Hands-on Experience With the Temple Ambler Field Station

Students gain advanced training by engaging in hands-on research internships that bring alive the excitement of science through an inquiry-based experience. Student interns work alongside researchers in the field to support ongoing projects and can develop investigations of their own.

Students interested in becoming a Field Station Research Intern, should reach out to the Temple Ambler Field Station at fieldstation@temple.edu with their name, why they are interested in working with the Field Station, current transcripts, and current resume.

The Temple Ambler Field Station accepts undergraduate interns through Temple University College of Science and Technology’s Undergraduate Research Program,  Science Scholars Program, and Frances Velay Fellowship Program, and Temple University’s Diamond Research Scholars Program, among other programs.

Undergraduates are also welcome to apply for credit-bearing internships experiences and should contact the Field Station for more information. The Field Station particularly encourages applicants from populations under-represented in science. 

Read more about the Field Station Research Intern program.

Meet Our Research Interns

Mia Engle

Mia Engle is senior majoring in Biology with a concentration in Applied Ecology in the College of Science and Technology.

“I always knew I wanted to do something in STEM and I’ve always liked the outdoors so biology was the obvious choice for me. I would like to go to graduate school to get my PhD and hopefully become a professor and do research with undergraduates,” she said. “I took a course with Dr. Brent Sewell (Associate Professor in Temple’s Biology Department) and he told us about the Temple Ambler Field Station and showed us around the Temple Forest Observatory (at the Ambler Campus) and the other facilities. I loved all of the hands-on opportunities, so I applied in summer 2023 to become a research intern.”

According to Engle collaborative project she has been working on with her fellow research interns “is the sapling survey in the Temple Forest Observatory.”

“The goal of the project is to look at sapling mortality in addition to the new saplings that are growing,” she said. “My independent project is focused on the diversity of insects related to disturbance after the tornado. The understory regrowth impacts various insects, which are sensitive to change. I’m trying to see what types of insect species I can find in multiple different levels of disturbance.’

The hands-on experience that she has received, Engle said, “has made it easier for me to learn and retain subjects that we have gone over in my classes because I’m physically doing it rather than just going home and studying it on my own.”

“I really benefit from the hands-on aspect of the research,” she said.  

Vincent Cavanaugh
Environmental Science

Vincent Cavanaugh is a junior majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Applied Ecology in the College of Science and Technology.

According to Cavanaugh, Temple’s reputation among friends and family that have pursued their degrees at the university helped him decide to enter Temple’s environmental science major.

“I knew Temple had great teachers and was a good environment to learn for students. I joined the Temple Ambler Field Station because this is the primary way I can be around a forest environment in the Temple Forest Observatory (at the Ambler Campus) — I don’t think I’d have this type of hands-on experience otherwise,” he said. “There are so many different jobs in environmental science. Being here, getting hands-on experience helps me determine if this is something that I want to pursue as a career.”

His first time entering the Temple Forest Observatory proved to be eye opening, he said.

“I think my favorite part of being here at Temple Ambler was my first time going out into the forest. I had no idea what it would be like,” he said. “The ground is completely covered in herbaceous plants. It was a challenge to get around and it made my question my life decisions, but I’m still here!”

According to Cavanagh, one of the group projects the Field Station research interns have been working on “focuses on comparing data that we took in the summer to data from the fall.”

“We’re looking at saplings; what saplings in certain plots are still alive and how they’ve grown,” he said. “For my personal project, I’m taking that sapling mortality data and I’m comparing it to the percent cover of invasive species in the subplots. I’m trying to determine the relationship between the two.”

With environmental science, Cavanagh said, “I think I’m making a difference just by learning more about the effects of major disturbances like the tornado.”

“Through this research, we’re able to provide more information to the scientific community as a whole about the effects of an (ecological) disturbance like this,” he said.

Sarah Bucher

Sarah Bucher is a junior majoring in Biology in the College of Science and Technology.

“I decided to come to Temple because I really wanted to be in Philadelphia area. Temple is a very good research school and known for STEM,” she said. “I joined the Temple Ambler Field Station because I’ve been very interested in ecology and the forest and learning about different ecosystems. I wanted to experience the hands-on lab experiences that the Field Station offered.

According to Bucher, the Field Station began a census of the Temple Forest Observatory prior to the 2021 tornado “and now were are studying the recovery of the forest.”

“We’re getting general data on the plants and trees — height, diameter, species. During the summer, I’ve been studying the functional diversity of the top 10 dominant woody species,” she said. “I was looking at how they have changed, before and after the tornado. I studied the traits that contributed to their success.”

With climate change, Bucher said, “there has been an increase in unexpected events, like the tornado.”

“Studying which traits help trees survive and studying the functional diversity will help us predict what this forest might grow into following this major disturbance,” she said.

During the fall semester, Bucher said, she focused her research on ephemeral pools in the forest.

“After the tornado, a lot of trees fell over and the roots came up, leaving large holes. Those holes fill with water every time it rains,” she said. “We’ve been sampling the pools regularly. I’ve been studying the invertebrates within the pools.”

