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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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EEcology

August 15, 2014, by Bruce McAlister
I am not a scientist; I am an engineer. . . . Which makes my employment at an ecological research station a little odd. However, it is perfectly natural to have engineers here, it turns out - as long as you don't have too many. Scientists need specialized tools for research. Engineers are just the right people to create these tools. And so, here I am - building research equipment for scientists. Yes, I know; it doesn't get much cooler than that. My project looks at how reflected light from the canopy - which can show what the leaves are doing - changes throughout both the day and the year. I...Read more >

Impacts of Climate Change on the Rhythm of the spring in Northeast Deciduous Forests

August 10, 2014, by Ivonne Trujillo
This summer I had the opportunity to be an REU student for the Richardson Lab. It seems as if it’s the first week, and not the last week of the program. I’ve learned so much in this short period of time, and I will bring what I learned back to my university in Texas. This summer, I focused on the impacts of climate change on the rhythm of the spring in Northeast deciduous forests. I aimed to address some of the gaps that existed on the feedbacks between climate change and the seasonal cycles. I focused on leaf development for the red maple, red oak, and paper birch. Now, to characterize leaf...Read more >

Drones in the Service of Our Forests

August 4, 2014, by Sidni Frederick
If you've spent any time alive on this planet, you've probably noticed that things here work in cycles – the sun passes overhead daily, we complete one revolution around the sun every year, and the slight tilt of our planet's axis subsequently yields seasonal changes in time with these astronomical movements. The lives of plants here on earth are guided by these cycles. In deciduous forests like the ones here in Central Massachusetts, trees awaken from a long period of dormancy in the spring to push out the leaves that will allow them to conduct photosynthesis in the summer. The leaves change...Read more >

Small mammal summer

July 30, 2014, by Joel
My mentor Allyson Degrassi and I use mark and recapture methods to study small mammal populations and community dynamics in relation to hemlock decline. Degrassi is an ecologist and mammalogist who is training me in a variety of techniques that I plan to apply in future veterinary medicine work. Not only does she train and advise me on my future, she gives me new excitement for day-to-day work. When we hike through the forest at 4am (a great time to hike— I recommend it) towards our research sites, we talk about her dogs, mushrooms we spot, our favorite songs, and studies on sharks and...Read more >

Taking Time for a Look Back

July 30, 2014, by Alison Ochs
Almost ten weeks in and it feels like I've only just arrived. When I first got here, I felt like I'd have all the time in the world to finish my project, and now deadlines are approaching and it's time to crunch. I based my independent project off of the project my mentor, Ahmed Hassabelkreem, has been working on. My mentor is part of a group examining the effects of an invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, which is causing a severe decline in hemlock forests in the eastern USA. Specifically, he is looking at how this transition from hemlock to hardwood affects salamanders, which often...Read more >

Clear-cuts and carbon fluxes: observing change at Harvard Forest

July 28, 2014, by Alayna Johnson
I came to Harvard Forest with only a vague idea as to just how expansive and diverse the forests of New England are and with the intention of studying a scene that would have been commonplace here just over a hundred years ago – regenerating forests. With both climate change and deforestation being pressing global ecological issues, my lab group is utilizing a tiny fraction of New England forest to help piece together the overall relationship between climate and deforestation. In recent years, much attention has been given to the role forests may play as "carbon sinks" – helping mop up some...Read more >

Modeling photosynthesis in the canopy

July 25, 2014, by Jessica Asirwatham
Forests play a large role in the global carbon cycle. Forests uptake atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis; and release carbon back into the atmosphere through plant and microbial respiration. Statistical models have been developed to better understand gas exchange between the atmosphere and plants. These models calculate the rate of photosynthesis in leaves given the physical conditions the leaves are experiencing. What I'm developing is a model that scales up leaf-level photosynthetic rates to ecosystem-level photosynthetic rates. These models are important for predicting future rates...Read more >

Updating the Recipe Book

July 18, 2014, by Nikki Hoffler
A chef can spend years finding the right ingredients and steps to create a perfect dish. We would think she was crazy if she never wrote down the recipe to repeat her masterpiece after all that work. Yet, we don't bat an eye when scientists publish their results without explaining the data and calculations they used in enough detail to replicate and validate the results. My mentors, Barbara Lerner and Emery Boose, are working on a program that creates a kind of recipe from the code that scientists write to manipulate data. The program creates a visual representation of the code in the form of...Read more >

Too Hot for Salamanders and Newts to Trot?

