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Help a wildlife scientist earn her Ph.D

 Amrita Neelakantan, a wildlife conservationist, is part of the third round of the SciFund Challenge, an experiment in crowd funding for scientific research. Amrita is raising money from individuals to fund her research in tropical forest landscapes.

The SciFund Challenge was founded by two ecologists, Jai Ranganathan and Jarrett Byrnes, to explore the potential of crowd funding—through which interested individuals, usually via the Internet, pool their donations—to support scientific research and connect scientists more directly to the general public.

Amrita seeks to raise $7,500 for logistic costs of a field season (equipment and supplies) she will use in her study of patterns of forest animal responses to habitat changes (quantity of habitat and quality of habitat).

Frogs and beetles. Amrita’s project "The Science of Small Things" explores the interactions between forest inhabitants that are sensitive to changes in their surrounds and perform key functions to keep ecosystems healthy. “Frogs, small reptiles, butterflies, forest birds and dung beetles form communities that are highly responsive to change in their environments. They provide a window into how long it takes for the armies of smaller animals to continue to provide for everything higher up the food chain in stable populations across smaller and more degraded forests.”, Amrita wrote in her SciFund Challenge project description.

Amrita will be looking at the responses of communities of frogs and beetles to habitat gradients. Basically, she will attempt to document the patterns and time it takes for ecosystem to recover when forests are degraded. These patterns are necessary to plan for the future – keeping in mind forest services provided to human life as we know it and the management of natural resources for decades to come. There are too few studies that track these patterns over a long enough time and a large enough area to provide robust knowledge of how animals cope with changing ecosystems.

“There has been tremendous good will and people are willing to pitch in. Plus this is a fantastic opportunity to involve people in my research and to give directly to a project without large overhead costs” said Amrita. As gratitude for contributions there are rewards, for contributions of 1000 USD or more Amrita offers the contributor a chance to visit her field site for a week.

For Amrita's SciFund Challenge proposal, see

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