The greatest benefit from being part of the Field Station, Bucher said, “has been making connections between my classes and real-world experiences.”

“It’s fun to be able to have a personal experience in science — it’s made me that much more interested in science. A lot of this research hasn’t been done before, particularly in this area where tornados are not as common,” she said. “It has been very beneficial for me to be able to take all the knowledge I’ve learned in my classes and applying it real-world research.”

Students gain advanced training by engaging in hands-on research internships that bring alive the excitement of science through an inquiry-based experience. Student interns work alongside researchers in the field to support ongoing projects and can develop investigations of their own.

Jack Brownfield
Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity/Psychology

Jack Brownfield is a freshman double majoring in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity in the  College of Science and Technology and Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts. View his profile video here.

Brownfield said he was drawn to Temple by the broad diversity of research taking place at the university.

“My goal in the future is to go into academic research. Temple is an R1 research university with so many labs and a whole lot of biology research going on. There were so many possibilities for me to choose from,” he said. “You see these research results published everywhere; you see people talking about it but being able to be a part of that process is really rewarding.”

He joined the Temple Ambler Field Station “because they have a field research element that definitely was of interest to me,” Brownfield said. “I really liked that the internship prioritized being able to do my own independent research alongside the overarching research of the Field Station. That gave me the chance to pursue research that was I personally interested in.”

According to Brownfield, the Field Station Research Interns have been engaged in group projects within the Temple Forest Observatory at the Ambler Campus.

“We’re studying the recovery of the trees after the 2021 tornado and how they are growing and the saplings as they are coming back. We’re capturing seeds and taking water samples and basically trying to see how this forest is recovering from this huge natural disaster,” he said. “My favorite memory so far is definitely getting to do field research with my advisor and some of the other interns because we basically just get to go into the forest walking across logs, jumping across creeks and take it all in — I’ve had a lot of fun with that.”

Brownfield’s personal Field Station project focuses on the bodies of water within the Temple Forest Observatory, he said.

“After the tornado, pools, almost like tide pools called ephemeral pools, formed in the forest. They were filled with freshwater invertebrates from the nearby creek,” he said. “I’m looking at how each of those little pools acts as its own ecosystem and how the populations of different organisms rise and fall in response to each other.

Ecology, evolution and biology are fields “that can make a huge difference because they allow us to study how the organisms of this world interact with each other and especially with work like what is going on in the Field Station, how they respond to natural disasters,” Brownfield said.

“If we can understand that we can predict impacts of climate change and how we can start to mitigate those effects,” he said. “I think there are a ton of benefits to getting hands-on experience like this. From a career perspective, being able to say I’ve been in a lab, I’ve done field research, I’ve done my own independent research, is incredibly valuable. It’s also cool just to see how the science is done.”

Anna Coomans
Environmental Science

Anna Coomans is an Environmental Science major in the College of Science and Technology.

“I wanted to be a Temple Ambler Field Station Research Intern because I wanted to get experience in fieldwork,” she said. “I have had past experience working with data and other similar experiences, but I believe getting field experience is pretty uncommon. I wanted to be able to have those experiences while I was still in college seeking my degree.”

Originally, an Environmental Engineering major, Coomans decided to switch entirely to Environmental Science after a year at Temple.

“I’ve always been interested in that focus ever since high school,” she said. “I really love learning about the different processes of the Earth and how they interact with each other.”

During the summer semester, Coomans worked on two projects with the Field Station.  

“One was with the Field Stations’ spotted lanternfly team and one was with Dr. Brent Sewell (Associate Professor in Temple’s Biology Department) and his Madagascar dataset. For the first project, I collected spotted lanternflies from collection bags all through the forest at Temple Ambler and also at Temple’s Main Campus,” she said. “With those samples we are studying the spotted lanternflies preferences toward native trees so that we can better study their interactions with the environment.”

With Dr. Sewell’s data, Cooman’s said, she is “analyzing his work on the Ficus trees in Madagascar and their distribution.”

“The personal project that I’m working on is also related Dr. Sewell’s Madagascar data set. From that, I’m studying the impact of the geology on the distribution of Ficus trees in Ankarana Special Reserve and how the different types of environments affect their distribution,” she said. “My goal for the project is to see how resilient the Ficus trees are when it comes to their distribution as well as how concentrated certain species are to different types of soils like limestone or basalt.”

Fieldwork, “is really beneficial because it allows people to get a foot in the door when it comes to further experience,” Coomans said.

“Just being able to experience field work in general is important for learning basic research skills in general,” she said. “I feel like the Temple Ambler Campus is beneficial to our work because it allows students from Main Campus to experience a very different type of environmental and different classes in general. Here I’m able to learn about the different types of plants in person and not from a textbook, which is nice.”

Kelly Meinert

Kelly Meinert is a Biology major in the College of Science and Technology.

“When I applied at Temple, I applied as a biochemistry major, switched to neuroscience and then decided biology was the right fit for me,” she said. “It allowed me to have a lot more flexibility with the electives that I wanted to take. I’m also doing minors in French and Cognitive Neuroscience so I’m still able to explore other fields that I’m interested in.”