July 17, 2014, by Simone Johnson
Harvard Forest is dominated by a coniferous species called Eastern Hemlock, but due to an insect pest known as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, the hemlocks are dying. This, in turn, affects the habitat in which Red-backed salamanders and Red-spotted newts live. The changing climate also affects the habitat of these cute little creatures. Salamanders are smooth and slimy, which many people might call gross; salamanders are not gross, they are magnificent! Newts are not slimy, and they are just as magnificent! Salamanders and newts breathe through their skin (whoa!), like most amphibians, and they...Read more >

Up Close and Personal with Hemlock Forests

July 13, 2014, by Jess Robinson
As I stood looking down at a forest of green, I started to feel a welling emotion within me. Maybe a feeling of awe. Perhaps nausea due to a fear of heights. I just couldn’t help but admire the capacity a forest has to work as a single organism, similarly to the way that hundreds of bees make up an organism that is a hive. It was orientation week and we all had the chance to climb one of the research towers in order to see the forest canopy. Seeing the forest from above as I stood on a scaffold watching the wind blow the leaves so that waves moved and crashed across the canopy, I knew that...Read more >

Troubleshooting: the key to success

July 11, 2014, by Laura Figueroa
I arrived this summer with a general idea of the research I was to conduct and the environment where I would be: study climate change ecology and live in a house full of college students. This summer has proven to be so much more. I have fine-tuned my research skills in ways that I never would have expected and have made amazing friends along the way. As the first week passed I understood that I was not simply going to take measurements for a graduate student's thesis, I was also to develop my own project from beginning to end. The team I am on works with "heating chambers" which mimic the...Read more >

The soil is alive……with microorganisms

July 1, 2014, by Ada Vilches
Have you ever thought about what is under your feet? What is the ground you step on composed of? Well, no matter where you are on land, you are most likely either standing on soil or on something that rests on it. Thus, all terrestrial life is supported by soil at some level, but what really lives in it? This is precisely the question I am trying to answer this summer, and, it turns out, soils are made up of a vast multitude of organisms. As luck would have it, the ones I'm looking for are too small to be seen. This summer I am working with Dr. Jeffrey Blanchard from UMass Amherst in the...Read more >

How Far is Too Far for an Ant?

June 26, 2014, by Ariel da Cruz Reis
Everybody, at some point of their lives, has had some sort of contact with these little and fascinating beings! Of course, I am talking about ants. Ants are hard workers, some species are capable of carrying 100 times their own body weight; they are spread out all over the planet, except for Antarctica and Greenland; they represent a large portion of the biomass in many habitats, and, therefore, they consume and recycle a huge amount of organic matter, maintaining a proper nutrient cycle. It is amazing how many important roles they have and how much we know about them. However, there are...Read more >

A Day in the Life of a Junior Forester

June 25, 2014, by Joshua Alaniz
I wake up to a sun that likes to rise at 5 A.M. and doesn't let me go back to sleep. I tuck in two tattered shirts that attempt to protect me from the ocean of blackberry thorns and mosquitos that seem to be drinking DEET after their blood meal. My pants are crammed into heavy wool socks to keep the legions of ticks at bay and I seal my heavy leather boots with Duct Tape to my shins to keep all of the above out. I get up and tape up every day like Joe Frazier getting ready to battle the leviathan that is nature for the next 8 hours. I drive a pickup truck loaded with tape measures, rods that...Read more >

The Roots of the Matter

June 24, 2014, by Marisa
I showed up at Harvard Forest blissfully ignorant of all the possible diseases you can get from tromping around in the forest all day, not to mention with an admittedly cloudy understanding of the day to day realities of ecological research. Three weeks later, my paranoia-induced googling has me well-versed on the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and Eastern equine encephalitis, and I’ve got a clearer idea of what field research is. It’s trial and error, getting lost in the woods, and too many mosquito bites to count, but it’s also the joy of a new nature sighting, the satisfaction that...Read more >

