Semester of Undergraduate Research in Forest Ecology and Restoration
(SURFER Internship Program)


We provide Colorado State University undergraduate students the opportunity to do research with our program for course credit. Our pilot year in 2017 hosted two outstanding seniors researching forests along the Colorado Front Range. This program gives students hands-on experience conducting ecological research related to forest restoration ecology, collaborative restoration, and/or remote sensing techniques. Students have the opportunity to:

  1. Complete an independent research project related to forest restoration ecology,
  2. Gain experience with scientific data collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation,
  3. Present results through a short scientific paper and poster
  4. Assist with closely related ongoing ecological research projects at CFRI.

We give students experience and practice applying the scientific process to ecological concepts, provide them with an introduction to methods for collecting and interpreting ecological data, and prepare them for future research endeavors in graduate or professional opportunities.  Please contact for more information on internship opportunities.

Field crew member taking measurements
Ryan DeAngelis

Ryan spent his semester with CFRI researching Colorado Front Range dry conifer forests and their fuel reduction treatments. Specifically, Ryan examined management objectives to restore fine-scale spatial patterns and the impact of spatial manipulation on forest regeneration. This research will help CFRI understand the long-term efficacy of the treatments and how restoration treatments impact regeneration dynamics and conditions for seedling establishment. His work has included processing, extraction, and analysis of abiotic measurements in order to characterize microsite heterogeneity using appropriate statistical techniques.  See more about Ryan’s research here.

“In my time working with CFRI, I gained invaluable field experience and insight to the importance of ecological monitoring. The skills I gained did not end with the field season, as I was able to continue with CFRI throughout the semester through the SURFER program researching the effects of forest treatments on the abiotic community. This gave me a hands-on opportunity to conduct a research project from data collection in the field, to statistical analyses in the lab, and writing a research report on my findings. This experience has motivated me to continue working in research and looking towards graduate school.”

Spencer Elliott

Spencer used his semester with CFRI acquiring, classifying, and analyzing satellite imagery to evaluate changes in spatial patterns among recent Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) treatments. His work covered approximately 20,000 acres of fuels and restoration treatments that were implemented on National Forest lands through the CFRLP. He used advanced GIS techniques and creation of advanced workflows. The goal of the analysis is to assess changes in canopy cover, large gaps, and gap size distributions.  See more about Spencer’s research here.

“CFRI and the SURFER program gave me invaluable experience and insight into an amazing field. I’ve learned the importance of monitoring forested ecosystems and just how valuable the research being done here is. With great guidance and support, the SURFER program allowed me to conduct a research project looking at real world forest management outcomes and implications and has allowed me to build a skill set that will stick with me throughout the rest of my career.”

Spencer on a slacklne
Alex Schuetter

Alex’s project involved evaluating how restoration treatments of the CFLRP altered forest structure and composition in the Front Range. Her analyses showed that CFLRP treatments contributed to the desired conditions outlined by collaborative groups. Importantly, her findings showed restoration outcomes improved over time, potentially as a results of informal adaptive management processes..  See more about Alex’s research here.

“SURFER provided me with an awesome opportunity to research outcomes of forest restoration treatments. In my other classes, research ends when the semester ends, but in SURFER, study results build upon each other to create a body of information that is used to help inform actual forest management decisions. For this reason, I found SURFER research to be much more interesting than any other project I worked on while at CSU. The skills I gained will definitely help me to be successful in my future career and eventually in grad school.”