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The goal of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is to provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to develop essential skills in designing, executing and disseminating original research that quantifies the hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes in the watershed of a tropical montane cloud forest.

Students have an opportunity to work on field and laboratory research under the guidance of faculty mentors at the newly constructed Texas A&M Soltis Center for Research and Education near San Isidro in central Costa Rica.

The REU site provides a unique international opportunity for students to be immersed in the practice of active inquiry and research in:

Climatology and Meteorology focuses on role of multi-scale feedbacks between climate and the spatial distribution and extent of the pre-montane forests in Costa Rica. Work in this group focuses on the spatial heterogeneity of rainfall at both the local (field) and large (remotely-sensed) scales. Additional work will be undertaken on the isotopic differences of different storm types, and the role of aerosols to understand the spatial and temporal variability of clouds and precipitation. During the first three years, the REU projects have focused on the following topics: throughfall variability, climatology of precipitating systems, synoptic classification of atmospheric circulation, orographic influence on precipitation, characterization of atmospheric aerosols, aerosol effects on fog and rain formation, atmospheric boundary layer structure, and isotopic analysis of rain and fog. The faculty mentors in this group are Sarah Brooks, Oliver Frauenfeld, Steven Quiring, Anita Rapp, Brendan Roark, and Courtney Schumacher.

Students interested in meteorology and climatology will most likely have taken courses in atmospheric sciences (climatology, meteorology) and hydrology, with a good background in physics, math, and computer programming.

Ecohydrology focuses on how vegetation affects the water cycle, and how the water cycle affects ecosystems to determine the role of forest vegetation in the water cycle. During the first three years, the REU projects have focused on the following topics: hydrologic processes in a small watershed with a focus on quantifying the interactions and feedbacks between groundwater and vegetation, hydrologic measurement technologies for a rough, vegetated terrain, evapotranspiration patterns and processes at leaf-to-stand-to-watershed scales, streamflow variability, characterization of the vegetation structure, and the availability and distribution of light through the forest canopy. The faculty mentors in this group are Kelly Brumbelow, Tony Cahill, Gretchen Miller, Georgianne Moore, and Jason Vogel.

Students interested in ecohydrology will most likely have taken courses in hydrology, plant physiology, forest ecology, and physics.

Subsurface Processes focuses on the structure and geochemistry of the forest soil to characterize the role of subsurface flow networks, the soil hydraulic characteristics that control them, and the effects of these fluxes on ecohydrologic systems. Over the past two years, the REU projects in this area have focused on the following topics: CO2 and CH4 fluxes, soil trace gas fluxes, water retention properties of soil, and mapping the depth to bedrock within the instrumented watershed. Future work will focus on geophysical investigation and mapping of the subsurface hydraulic heterogeneity, determination of subsurface structure from LIDAR measurements of land surface characteristics, and determination of the coupling of the subsurface and surface flows using isotopic tracer methods. The faculty mentors in this group are Michael Bishop, Tony Cahill, Mark Everett, Peter Knappett, Gretchen Miller, Brendan Roark, and Gunnar Schade.

Students interested in ecohydrology will most likely have taken courses in soil science, geomorphology, and geology, with a good background in chemistry.

The 2015 projects will attempt to close the water budget for a small watershed. Each of the research clusters will focus on a specific part of that water budget.

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