A Trip to the Harvard University Museums

June 18, 2014, by Grace Barber
Inside the Harvard Museum of Natural History, on display behind glass cases, are tip-of-the-iceberg objects. These are what more than 200,000 visitors a year come to see. They include striking displays of ornate beetles, mounted specimens of birds with brilliant feathers, ancient fossils, and hand-crafted, glass replicas of flowers and sea creatures. The quality of these objects is high, as is the rarity of many, and the caliber of the permanent, public displays bespeaks the wealth of what is not flaunted. On Tuesday, the REU students (and a couple of very fortunate proctors), were treated to...Read more >

Top Predators: What Wolves and Wolf Spiders Have in Common

June 18, 2014, by Heather Clendenin
People understand ripples: you throw a stone into the middle of a pond, and the effects of that action carry on far past where the stone broke the surface of the water. For me, studying ecology has always been somewhat analogous to watching ripples on a pond: the members of an ecosystem respond to each other through their various relationships, and what affects some members directly can carry over to indirectly affect others. At Harvard Forest, the research I'm participating in is looking at the "ripples" that may pass through food webs as climate change brings about warmer temperatures. In...Read more >

My First Lake Coring Trip

June 12, 2014, by Maria Orbay-Cerrato
Since I arrived at Harvard Forest, I've heard my mentor, Wyatt Oswald, use some variation of the phrase "when you go down into the mud, you go back in time" on various occasions. This concept, officially called "the law of superposition", hinges on the simple observation that younger layers of sediment are deposited over older layers. By looking through a microscope at samples of sediment taken from different depths of mud in a lake, my mentor and other paleoecologists can see what tree species dominated a specific area at different points in time. They do this by counting the different types...Read more >

Hugging Hemlocks

June 11, 2014, by Claudia Villar
In the early hours of most summer mornings, our team of researchers trudges through the New England forest along a well-worn path, shaded by the young, light-green leaves of the oak, maple and birch trees above us. Equipped with backpacks overloaded with gear including measuring tapes, hard hats, clipboards, and hammers, we chat about our families, our hometowns, and our career goals; our conversations are often punctuated by exclamations and discussions about the funky invertebrates and fungi we encounter along the path. As we walk, the forest thickens around us. The ground becomes...Read more >

My Research Buddy, the LI-COR 6400

June 9, 2014, by Kyle Boyd
What is a LI-COR 6400? The LI-COR 6400 (LI-6400) is a machine that allows budding scientists like me (pun intended) to study the exchange of gases between leaves and their environment. This high-tech machine allows us to learn a lot about how a plant functions. For instance, because carbon dioxide is consumed during photosynthesis, measuring the rate of carbon dioxide uptake by leaves with the LI-6400 is a good measure of the rate of photosynthesis occurring in those leaves. I am going to be using the LI-6400 almost every day for the rest of the summer, the LI-6400 will be my research buddy...Read more >

Creating A New England Forest Map

June 6, 2014, by Sofie McComb
Matthew Duveneck and Sofie McComb analyzing data in the scripting language R
The first week at Harvard Forest has passed and it already feels like I have been here for a month. There is always so much going on and so many things happening that time just flies by. Orientation was a two day whirlwind and finally on day three all the students got to meet their mentors and get to work. I am working over the summer with my mentor Matthew Duveneck, who is a post doc working with Dr. Jonathan Thompson, who is my advising professor. The project I am working on with them is the creation of a map of the New England Forest based on satellite image data, data collected by...Read more >

Debugging Ecological Research

June 6, 2014, by Luis Perez
Barbara Lerner, Luis Perez, Nikki Hoffler, and Emery Boose working
With ecology, as with an increasing number of other fields, "big data" has become an intrinsic aspect of scientific research. Ask most field scientists and, with a grunt of disapproval mixed with displeasure, you are likely to hear about all the programming and statistical analysis that has to be done to gain meaningful results. Consider t he inevitable sensor drift that occurs and the recalibration that must take place to restore validity to the data; or, imagine a flash flood, lighting strike, or simple technical failure that can lead to incorrect or unavailable sensor readings. As larger...Read more >