Meinert said she discovered the Temple Ambler Field Station by way of an Animal Behavior class taught by Temple Biology Associate Professor Dr. Brent Sewall.

“After that class, I reached out to him about potentially getting involved in his lab and doing some research under his guidance. Through that, I found the Field Station,” she said. “I’m involved in the Field Station’s spotted lanternfly research and I’m also involved in the Temple Forest Observatory (TFO) project.”

With the spotted lanternfly project, Meinert said, “we’re doing research on how they affect local native trees and how they affect the health of the trees.”

“We take collections from local trees around the campus. We also have a large experiment set up where we place the insects on sample trees to see how they interact,” she said. “For my personal project, I am interested in herbaceous invasive plants that are growing in the Temple Forest Observatory. For the first time, we are doing a survey of those herbaceous plants in our field quadrants in the forest.”

Meinert said she is examining which invasive plants are growing and their percentage of coverage within the Temple Forest Observatory, which was greatly disturbed by the 2021 tornado, and comparing it to an undisturbed forest in nearby Robbins Park.

“I want to see if the percentage of coverage is greater in the disturbed forest or the undisturbed forest. I think hands-on research has been a huge benefit to me; I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of other research at Temple in the lab, not really getting to see where the samples and the data come from. It’s a great experience to be able to collect the data myself and immediately see it being used and getting to see the results firsthand. I find that very rewarding.”

Makenna Lengle
Environmental Science

Makenna Lengle is an Environmental Science major in the College of Science and Technology.

“I have always been really interested in the human body and just biology in general ever since I was a child,” said Lengle who plans to use her Biology degree to continue her studies in medical school. “I heard about the Temple Ambler Field Station in my ecology class from Field Station Director Dr. Amy Freestone who made a presentation about the internship. After that I was very interested in everything that was happening at the Field Station and I wanted to be a part of it.”

According to Lengle, the major project she was collaborating on with her fellow research interns during the summer months was a woody plants census and an herbaceous survey in the Temple Forest Observatory.

“The goal of the herbaceous survey is to see what new plants are coming in and the percentages of each type of plant. We are also tagging the woody seedlings to see what trees are going to be coming back,” she said. “My personal project is looking at the species diversity of non-native woody plants and how it has changes from before the tornado to the year after the storm to now. The goal of this project is to see if any non-native species have had a major comeback because of the storm.”

The benefit of this hands-on research, Lengle said, “is being able to tie what I’m learning in my classes on Main Campus to the field.”

“I’m actually able to see things that I learned in a textbook and apply it to what I’m doing at the Field Station,” she said. “The benefit of being on the Ambler Campus is definitely being surrounded by nature. Being here, you can explore the gardens or going into the forested area and get a whole different experience.”

Beth Cosminski
Environmental Science

Beth Cosminski is an Environmental Science major in the College of Science and Technology.

“I was drawn to Environmental Science because I consider myself to be a very outdoorsy person — I love hiking, camping, birding. They pretty much take up all of my free time,” she said. “I was very interested in learning about climate science and how climate change will continue to affect the population.”

Cosminski said she specifically sought out a research internship with the Temple Ambler Field Station “because I thought it would be great to have hands-on experience with forest science.”

“The major project that I worked on during the summer with the Field Station is a wood census and an herbaceous and sapling survey in the Temple Forest Observatory. The goal of the project is to research the impact of the tornado on the forest and the subsequent recovery,” she said. “My independent research project was to research the recruitment of tree species within the Temple Forest Observatory post the 2021 tornado. I worked with the data that shows diversity and abundance of adult trees and the seedling data that we’ve collected.”

The benefit of conducting research at the Temple Ambler Field Station, Cosminski said, “is definitely the hands-on experience.”

“We’re able to deploy the experiments, collect the data ourselves and then work with that data to develop our independent research projects,” she said.

Danielle Smith

If you've ever seen the popular anime series My Hero Academia, you know what a quirk is. For the uninitiated, quirks are essentially superpowers, and they can run the gamut of possibilities.

In Danielle Smith's case, her quirk is an uncanny ability to identify any bird she hears and spot bird's nests that would otherwise remain hidden to most everyone else.

"There are two woodpeckers chasing each other over there," said Smith while on the Ambler Campus trails. "There's been cardinals and flickers and two or three red-bellied woodpeckers fighting — they are very territorial right now as they're trying to establish nest holes. Sometimes I stress my mom out a little bit because I (identify birds) while I'm driving."

Smith, a recent Temple Ambler Field Station Research Intern who graduated with a degree in Biology from the College of Science and Technology, has heard the call of the outdoors — and birds in particular — for as long as she can remember.

"I've always been pretty interested in being outdoors and being around animals," she said. "I've been interested in a lot of diffident things, but I started taking bird summer camps at a local YMCA and I joined their World Series of Birding team and then their outdoor environmental education club and I've never looked back."

Arriving at Temple University as a transfer student in 2021, Smith said the difference between her previous institution and Temple "was that I had a lot more options."

