Dr. Tamara Heartsill Scalley is a Research Ecologist at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA-Forest Service in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. She was born in Santurce and raised in Río Piedras. Her parents were both public school art teachers, and instilled in her a love for exploring landscapes. Research projects by Dr. Heartsill Scalley focus on riparian forests, streams, wetlands, and long-term monitoring of tropical forests. Her time is divided between conducting research and being a mentor to students. She is cooperatively organizing a database for Caribbean Foresters, a project that includes foresters, researchers, educators, and conservationists from the Caribbean region.
Recent publications include co-edited and authored Luquillo Experimental Forest: Research History and Opportunities, a review of 30 years of research in El Yunque; a Caribbean Studies special issue Get Up, Stand Up: Environmental Threats and Opportunities in the insular Caribbean; and a Caribbean Naturalist special issue The Caribbean Foresters: A Collaborative Network for forest dynamics and regional forestry initiatives. Her research publications contribute to understanding Caribbean landscapes and connections of riparian vegetation and streams, watershed land cover & freshwater ecosystem services, and how forest succession occurs after hurricanes.
Her collaborative works aim to disseminate knowledge about landscapes and have been recognized by the USDA Forest Service Chief’s Award 2013 for Open Space Conservation, the USDA Forest Service Wilderness Legacy Award 2014, and an International Association of Art Critics Award 2015 for best Collective Exposition Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art, Poetic Science: Aproximaciones Artístico-Científicas sobre El Yunque, that contained the installation piece titled Sound Circles/Inmersión.
Dr. Heartsill Scalley earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She was selected for the prestigious Multi-Site, Multi-Investigator, Multi-Disciplinary Initiative for Training in Plant Ecology, from the Organization for Tropical Studies & A.W. Mellon Foundation, allowing her to explore and learn in Hawai’i, Costa Rica, Brazil, South Africa, Panamá, and Perú. After completing a Doctorate degree in Ecology at Utah State University, she held a post-doctoral research faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania in the Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Her research combines geographical and botanical perspectives with ecological approaches, emphasizing tropical forests and freshwater ecosystems.