Initial Impressions of the Summer Ahead

June 3, 2014, by Alison Ochs
Alison Ochs standing above the canopy on the Hemlock Tower
When I first arrived at Harvard Forest, I saw green. The woods were beautiful, the trails stunning, and all I could tell was that the forest around me was unlike anything I was used to. What I didn’t see initially were the dying trees, the falling needles, and the slow decline of a once healthy hemlock forest. Yes, the maples were fine, the pines booming, even some chestnuts starting to sprout, but the hemlock was fading away. This loss and its accompanying effects on the forest ecosystem are what I am here to study. The hemlock woolly adelgid is an invasive insect that attaches to the base...Read more >

The 2014 Summer Program in Ecology has begun!

May 29, 2014, by Grace Barber
The 2014 Summer Research Students and their Mentors
The Harvard Forest was livened this week as 22 undergraduate students began the 11-week Summer Program in Ecology. These students will contribute skills, knowledge and hard work as they collaborate with scientists and professionals on projects ranging from improving the tools researchers use to document the steps in their statistical analyses to examining how climate change may indirectly affect carbon cycling by influencing the behavior of invertebrate predators. Through this experience, the students will build new friendships and knowledge and have the opportunity to refine, or redefine,...Read more >

Spotlight on Summer Students

February 14, 2014, by Clarisse Hart
Every winter, we stop to recognize recent Summer Research Program students for the incredible strides they have made using their summer data. Many students co-authored papers in 2013-2014 with their summer mentors: Jennie Sirota (REU '12) and mentors Aaron Ellison and Ben Baiser made a splash in the news with their paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences : " Organic-matter loading determines regime shifts and alternative states in an aquatic ecosystem " Lindsay Day (REU student '11 and proctor '12) was lead author for a paper in Quaternary Research with mentor Wyatt Oswald...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

August 6, 2013
Brady Hardiman Summer Research Program '03 Mentor: Julian Hadley Project: Photosynthetic rates of Betula lenta : Effects on canopy carbon storage rates in a changing environment College and major: Ashland, Ohio Biology/Chemistry-2003 What you miss most about the Summer Research program : Hanging out with my REU cohort. They were a really fun and diverse group. I learned a lot from them and have enjoyed staying in touch. Also, the food was excellent. What you miss least about the program : Shared bathrooms and mosquitos. What about the program has stuck with you : The training in following a...Read more >

Students' summer in pictures

August 6, 2013
Congratulations Summer Research Program Students of 2013! This group conducted great research, withstood equipment malfunctions and other "that's research" delays admirably, and finally presented well-crafted presentations with poise at the 21st annual Student Research Symposium. They left this past weekend, some on Friday August 2 and some on Saturday August 3, with a phenomenal toolbox to draw from during later research experiences and academic forays. In addition to having great minds and work ethics, these students have huge hearts and adventurous spirits. Even during periods of...Read more >

You down with DDG?

August 2, 2013, by Shaylyn Adams
Shaylyn Adams and Vasco Carinhas
"Ooh you're working at the Harvard Forest, that's cool, right?! You get to swing from trees, work on your tan, get some exercise and play with chipmunks, right?!" Well, actually, wrong (and I'm sure most field work is not that glorious). Instead of building tree forts and befriending Bambi, my job at the Harvard Forest takes place pretty much completely inside (and with the deer flies this season, that's the way I like it). Not that I don't sweat; it gets fairly hot inside the Shaler building dining hall where there is no central AC. Nevertheless, rain or shine you can always find me and my...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

August 1, 2013
Moussa Bakari Summer Research Program '11 Mentor : Jim Tang Project:  Soil Carbon Dynamics at Harvard Forest College and major: Lincoln University, Environmental Science and GIS. 2010. What you miss most about the Summer Research program : I miss the interaction with the mentors on a very casual basis. While some of the seminars were long, it was good to be able to have a one on one discussion with the presenters. There were a great opportunities, all around. What you miss least about the program : When in the field, it is always a good idea to have back-up power for your equipment. What...Read more >

