NSF-IRES Summer Tropical Ecological Research in Benin

The International Research Experience for Students (IRES) is a National Science Foundation program that provides an opportunity for US students to participate in practical research activities which is part of a PI ongoing research program. This IRES project will study the demographic consequences of plant-ant interactions in Mahogany forests in Benin, West Africa using a long-term study system first established in 2003. Students will get the opportunity to learn practical methods to collect and analyze field biological data to test ecological hypotheses, participate in peer-led peer learning activities, design their own research project with guidance from mentors. Participants will be fully supported including a round trip ticket to and from Benin, lodging, in-country travel and food, and a $3,000 stipend per participant.


This program is open to students who are US citizens or permanent residents only. To be eligible students must be at least in their junior year and currently enrolled at a US university. Undergraduate and graduate students are both eligible. An important goal of this NSF funding is to contribute to increase diversity and inclusion in the field of ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation by making it accessible to a wide range of students. Women, students from ethnic and other minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply. Competitive applicants should have a good GPA, interest in ecological research, strong reference letter. prior research experience and involvement in extracurricular activities will also be a plus. Participants are expected to have valid passports by the start of the program.


  • April 15: Application deadline
  • April 20: Notification to shortlisted candidates
  • April 23: Zoom interview with top candidates
  • April 25: Notification to selected candidates
  • May 19: Program starts at UTK campus
  • May 19 - 30: Pre-travel workshops and preparation
  • May 31 - July 7: IRES Team in Benin
  • July 8: Team back to the US

How to apply

You can submit your application via this link: https://tinyurl.com/444s9x6x where you need to answer a few questions and submit your CV, name of an academic who can write a letter of recommendation, a personal statement on your motivation to participate in this IRES project, how that contribute to your career goal and personal development plan, your research experience, and prior experience abroad. Shortlisted candidates will be interviews by the IRES committee before the final selection is made.


Dr Orou Gaoue is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is the team leader for this IRES project will be coordinating all aspect of the program. He has two decades experience conducting research internationally and particularly in Benin.

The Benin mentors team include faculty at the main universities in Benin with expertise in field study design, statistcal analysis, plant-insect interactions, plant-fungi interactions and plant demography.

Dr. Romain Glele Kakai is a Full Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Abomey-Calavi.

Dr. Nourou Yorou is a Full Professor interested in plant-fungi interactions at the University of Parakou

Dr. Anicet Dassou is an Associate Professor interested in plant-insect interactions at the National University of Mathematics and Technology


If you have any uestions send them to ogaoue@utk.edu