"It's been very enjoyable because I've been able to explore my opportunities while also being able to talk to people with a wide range of experiences, which has been exciting," she said. "I have done research in the past with other organizations and groups in my area. When I got into Temple and I learned about the Field Station, I really just wanted to get back out into the field and also be more hands-on with the data input."

During her time with the Field Station, Smith worked collaboratively with her fellow research interns to study the ephemeral pools created in the deep pits in the earth left by uprooted trees when the tornado struck Temple Ambler in 2021.  

"I worked on the ephemeral pools in both the sites impacted within the Temple Forest Observatory and over at Robbins Park, which is near Temple Ambler and was undisturbed," she said. "I've also been helping to process some of the Field Station's trail camera photos. We are monitoring the growth of the trees after the disturbance in addition to monitoring the woods to determine what organisms are actually using it. With the pre- and post-disturbance information, it provides a really great balance of data."

Smith's personal research project, naturally, focused on birds.  

"My project compared bird activity in the undisturbed and disturbed sites at Temple Ambler, primarily looking at their behavior in addition to their species richness to figure out if there is any indicator of certain species avoiding either the disturbed or undisturbed locations," she said. "The goal of the project is to see if there are birds that are coming back into the campus that are able to use the heavily disturbed areas — to still eat, forage, build nests and raise their young." Read more.

Emil Gunkel
Environmental Science

Emil Gunkel, a senior Environmental Science major in the College of Science and Technology, was drawn to her major because “there was a lot of flexibility into whether I wanted to go into life sciences-based fields — biology and ecology —  or the earth sciences.”

During her time with the Field Station, Gunkel investigated invertebrate biodiversity in ephemeral pools, a habitat that has become increasingly more common in the Temple Forest Observatory following the 2021 tornado.

“What drew me to becoming a Field Station intern was taking the Ecology of Invasive Species class. That got me interested in getting involved in hands-on field research,” she said. “Most of what I’ve been working on so far is the plant census in the Temple Forest Observatory and nearby Robbins Park. This internship has helped me determine the field of study that I want to go into.”

Gunkel said she has enjoyed being able to get field experience in data collection and using citizen science platforms like iNaturalist to identify and record species.

“My personal project has focused on the changes in invertebrate abundance and diversity in the ephemeral pools that have become part of the Forest Observatory over time,” she said. “The internship has allowed me to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to develop and implement a full research project of my own. Temple Ambler in particular provides a really unique research opportunity because of the tornado, which dramatically disrupted the local ecology.”

Samara Carlough

Samara Carlough, a Mathematics major in the College of Science and Technology, was always “a big fan” of her math classes, which is what drew her to her major at Temple.

“As a math major, I’m still determining what I want to do when I graduate but I really like the material in my courses. This year, I’m trying to experience as many different things as I can,” she said. “My goal behind becoming part of the Field Station and taking part in undergraduate research was determining if I’d like to pursue a research-based career.”

Carlough was part of the team of research interns exploring the overall impacts of the 2021 tornado on the Temple Forest Observatory.

“At the beginning of the fall semester we were doing a census of nearby Robbins Park, which has been our control site to compare data from the Forest Observatory,” she said. “We were collecting data on the different types, number and size of trees at a site that was relatively undamaged to compare to our disturbed site.”

Carlough’s personal research project with the Field Station focused on the impacts of the tornado on animal activity.

“We have motion-sensor cameras set up throughout the forest, so we do have data from before the storm hit as well as after. In doing a comparison, we are seeing how the different functional groups were impacted by the tornado,” she said. “For example, do predator and prey have different reactions. Herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, have they reacted differently to the disturbance caused by the tornado?”

As a student, Carlough said, “I’ve always been involved in hands-on educational environments from elementary school to now.”

“I find for myself in particular hands-on learning is very effective. For me, it helps me understand how things interact with one another,” she said. “Once I graduate, I’m not going to be reading textbooks and doing presentations anymore; it will be hands-on work in the field. Being part of the Temple Ambler Field Station has given me a chance to experience that early on.”

The benefit of having Temple Ambler available to students for research, Carlough said, “is that it’s given me the opportunity to study hands-on in person rather than looking at the data and research on paper that other people have created.”

“We’ve been given a really unique opportunity to study the impacts of tornado disturbance. I wanted an experience with research; I wanted to see what goes into research, what the process is and whether or not that’s the right avenue for me to explore,” she said. “I also wanted to be connected to the environment; where I grew up was very rural and I really missed that. Being able to come to Temple Ambler has ben truly beneficial to me, getting to be outside more and enjoying the natural world.”

Ifeoluwa “Ife” Ogundele

Ife Ogundele, a senior in Biology (College of Science and Technology) with a minor in Healthcare Management, has always known she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. For her, the Field Station Internship was a conscience decision to gain experiences outside of her comfort zone.

“Having this opportunity to conduct hands-on research with the Field Station is definitely very different than anything I’ve done before. I thought it would be interesting to go outside what I’m comfortable with and what I’m used to. Now I know that being in the field is definitely something that I want to continue to pursue,” said Ogundele, who will be contributing to the forest re-census. “I’m hoping for more knowledge about nature and the forest and more experience doing something that is so hands-on and so different from what I normally do.”