Wool-wearing villains

July 31, 2013, by Justin Vendettuoli
Justin Vendettuoli
Clashing, crashing, smashing--the once hearty hemlock heaves its now crippled form to the forest floor. What brings this mighty tree to its knees? Was it the axe man, his barrel chest booming with each thunderous blow? Was it the furious gusts of a gale going through the eastern hemlock stand, singing songs of sorrow? NAY!!! The culprit creeps covertly along unsuspecting branches, before driving deep its dark feeder into the base of a hemlock needle: an invasive insect, a vile villain, the herald of misfortune for hemlocks all along the eastern lands. They drain the vigor from their victims...Read more >

A thousand little blank puzzle pieces

July 30, 2013, by Lake Boddicker
One of the aerial tram's sensors.
For the past two months I have been working on building an aerial tram with my two great teammates Devin Carroll and Faith Neff. This consisted of me sitting in front of a computer, occasionally graced by the presence of a sensor and motor, wondering why nothing was working. I think that I have gotten more of a tan from the computer screen than the actual sun. As I so found out, however, things did work, just slowly. But bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece things came together like a thousand little blank puzzle pieces. The first piece of the puzzle that started to work was the data logger. This was...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

July 29, 2013
Brynne Simmons Summer Research Program '06 Mentor: Audrey Barker-Plotkin Project: Where Seedlings and Saplings Prefer to Grow College and major: Johnson C. Smith University, majored in biology and minored in chemistry, 2007 What you miss most about the Summer Research program:  I miss going into the forest with Audrey and collecting data. I also miss the people I worked with and their mentors. What you miss least about the program: Living next to cows. What about the program has stuck with you:  I enjoyed the research I did and how friendly the staff were. I was a picky eater and when the...Read more >

Exit the matrix

July 26, 2013, by Vasco A. Carinhas
There is life outside the Matrix. We, as computer scientists, sometimes tend to forget that. However, Harvard Forest makes sure we are reminded on a daily basis. Besides our trampling through the fascinating virtual world that is created through coding, we are thrust into the world that already surrounds us as part of our summer internship experience. One of our duties includes exploring the field in order to collect the saved data from the six hydrological stations distributed along the brooks and swamps in the vicinities of Prospect Hill. So, weekly, armed with a palm-pilot, a data sheet,...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

July 24, 2013
Linn Jennings Summer Research Program '11 Mentors: Kristina Stinson and Sydne Record Project: A Demographic Study of Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Ragweed) Across a Rural to Urban Gradient in Massachusetts Hometown: Santa Barbara, California College and major: Mount Holyoke College, Environmental Studies, 2012 What you miss most about the Summer Research program :  I enjoyed spending lots of time outdoors and doing field research with other students. I also really loved living in Fisher house with all of my housemates! What you miss least about the program :  Nothing. What about the program has...Read more >

Did plants get that climate change memo?

July 22, 2013, by Guillermo Terrazas
Guillermo Terrazas
I open my sleepy eyes; it is 5 am and my hand cannot make it to the alarm clock before the voices in my head start telling me that it is too early to wake up. I take a deep breath, put my feet on the cold floor and get ready. I stare out the window trying not to fall asleep as I wait for my ride. I see lights coming down the road and head downstairs pretending I am a ninja, trying not to wake the other residents. Fast forward 3 hours. I am sitting in front of my computer thinking about how great my morning workout went. And how juicy and delicious were those blueberries and pineapple chunks...Read more >

Your mind has just been BLOWN!

