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Biology Student Studying Trees and Climate Change in Harvard Forest Program

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JULY 21, 2014 – Ivonne Trujillo, a senior biology major at The University of Texas at Brownsville, is spending her summer researching the impacts of climate change on the Northeast’s forests.

UTB Biology student Ivonne Trujillo studies the impacts of climate change on plant phenology with Dr. Andrew Richardson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, as part of the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program on Wednesday, Jun. 25, 2014 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University​

Trujillo, 20, of Brownsville and a 2011 graduate of Lopez High School, is part of the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program in Ecology which began Monday, May 26 and ends Saturday, Aug. 9 in Petersham, Mass. The research program is administered by Harvard University.

Trujillo’s work has involved being hoisted up to 80 feet in the air in a bucket lift to collect tree samples. She has also used remote cameras to observe the tree tops as she studies leaves closer to ground-level in a laboratory. Her laboratory work includes using a fluorometer to measure chlorophyll fluorescence in plants and a spectroradiometer to determine leaf reflectance. She said learning programming language has helped her manage the research data.

“I will use all this data that is collected from both the cameras and the instruments and program to plot and form graphs to view the comparison of the seasonal trend and see how it is affected by climate change,” said Trujillo.


Trujillo has also hiked in the mountains and visited Boston and New York City during her summer research experience.

“Participating in this program will extend my knowledge of forest ecosystems, which has relevance to my current research,” said Trujillo. “Learning about experimental set up and design will help me develop my research skills and allow me to grow as an independent researcher.”

While at UTB, Trujillo has worked as an undergraduate research assistant focused on plant and ecosystem ecology. She has assisted in field and laboratory work to restore habitats to their natural state. Her research at UTB has looked at factors influencing the germination of seeds from the deciduous conifer, the Siberian larch, to determine if seed viability influences forest regrowth after wildfires in boreal forests.

Trujillo wants to one day become a research scientist. She is still thinking about whether to pursue graduate degrees in ecology or biology.

“I come from a family where my twin brother and I will be the first to graduate from a university,” said Trujillo. “Being a first generation college student from a historically disadvantaged region makes me self-motivated and willing to overcome any obstacle to succeed. I really appreciate the support and the help I received from not only my family, but from the laboratory team under Dr. Heather Alexander (Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences) and the staff at the Office of the President who I as well consider my family.”

Currently enrolled or future students can visit the Enrollment Center @ The Tower at Main to register for classes, talk to an academic advisor, make payments and do other tasks for the fall semester. The fall semester registration deadline is Tuesday, Aug. 12. The payment deadline is Thursday, Aug. 14. The first day of class is Monday, Aug. 25. For more information call 956-882-8254.​​


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