MSU forestry student receives Fulbright grant to study forests in Costa Rica

Clarice Esch, a doctoral student in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Forestry, recently received a grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct research in Costa Rica.

Clarice Esch

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Clarice Esch, a doctoral student in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Forestry, recently received a grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct research in Costa Rica.

Esch will spend 10 months in San Gerardo de Rivas, Costa Rica, researching issues related to sustainable forestry.

The Fulbright program is a highly competitive program that allows students to conduct research projects abroad. More than 1,900 Fulbright grants are awarded annually to support research in more than 140 countries. The Fulbright program facilitates cultural exchanges and collaborative learning by providing students with direct interaction with local communities during their research period.

“The Fulbright fellowship provides a great opportunity for Clarice to explore agriculture-forest linkages,” said Rich Kobe, chair of the Department of Forestry and Esch’s research mentor. “Clarice’s work continues the long tradition of MSU research that is rigorous and cutting-edge and that makes a difference.”

Esch’s interest in Costa Rica and tropical forests started after a high school trip, she said. She has since returned to Costa Rica in three consecutive years.

Esch applied for the Fulbright fellowship to the community she has worked in on her earlier trips while studying the herb Gunnera.

“I saw opportunities there. I saw needs there,” Esch said.

“Clarice will be pursuing two projects during her Fulbright fellowship – both relate to the sustainable management of Costa Rican ecosystems and involve farm communities,” Kobe said. “In continuing some work that she started as an undergrad, Clarice will be working with local farmers on grafting tomato plants on rootstock that could lower the need for chemical inputs. She also will be starting into her doctoral research on reforestation of abandoned farm fields and how soil organisms might play a role in successful reforestation. “

Specifically, she will focus on creating sustainable, eco-friendly and potentially cost-effective alternatives to conventional agricultural practices. She will work with local farmers to identify the needs of the community and build projects to address those needs.

“As a researcher, I’m really interested in minimizing the impacts of humans on the environment and restoring lands after they’ve been used agriculturally,” Esch said. “Ideally, I would like to see, aspire to be involved in, and inspire projects in these areas and see this expand in new directions.”

Esch’s doctoral research at MSU focuses on the role of soil organisms in promoting the colonization of tree seedlings in abandoned agricultural fields. The long-term goal of this research is to develop approaches to more effectively reforest marginal agricultural land in the tropics.

“Clarice’s Fulbright work demonstrates important connections between agricultural and forest ecosystems,” Kobe said.

She hopes this research project will allow her to return to MSU with a greater understanding of tropical forests and solid data to support her future research interests.

CONTACT: Eileen Gianiodis, gianiod1@msu.edu, 517-884-7087

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