July 19, 2013, by Johanna Recalde Quishpe
Rebecca Walker, Johanna Recalde Quishpe, and Justine Kaseman
I think we can all agree that the moment when you learn a new fact that has you rethinking your entire life is one of the best feelings. Am I right or am I right? Well, this summer I was fortunate enough to spend 11 weeks with the smartest and most interesting group of kids (not really kids, but not really adults either) in the middle of a beautiful forest. Here's a recount of some of the new things we've learned: 1. Daddy long legs are not spiders! What? Everything I know about life has been a lie! Daddy longlegs are arachnids, but they're not spiders. Instead they are called harvestmen. 2...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

July 18, 2013
Lawren Sack Summer Research Program Project: Posion Ivy Hometown: Western Mass What about the program has stuck with you:  The REU program was the first place where I had the opportunity to design, from the beginning, my own scientific experiments. These skills have certainly stuck with me. Did your Summer Research experience support or change your school/career plans:  No. It definitely supported my school and career plans, and played a key role in my sucessful application to graduate school. What are you up to now:  After completing my PhD at UC Berkeley in 2010, I was a California...Read more >

Bonded

July 17, 2013, by Leah Nothnagel
As we near the end of summer and everything is getting hectic and crazy; it's starting to feel surreal that in a few short weeks I'm going to be back home living my normal life. It's a bittersweet feeling; while I'm sure everyone here is like myself and misses their friends and family, the idea of us not all being together as a group is kind of heartbreaking. There is a bond formed with all the REU students, but there's more than that. There's a bond with the houses, with the research partners, with the roommates.... For people who were strangers only 8 weeks ago, who came from all over the...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

July 16, 2013
Roxanne Ardershiri
Roxanne Ardeshiri Summer Research Program '10 Mentor: Benjamin Baiser Project:  Community Ecology of "Sarracenia pupurea" Pitcher Plants College and major: UC Berkeley, Class of 2012 Molecular Environmental Biology B.S. What you miss most about the Summer Research program:  The forest itself, Tim's meals, assisting Aaron Ellison with his field work (trekking through Vermont bogs to find the elusive pitcher plant!), the cows, honing my canoeing skills and all of the social connections I made there. What you miss least about the program:  The tedious lab work. What about the program has...Read more >

Land use cartography 101

July 15, 2013, by George Andrews
George Andrews and Dave Kittredge
Polygons, polygons, and more polygons. These little and simple digital shapes may seem mundane, but to a geographer they contain a plethora of information when you place them on a map. I've been spending my summer creating these polygons, and have slowly turned into a budding cartographer. At first glance, spending nearly an entire summer nestled deep within the Harvard Forest seemed like a daunting task, especially for a guy who has never lived away from home or has held any sort of research position. Luckily however, my time at the Forest has been an amazing and fulfilling experience, and...Read more >

The smell of the future

July 12, 2013, by Angus R. Chen
Justine Kaseman and Angus Chen
Justine handles the Li-COR. We walk up a forest road, all dust and shallow braids cut by decades of rain. Clouds are marshaling in the west, promising of another of these torrents that are so frequent and so sudden in these parts. The Li-COR stretching Justine's arms to the earth is what we might call hydrophobic, a piece of electronic equipment worth its weight in newborn babies. We freeze on the path to examine undiscovered forest treasures: a shimmering garnet mica-schist, a gem-studded puffball, or a new butterfly that Justine drops everything to stalk – or at least blunder after with a...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

July 11, 2013
Sarah Pears Boswell
Sarah Pears Boswell Summer Research Program '02 Mentors: Steve Wofsy; David Bryant; Lucy Hutyra Project: Stand Response to Inundation Hometown: Pennsylvania College and major: Dickinson College, Environmental Science 2004 What you miss most about the Summer Research program:  The collection of researchers- so many interesting people and cool projects in one place! I also miss running on the HF roads and trails. What you miss least about the program: The inherent drama of a large house full of college students. What about the program has stuck with you: I really learned how to do field-based...Read more >

Global warming in a plastic bucket

July 10, 2013, by Justine Kaseman
The elusive red backed salamander.
This summer at Harvard Forest, I am researching the top down effects of vertebrates on the ecosystem. We are using warming chambers which are about 10 feet in diameter and are heated up from 0 degrees to 5.5 degrees celcius over ambient temperature. For our experiment, we have created 3 mesocosms, which are like tiny environments in five gallon buckets. Each mesocosm has leaves, a rock, and some treatment. The treatments are as follows: Soil Soil and invertebrates Soils, invertebrates, and a salamander The soil includes the first trophic in the ecosystem: microbes. The inverts are the second...Read more >

