Students get unique environmental research experience in Spain

October 25, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain."

Whether that's a scientific fact or just a famous line from the popular Broadway musical and film "My Fair Lady," observing precipitation patterns across various landscape types wouldn't have been out of the question for several students from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences who recently studied the potential effects of global climate change in Spain.

For the last two years, eight students journeyed from central Pennsylvania to Madrid to conduct research in the field of global climate change ecology. Enrolled in the Ecological Research in Spain course, at the end of the spring semester they traveled to Europe and stayed for almost two months, working with groups of Spanish researchers.

This unique opportunity was funded by the International Research Experience for Students program administered through the Office of International Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation.

"The grant supports all expenses for the international experiences for four students each year for three years," said Margot Kaye, assistant professor of forest ecology, who along with Deanna Behring, director of international programs for the college, and Jason Kaye, associate professor of biogeochemistry, have coordinated the past two trips.

The experience allowed the students to participate in field and laboratory research projects as well as research group meetings and social gatherings.

Laura Davis, a senior Environmental Resource Management major from Tunkhannock, Pa., went on the first trip in 2010. The group helped with sampling and taking measurements at several work sites.

"We worked side by side with Spanish scientists, assisting them with both field and lab work," she said. "Going to the different sites allowed us to see different ecosystems within Spain and to interact more with the environment."

Last spring, the group embarked to Spain at the end of May. Dana James and Emily Bachner, both environmental resource management majors, suggested that the trip and research experience are likely to influence their future careers.

"My favorite part was creating relationships with the researchers in Spain," said Bachner, a junior from Jefferson Hills, Pa. "Being able to discuss their views of the environment, government and global climate change ecology was entertaining and enlightening."

"This trip was a great way to get more research experience in the field," said James, a senior from Lewisburg, Pa., who also is in the Schreyer Honors College. "It helped solidify my desire to work and study internationally."

Following their trip, the students returned to Penn State and continued with their academic and research programs. They also will complete any independent research projects that they started in Spain.

And just for the record, none of the students documented any precipitation patterns -- on the plain or elsewhere -- while they were in Spain.


  • Penn State student Marian Kochin conducted field work at a climate change experiment near Aranjuez, Madrid, Spain, in 2011.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 29, 2012