CWU News

$250K Grant Allows Students to Study Rare Species in a Unique Tropical Dry Forest

Professors Daniel Beck and Gabrielle Stryker, from CWU’s Department of Biological Sciences, recently received $249,499 from the National Science Foundation for SOBRE MÉXICO: Student Opportunities for Biological Research in México.

The three-year grant allows CWU students to research and study rare species in a unique environment, while collaborating with an international team of scientists. The students will live at the Estación de Biología, Chamela, a research station located in a seasonally dry tropical forest biome in coastal Jalisco, México, located south of Puerto Vallarta.

“Our students, both undergraduate and graduate, will receive a stipend to spend a summer working in one of the most amazing places in the world,” said Beck. He and his students have been making research trips to the area since 1999. “The dry tropical forest biome features extreme seasonality in rainfall, and the species that thrive there have learned to adapt to a wide range of environments.”

One of the major goals of the grant is to attract Hispanic students to biological research.

“Many of our students have grown up in bilingual families,” Beck remarked. “This program lets them use their valuable language skills to pursue science, and help non-Spanish-speaking peers in their studies. In this way, their language skills become a gateway, not a barrier.”

The program is structured to enhance cultural awareness and sensitivity for all participants. Although students don’t have to know Spanish to enter the program, they will learn and practice Spanish daily with their Spanish-speaking peers. They will also learn to present their findings to local schoolchildren, and they will travel to México City to visit UNAM, and partake in other cultural activities.

“Most importantly, I want our students to develop a solid foundation of international scientific collaboration,” Beck said, adding that the strong collegial relationships he has developed over the years have been an enduring source of professional and personal development.

For more information or to apply to the program, go to Applications are due by October 31.

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,

September 21, 2016