This internship is painfully funny

July 8, 2013, by Lowell Chamberlain
Lowell Chamberlain
My summer internship at Harvard Forest has been SUPER DUPER interesting. I started this summer with a personal goal: to develop a better understanding of how science is practiced. Simple right? NO, Wrong wrong wrong! This objective has led me through funny, painful, and stressful events that so far have constructed an outrageous collage of wild summer experiences! The funny is important and sometimes hard to fully grasp. Getting rained on and soaked down to the bone for three weeks straight will build you character and zap every bit of energy out of your body. These miserable weeks of...Read more >

Alumni profile: Where are you now?

July 5, 2013
Amy Churchill
Amy Churchill Summer Research Program '07 Mentor: Missy Holbrook Project: Consequences of Fertile/Sterile Leaf Dimorphism in Ferns Hometown: Auburn, ME  College and major: Stonehill College in Environmental Studies and Biology, 2008  What you miss most about the Summer Research program: I miss the feeling of being surrounded by other students learning at the same rate as myself, and being focused completely on our projects without teaching, grants or the outside world getting in the way.  What you miss least about the program: Pre-dawn water potential measurements!  What about the program...Read more >

Processing tree cores and other forest adventures

July 3, 2013, by Pat O'Hara
An increment borer used for tree coring.
When I was in the third grade our recess was cancelled because there was a rogue cow on our playground; in middle school, I learned of trail running as an escape from essentially anything; my high school years consisted of my friends and I drooling over pickup trucks and then eventually getting our own; and when I finally moved to school in Cambridge in the fall, my best friends, quite brashly (but playfully...), took pleasure in labeling me as some hillbilly who somehow slipped by admissions officers. Although this last part is far from reality, and I actually live in a typical Boston suburb...Read more >

Finding the hay in a needle stack

July 1, 2013, by Rebecca Walker
Blackberries
Picture yourself strolling through a pristine, forest wilderness. You might imagine yourself surrounded by towering oaks or ash trees with powerful trunks that could be centuries old, under a dense umbrella of endless, green canopy. In the emerald shade created by the curtain of leaves above you, the air is cool and filled with the chirping of birds that make themselves at home in the woods. You might imagine that, as a forest ecologist, my summer at the Harvard Forest is spent working somewhere like this. You would, however, be very incorrect. Monday through Friday, the majority of my time...Read more >

Where the edible wild plants are

June 28, 2013, by Mónica M. Allende Quirós
Monica Allende Quiros smells a Sarsparilla Root
My eyes automatically opened and, as my internal alarm clock rang, I reached for the desk near my bed to pick up my cellphone to check the time. 5:27 AM. I beat my alarm by three minutes. I considered going back to sleep. It is Sunday, June 23, 2013 and I have been at Harvard Forest for 36 days. This room is starting to feel like my room. So, you may ask yourselves, what am I doing up at 5:30 AM on a Sunday if I don't have to work? Today, we are going to a class about the edible wild plants of New England. After a quick breakfast, we drove for about two hours to Westport, Massachusetts, to...Read more >

The slugs are trap happy, but where are the rodents?

June 26, 2013, by Amy Balint
My research team!
The past few weeks have had one thing in common: line after line of empty traps. This summer, I'm studying rodents and other small mammals to find out what happens to them when eastern hemlock forests die off due to an invasive insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid. To determine which species are present and estimate their population sizes, fellow REU student James and I have been heading out to the forest in the evenings to set traps for them. The traps are Sherman live traps, which we bait with sunflower seeds and organic cotton wool. The next morning, our mentor Ally picks us up at 4:00...Read more >

3 lessons REU taught me

June 21, 2013, by Christine Pardo
Thumbs up for science!
When I made my way from Florida to Massachusetts this past May, I made the awesome realization that I was living in Peters-HAM and not Peter-SHAM. I had been saying that wrong since February. Since then, I have learned far more at Harvard Forest in just one month (besides the proper New England-style pronunciation of random small towns) than I can begin to explain. So I present to you three of the many lessons learned during my time here, which I hope provides some insight into the life and mind of an REU student researcher. 1. The Scientific Method may cause injuries. And no, I don’t just...Read more >

Quick! Identify this fern!