The Field Station experience, she said, “has already made me more curious about the world.”

“Before, I used to go through life not really looking at my surroundings. Now every time I go somewhere, I’m curious about the kinds of trees I’m seeing — it’s making me more in tune with my surroundings,” she said. “I went through the Frances Velay Fellowship, which is specially for women in STEM. I developed a hypothesis to study even before I arrived at the Field Station. I’m going to be studying animal behavior before and after the tornado, examining what has changed and shifted.”

Josie Williams

Josie Williams, a senior Biology major in the College of Science and Technology, spent half of her time during her first semester at Temple at the Temple Ambler campus.

“I took a Woody Plants class and really enjoyed it. The next semester, I took more STEM classes and I realized that was the career route I wanted to take,” she said. “That first semester at Temple Ambler is what led me to the Field Station — learning about the trees was one of the highlights of my time at Temple. I knew this was a place I wanted to be to experience field work. I’ve had lab experience, but I hadn’t had field experience before. It combined a lot of the experiences that I wanted into one internship.”

During her Field Station internship, Williams said, “I definitely want more field research experience while also gaining a better understanding of what I want to do with my biology degree.”

“With the Field Station, you get to be directly involved in how science is conducted in addition to getting to do our own projects. Having the campus available for our research is a wonderful opportunity to get hands on with what we’re learning,” she said. “The Ambler Arboretum is a learning facility; you have so many teachers and mentors available to you while conducting your research.

In addition to working on the re-census of the Temple Forest Observatory, Williams’ personal research for the summer is focusing on decomposers in the forest.

“A lot of the trees have fallen because the tornado, but there were also trees that had fallen prior to that event just from natural processes,” she said. “I’m going to be looking at types of decomposers on different types of trees that are at different stages of decomposition.”

Justin Ryan
Environmental Science with a Concentration in Applied Ecology

Justin Ryan, has a particular interest in bioremediation, which is what led him to pursuing a degree in environmental science, which is offered by the Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the College of Science and Technology.

“I’m interested in pursing my PhD in marine ecology after college. The Field Station is my first research experience, particularly field research,” she said. “I know that’s something that’s going to be required in my PhD program. The Temple Ambler Field Station seemed like the perfect fit to get my feet wet in applied research.”

Not everyone gets to undertake their own field research as a student, Ryan said.

“I think with this experience you’re ahead of the game whether it’s moving on in your education or a career choice. I feel like I’ll already have a solid basis in the scientific method and doing my own research, he said. “Specifically with the independent project, I hope to gain more experience crafting my own research questions and performing the necessary experiments to answer those questions. I love the people that I’m working with — making these connections has been a great experience.”

In addition to participating in the re-census of the Temple Forest Observatory, Ryan said he will be studying ephemeral pools within the forest.

“Some of the trees that have fallen are 20, 30, 40 meters high. They create these massive divots in the ground from their root balls — those holes fill up with water after rain or melting snow, creating ephemeral pools,” he said. “I’ll be working with Mary Cortese (a PhD candidate in the Freestone Lab in Biology at Temple University and Research Assistant with the Temple Ambler Field Station) to study arthropod biodiversity within five of the different pools to see how it changes based on how far they are from the creek. We’ll also be examining how it changes from the spring to the summer. A research intern began exploring this topic in the spring and I want to continue from there and see how it changes.”

Faisal Shaikh

Data Science

Faisal Shaikh a Data Science sophomore in Temple College of Science and Technology chose his major “because I was always interested in math and statistics,” he said.

“I find handling data sets pretty interesting. Applying to become a Field Station intern, I wanted to get experience handling data outside of just the medical field or business world,” he said. “I thought ecology would be a really cool way to apply the major.”

Shaikh’s experience with the Field Station, he said, “has gone really well.”

“I’ve been able to see where the data has come from in the field and also work with the data firsthand. Getting hands-on experience I think is very important, especially as a student,” he said. “Collecting data in the field helps me understand where it’s coming from. Then it’s more than just numbers on a computer screen — I, along with my peers, have collected that data. It makes the information more tangible.”

For his major project, with the Field Station, “I’m working with a data set from the Temple Forest Observatory and determining how the forest is reacting to the storm.”

“The personal project I’m working on is about tree survivorship,” he said. We’re studying and collecting data about the Forest Observatory and comparing that to other forests that are similar to this site in the area.”

Keri Kern
Biology (Teaching)
Temple Diamond Research Scholar

Keri Kern, a senior Biology (Teaching) major in the College of Science and Technology, discovered her path to biology and teaching early on. 

“I’ve always really enjoyed science classes. In high school, I took as many science classes as possible to find out what aspects of science I truly liked and wanted to focus on,” she said. “I discovered biology and after taking AP biology, I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. Combined with biology, teaching is my passion — that is what I want to share with other students and hopefully get them just as passionate about STEM education.”

