Nutrient Cycling Research in the Mountains of Ecuador

The research team hiking between research plots


Cormac Holland

During my time studying at the Universidad de Cuenca in Ecuador, I participated in a research project entitled “Nutrient cycling under different vegetation covers in a mountain area in southern Ecuador.” The project sought to describe the nutrient cycling rates and types within 4 distinct environments (native forest, Pinus patula plantations, Paramo grassland, and pasture) located in the Southern Andes. I contributed to the project primarily through sample collection, sample processing, and data entry. This included identification, sorting, and weighing of collected biomass, weighing and calculating density of soil samples, and bi-weekly trips to research plots (roughly an hour and a half from the university) for sample collection. In my final report on the research, I outlined the importance of the project, utilized descriptive statistics to detail biomass accumulation over a 2-year period in each of the plots, and shared several positive identifications for trees and shrubs within the native forest plots sourced from local experts. Overall, it was the experience of a lifetime and I learned so much about proper research techniques and the level of depth needed to successfully and correctly conduct credible research.

0-30 centimeters of soil collected from a native forest plot
Native forest research plot
Universidad de Cuenca – Campus Yanuncay