UH Hilo students Erin Busch and Tim Zimmerman write about their internships in China

Erin Busch, a graduate student in the UH Hilo tropical conservation biology and environmental studies program, and Tim Zimmerman, an agriculture major, explored the approaches a university in China is taking to study its own tropical ecosystems.

By Erin Busch and Tim Zimmerman.

This post is part of a series on summer internships.


At the Sanming Forest Ecosystem and Global Change Research Station in Fujian, China, scientists and researchers from various fields gather to utilize experimental plots designed as mesocosm studies and in-field sampling and monitoring stations to study forest hydrological change, forest carbon management, and future global change.

The Sanming facility is the result of collaboration between Yiqing Li, associate professor of tropical forest ecology and management (at the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo), and the Fujian Normal UniversitySchool of Geographical Science in Fuzhou.

Prof. Li and his research partnerships in the Fujian Province made it possible for us, Erin Busch, a graduate student in the UH Hilo tropical conservation biology and environmental studies program and teaching assistant for AG 230, and Tim Zimmerman, an agriculture major, to explore the approaches another university is taking to study their own tropical ecosystems.

In many ways tropical environments and associated geochemical processes are behind the curve in our overall understanding of how all ecosystems work. In particular, debate surrounds how tropical environments are impacted and changed by certain internal and external influences. Part of the problem is that there are few studies on primarily tropical environments, such as those found in Hawaiʻi, and even then, findings and specific influences can be difficult to interpret as they are dependent on the many natural differences between study sites.

Sanming’s experimental plots incorporate factors such as changes to precipitation patterns, erosion, nutrient loads, soil and air temperature, plant growth and composition, and litter composition.

At Fujian

We were able to collect and test soil samples for a study about the long-term effects that warming and nitrogen addition would have on microbial composition and enzyme production. We ran analysis on soil samples including Phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA), dissolved organic nitrogen, carbon fractionation, and enzyme analysis in one of the many laboratories at Fujian Normal University School of Geographical Science in Fuzhou.

We also worked with local students, developing relationships across cultural and language barriers. We were also able to meet professors from other universities to discuss different methods in study design, observe sample processing and analysis, as well as explore writing and formatting scientific articles journal publications.

Prof. Li’s contribution to the design of the Sanming facilities and continued research provided an incredible opportunity for us to observe long-term experimental plots and field studies, be exposed to laboratory equipment and procedures not commonly available to people within the UH System, and even run a few analyses based upon their own researched hypothesis.

We were also able to learn about and share cultural experiences and perspectives with the students and hosts at the university, and view important ecological and historical sites.

The value of summer field and lab work

The summer experience was intense, but highly fulfilling and incredibly valuable, and we are excited for future possibilities in collaboration and creating a larger knowledge-sharing base.

This opportunity is highly recommended to other students who are studying anything within or related to tropical hydrology, forest ecosystems, geology, wetlands, soil microbiology, sustainable forestry, climate change, and conservation.

Originally published at Nihopeku.

Erin Busch is in her third year in the UH Hilo tropical conservation biology and environmental studies graduate program, focusing her studies on soil microbial community dynamics in response to climate change. Tim Zimmerman (senior, agriculture) is specializing in plant science and agroecology.

Also in this series on summer internships:

ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: Hawaiian language student & scholar Kamalani Johnson writes about his apprenticeship

UH Hilo business & communication student Christine Presiados: “I was determined to get this internship”

UH Hilo pre-nursing student Morgan Tate writes about her summer internship

UH Hilo business major Lara Hughes writes about “My summer internship at the 2016 Democratic National Convention”


-UH Hilo Stories