Kern has been a Field Station Research Intern for more than two years, arriving at Temple Ambler in summer 2021.  

“I really love how the Field Station feels like a family,” she said. “Everybody is willing to help and support each other with our research projects. It’s a very team-oriented environment.”

Last summer, Kern said, she participated in the Temple Forest Observatory census prior to the tornado.  

“I was measuring the above ground biomass throughout the forest and looking at how that contributed to the carbon storage capacity of our forest,” she said. “We were able to compare the above ground biomass before and after the tornado to study the differences and explore the change from above ground biomass to deadwood biomass.”

This summer (2022) Kern is continuing to assist with the post-tornado census of the forest, she said.

“Right night, we’re focusing on shrubs and any trees that were missed prior to the tornado,” she said. “For my personal project, I’ll be measuring the above ground biomass of the shrub layer in our forest. I’ll be looking at the number and biomass of invasive species in particular.”

During the spring semester, Kern was named a Temple Diamond Research Scholar. The Diamond Research Scholars Program provides Temple undergraduates the opportunity to engage in a focused, mentored research or creative arts project during the summer and fall. The program requires that students participate in the all-day Undergraduate Research Institute, devote ten weeks during the summer to develop a research project in their area of interest under the direction of their faculty mentor, and complete the project during the fall semester.

“Being a Diamond Scholar is definitely an honor. It’s exciting; not all of the students in the program are from the College of Science and Technology,” she said. “I’m getting to learn about not only my project but additionally hearing about everyone else’s projects. Some of the projects are related to humanities and other disciplines. I’m able to get advice and suggestions for my project from a broad range of students — it provides a lot of different perspectives.”

Being outside in the forest conducting research “is an invaluable opportunity to experience what field work is all about,” Kern said.

“I hope that in the future I can continue in field research. I would like to continue on to graduate school and then my PhD, she said. “I think that the research that I’m doing now has definitely given me the right motivation — before this experience I really didn’t even know about my love for ecology. I want to pursue a career in teaching at the college level.”

Colin Lynch
Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity

It was an excellent AP Environmental Science class in high school that led senior Colin Lynch to double majoring in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity and Environmental Science in Temple’s College of Science and Technology. Taking Temple’s new Disturbance Ecology course, which is offered by the Field Station and the Temple Biology program, only solidified his choice.

“That gave me a real feel for the Field Station. I enjoyed working with (Dr. Bonfim) and the atmosphere at Temple Ambler. I was happy to have the opportunity to continue learning about field research with the Field Station this summer,” he said. “I was previously involved in an internship focused on geomorphology. I’m excited to be involved in applied research and develop these field methods through ecology. Geomorphology is fascinating, but ecology is something that I have a lot of passion for.”

Field research as a student, Lynch said, “compliments your education so well.”

“You’re picking up concepts in your classes, but that really doesn’t clue you into what it is truly like to be a researcher. With research you have to decern for yourself what you are learning — it’s a much different experience, he said. “Being able to apply what you’re learning in your courses while making discoveries and answering new questions is invaluable. As a student looking to go to graduate school, the connections I’ve been able to make — other students in graduate school or planning to go to graduate school or pursuing PHDs, mentors who have already been through the process — have been essential. Professors like Dr. Sewall and Dr. Freestone are a wonderful support system for someone like me just starting out in this process.”

As a Field Station Research Intern, Lynch will be focusing his work on research related to the Ecosystems Services Project.

“I’m working with (Field Station Research Technician) Dan (Taratut) on a project with a lot of principal investigators from multiple disciplines,” he said. “We’re working on determining carbon storage as an ecosystem service in the Temple Forest Observatory in comparison to nearby Robbins Park, which was not severally damaged by the tornado last September.”

His independent project, he said, is built upon a proposal developed during his Disturbance Ecology class, he said.

“One of my passions is studying birds. I want to study the avian biodiversity at Temple Ambler in comparison with Robbins Park. A disturbed forest is a very different environment; how has that effected our bird populations on campus?” he said. “You may have the same number of species but the proportions of them have almost certainly shifted. The western side of the plot, which is relatively undamaged, has orioles and towhees, which you would expect, but we’re seeing catbirds, which you’ll usually find on forest edges, all through our forest now because it has changed so dramatically.”

Emily Konchan

Emily Konchan, a senior Biology major in the College of Science and Technology, has a particular passion for nature and animals. A career involving wildlife was an obvious choice, she said. Taking the opportunity to get hands-on experience while still a student was just as obvious, she said.

“I’ve enjoyed all my classes at Temple in my last three years, but none of them really had any hands-on experiences. I wanted to be in the field and do something rather than just learning from a textbook,” she said. “I hope to learn solid field research methods. We have the opportunity to determine a good independent research project, which gives us the chance to work through the entire scientific method from start to finish.”

The hands-on experience with the Field Station “is very helpful in figuring out what I want to do later in life and in my career,” Konchan said.

