of the study system and region.
- May: Group leaders will schedule at least 2 sessions to discuss literature, and at least 1 session to discuss project design and data documentation. These sessions will consist of a combination of student submitted written summaries of specific themes or papers, and interactive commenting and sharing of ideas within the group via communication channels appropriate for interactive classrooms.
- April 15: Deadline 1 for paper review.
- May 5th: Deadline 2 for paper review.
- May 19th: Deadline for the first draft of the course data documentation files.
- June 8th: Deadline for the final course data documentation files.
All flights to Bergen should be scheduled to arrive at the latest on 22nd of July and depart at the earliest on 6th of August from Bergen. Transport from Bergen to Aurland will be organized by the course leaders. If you arrive from Oslo, transport to Aurland (by train or bus) needs to be organized by yourself. Please do not book flights until we have confirmed receipt of your course payment.
The course is 5 ECTS credits, with possibility for an additional 5 ECTS extension for students involved in scientific publication of course outcomes. Credits are awarded by the University of Bergen.
To apply, please send one document containing 4 pages:
- First page: a brief description (max. 300 words) of how the course fits into your career plans. In this essay, please minimise personal information (specifying your gender / background / nationality / institutional affiliation) to help us make an unbiased selection!
- Second page: indication of which group you would like to apply for, and a ranking if you apply for several groups. If relevant, state any special considerations/needs/reasons or other information about you or your background to support us in being fair and inclusive in our candidate selection.
- Third page: CV, with information about education and relevant work experience, relevant skills and competences, and familiarity with relevant field and lab techniques and relevant coding, statistical, modeling, and geospatial software.
- Fourth page: contact information
Send your application to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Please mark the subject with APPLICATION PFTC and your name.
Application deadline: 6. March 2022.