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 email@example.com 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.
Meet Our Research Interns
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
Temple Diamond Research Scholar
“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.”
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, 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, 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.”
Geographic Information Systems
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, 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity
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.