“I’m enjoying doing my own research beyond just reading about what others have already found — I feel like I’m making a real contribution to the work of the Field Station. During the summer, I’ll be working with the team that is researching spotted lanternflies,” she said. “We’ll be collecting spotted lanternflies from the trap bags placed all around campus. I’ll also be working on setting up some ongoing experiments in the Field Station Research Array.”

While still determining her independent project, Konchan said, “I’m leaning toward researching weather the spotted lanternflies have preferences toward certain grape cultivars or possibly studying the effect the lanternflies have on other plant pollinators.”

Joseph Welch
Civil Engineering

Joseph Welch, a junior Civil Engineering (College of Engineering) major with a concentration in Environmental Engineering, chose his field “because I want to improve the infrastructure we rely on in an environmentally friendly manner.”

“I decided to apply to become a Field Station Research Intern because I saw an opportunity to learn more engineering skills in an environment that feeds into my interest in ecology. I hope to develop technical skills while becoming a better researcher that can face challenging scientific questions with a logical approach,” he said. “This summer (2022), the goal of my personal project is to understand the hydrology in a disturbed forest through a computer hydrology model. This means I need to find a suitable model for my research question, take the proper measurements in the field, and analyze the results of this data to describe the processes going on in the Temple Forest Observatory.

Welch said he is additionally working with two PhD students to collect and analyze storm water, which collects contamination off of Route I-95.

“Engaging in hands-on field work has helped me to apply knowledge in the classroom to a project I genuinely care about,” he said. “Additionally, by practically apply this equipment in my research, I gain a better understanding of how it works and how I can use it in future projects.”

Ian David Stonefield

Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity

Ian David Stonefield an Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity (EEB) sophomore in the College of Science and Technology originally started out as a Biology major “but I felt a pull toward the ecology aspects of the field — I chose the EEB major as a result and I love it so far,” he said.

“I applied to the Field Station after I learned about it in my Principals of Ecology class and the experience has been great. Off the bat, we got right out into the field working on our censusing project,” said Stonefield. “It’s been fun to be out in the field and working with a great group of people. Even for the personal project aspect of it, they have helped me with everything along the way.”

The interns are working together to census the entire Temple Forest Observatory,” Stonefield said.

“We’re going around and we are tagging or re-tagging a lot of woody trees and shrubs,” he said. “We are measuring and taking as much data as we can about everything we are observing.”

For his personal Field Station project, Stonefield said, “I am working on looking at the non-native species of woody trees and shrubs in the Forest Observatory after the disturbance and comparing that to data from before the disturbance to see how those non-native species fared through the tornado.”

“Then I’ll be looking at their natural history to see if there are any evolutionary advantages from the places that they are coming from and seeing if there’s any correlation between those two things,” he said. “There is a huge benefit to working with the Field Station in that you’re really exposed to a lot of post-doctorate and post-graduate students and getting their experience and help with the things that we’re working on. You’re getting insight into what they are doing and what their projects are.”

Interning with the Field Station “and being out in the forest really gives you good insight into whether or not you are up for this kind of work,” he said.

“For me, being an ecology major, obviously I would love to be doing this sort of research for as long as I can,” he said. “Getting this experience has really helped validate my perception of what I want to do with the rest of my life.” 

Grace Varnum

Geographic Information Systems

Visiting Student

Grace Varnum, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) junior at Hofstra University didn’t enter the GIS field right off the bat. It was hands-on experience that set her on that course and subsequently led her to become a summer research intern at the Temple Ambler Field Station.

“I took a GIS class during my freshman year and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I go to Hofstra University, which is in Long Island, New York, but I’m from the Temple Ambler area. I grew up around campus and know the area pretty well.”

Varnum said she heard about the possibility of gaining field experience at the Field Station “and thought it would be a good fit for me.”

“It has been a fun experience and the work is very rewarding. The major project we are doing is a tree census,” she said. “We are tagging all of the trees (in the Forest Observatory) that are currently living, seeing how tall they are and measuring their diameter to see how they are surviving (post-tornado). We’ll return in a couple of years to assess them again to see if they’ve continued to grow.”

For my personal project, Varnum said, “I’m mapping the deadwood of the forest — the wood that has either fallen or is decaying.”

“I’m using GPS coordinates to map it onto a grid. I’ll map it into quadrants and overlap the two. There is a wide array of uses for GIS,” she said. “I want to determine what I want to do with GIS professionally. So, I think getting as much experience as possible now is a great benefit to me.”

Varnum said as a visiting student her time with the Temple Ambler Field Station “has been a great experience.”

“It gives you a broader perspective,” she said. “You can engage in different research opportunities, learn what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong and gain constructive criticism.”

Rafi Yacoub


Rafi Yacoub, a recent Biology graduate in the College of Science and Technology decided to pursue his major because “I liked the variety that Biology offered, the wide array of topics that gave the opportunity to explore what I wanted to do in the field,” he said.

“In May 2022, I was set to graduate when the professor in my Animal Behavior class told us about the Field Station at Temple Ambler and the opportunities that it provided. I thought that it would be a good opportunity for me to get some hands-on research experience,” Yacoub said. “I was able to practice research techniques in the field and I think that was very valuable. I feel like everything I could have gotten out of this Field Station experience I have gotten out of it and more. I learned firsthand that science isn’t done by billionaire investors; any experiment can be done right here.”

Yacoub, who is currently exploring graduate programs that focus on increasing the efficiency of ecological research, said his major project with the Field Station was “examining the comparative growth effects of uprooted trees versus their standing damaged counterparts after the storm.”

“I focused on comparing the same species and how they are progressing rather that comparing different species to one another,” he said. “What I found was that they are progressing at similar rates — the uprooted trees reveal tremendous resiliency.”

Yacoub has also been working with the Field Station’s spotted lanternfly research team.

“I’ve been aiding in circle and visual trap collections of the spotted lanternflies as well as assisting in the mesocosm research array studying the effects of spotted lanternflies on different trees and their preferences,” he said. “The benefit of my field station experience to me as a student and recent graduate is mainly the hands-on techniques that I’ve learned and how to apply them. It’s also been very important to go through the scientific process — developing a research question, looking at that hypothesis, coming to a conclusion, creating a research poster. All of these are techniques that will be valuable in any field of science.”   

Gabrielle Widjaja


Temple University recent graduate Gabrielle Widjaja never expected to be involved in the type of research she has undertaken with the Temple Ambler Field Station.

“Certainly, no one expected a tornado to hit the Ambler Campus. I think what is amazing is that the Field Station has taken this extremely difficult circumstance and opened up entirely new research opportunities,” said Widjaja, who graduated from Temple with a degree in Biochemistry, a major offer by Temple’s College of Science and Technology. “You have to adapt to what you are given. Even in the lab, most experiments don’t initially go as planned. We keep on trying and finding new methods that work, which can lead to greater efficiency and better research results.”

Widjaja arrived at Temple Ambler and joined the Field Station as a student research intern, “because after COVID, I wanted to get into a research group.” “I saw that the Temple Ambler Field Station offered field work, which would give me the opportunity to work with other students outside in nature,” she said. “During the fall semester I really enjoyed the teamwork that was involved in all of our research — it was very satisfying completing the survey of a quadrant of the forest. I’ve been working closely with (Field Station Research Assistant Director Dr.) Mariana Bonfim, continuing the hands-on research we had started in the fall.” Read Gabrielle Widjaja's story.


Rohan Harolikar


Rohan Harolikar, a Biology major in the College of Science and Technology, focused in Field Station research on the ecology of the novel invader in Pennsylvania and Spotted Lanternfly (SLF).

For his personal project, Harolikar inventoried the diversity of spiders found in Temple Ambler’s old-growth forest.

Harolikar is part of the Science Scholars program at Temple and has presented his research at several symposia.

Abby Chang


What time are animals more active? What are the different animals that visit and feed on our woodlands?

These are some of the questions that Abby Chang, a Biology major in the College of Science and Technology, explored by using camera trap protocols.

Briana Irene Lawrence


A transfer student, Briana Irene Lawrence was in her first year at Temple when she became a Temple Ambler Field Station Research Intern.

During here time with the Field Station, Lawrence, a Biology major in the College of Science and Technology,  worked in the Ambler Campus herbarium and the Temple Forest Observatory for the Field Station’s forest census.

Rita Hartogs


At the Field Station, Rita Hartogs, a Biology major in the College of Science and Technology, focused her research on deciphering ecological dynamics that could be affecting the distribution and persistence of invasive plants.

Hartogs initially joined the Field Station team through the Temple College of Science and technology Undergraduate Research Program. She was later accepted to the Graduate School's Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP). She is now pursuing her bachelor’s and master’s degree as part of Temple’s Accelerated Degree (4+1) program.

Oumar Traore


Oumar Traore, a Biology major in the College of Science and Technology, was a first-year transfer student when he began a Temple Ambler Field Station Research Intern.

During his time with the Field Station, he helped to develop a digital field guide for the Temple Forest Observatory.

Traore said he felt the research opportunities provided by the Field Station would be a tremendous benefit to him. His goal is to enter the medical school and become a doctor.

Chloe Gehret

Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity 

Chloe Gehret, an Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity major in Temple’s College of Science and Technology, joined the Temple Ambler Field Station in fall 2020.

During her time with the Field Station, Gehret has been exploring how important biotic interactions, specifically how competition affects distribution and survival of dominant native populations in the forest ecosystem. Her goal with this research is to understand ecological and evolutionary mechanisms driving northern red oak occurrence, and particularly how large-scale climate-driven disturbances may affect distribution, resistance, and competitive dynamics of this species in temperate deciduous forests.

Gehret has been awarded several University-wide prestigious grants and fellowships through the College of science and Technology Science Scholars program, Diamond Scholars program, Frances Velay Fellowship and more recently the Creative Arts, Research, And Scholarship (CARAS) program.

Regan Loughran Moore

Environmental Science

Regan Loughran Moore, an Environmental Science in Temple’s College of Science and Technology, focused her Field Station research on investigating how woody plant biodiversity varies across different spatial scales and how forest canopy density may affect those patterns.