June 18, 2013, by Sophie Bandurski
Sophie Bandurski measuring a cinnamon fern in one of the plots using the Li-Cor
Walking into the forest, I never imagined it was comparable to a human body. There are processes occurring constantly that can be both seen and heard, such as birds singing in the trees or spiders spinning webs between the trees. And then there are the ones you cannot see or hear, such as photosynthesis and respiration. My job this summer is to take notice of some of these unseen activities in order to gain a better understanding of the understory, or the plants that sprinkle the forest floor, to assess how their presence affects northern latitude forests. I begin every day at 7.30 a.m. in...Read more >

Let's build a robot!

June 14, 2013, by Devin Carroll
Image courtesy of http://www.industryleadersmagazine.com
When people hear the word robot they probably think of something like the photo below, a humanoid machine that acts like a person, but is smarter and stronger in nearly every way; robots that are self-aware and may be preparing to rise up against their creators. The primary goal of the robots from the above picture is to help people. Everything they do, every action they take, is intended to make their caretaker's life easier. It's important to note, that in today's world, every robot we have built was designed with the intention to make someone's life easier and safer. Whether they are the...Read more >

An insider's view of the natural history museum

June 11, 2013, by Faith Neff
A fish
Down in the depths of the Natural History Museum we tread. Here in this tight room, alongside 1.4 million dried and jarred fish samples, we learn about the importance of sample databases. When someone discovers a new species, they first have to go to places like the Natural History Museum to make sure it has not been found already. Nowadays we also use DNA testing to make sure that the discovery is valid. Once it has been established that the species is something new, a specimen sample is kept at the museum in case there is any dispute later down the line. But that's not all the samples are...Read more >

Snapshots from a forest: Comparing 1937, 1992 and 2013

June 11, 2013, by Hannah Wiesner
Pat O'Hara measures this tree's DBH, or diameter at breast height.
Laying out two tape measures to create a 22.5m x 22.5m square, my first field exercise this summer took place not within the Harvard Forest’s 3,500 acres, but instead on the lawn behind a residential cabin. We were learning to use a compass to place a stake at the NE, NW, SE and SW corners of the square, which is much easier to do in a yard where the only obstacles between you and your partner are inch-long blades of grass and not trees several meters in height. Creating exact plots is necessary for our project because we aim to recreate the plots that were set-up in 1937 and 1992 in the...Read more >

Wandering alone in a forest

June 11, 2013, by Channing Press
Channing Press at work on the daily grind.
I understand why, for most people, wandering about all alone in a forest, measuring over 1000 pieces of dead wood might not seem like the ideal college summer break. However, just when I think I am going to die from inhaling too much bug spray for fear of Lyme-disease-ridden-ticks and pesky Mosquitos, a little orange newt will stumble quite charmingly, trying to climb on the log I am measuring or a bird will sing a special song to me and I will remember just how cool my job is. Suddenly, a smile will appear on my face and a feeling of overall peace and beauty will rush through my bones. My...Read more >

Boston's a pretty hot town, or at least the trees think so

June 10, 2013, by David Miller
David Miller
Once again, I find myself wondering why this slope is so steep. The curve shows the approximate date that autumn begins relative to distance from downtown Boston, and the results are mind-boggling. I look over to my research partner, Memo Terrazas, from the University of Texas at Austin. "Fall starts half a day later per kilometer into the city... that can't be right." This is incredible. It appears that parts of Boston have an extra whole month of summer compared to relatively "rural" areas, like Framingham, less than 40 km from the Boston Public Garden. Climate change is more local than you...Read more >

The water project

June 7, 2013, by James Lietner
I walk 20 steps to get a glass of clean, clear water. Not everyone is this lucky. Some people walk over 3 miles to get dirty water that is filled with diseases and harmful, heavy metals. During this long walk, women carry over 45lbs of water and risk being attacked by soldiers or wild animals. Mostly women or young children are responsible for obtaining this dirty water; as a result, children miss school and the opportunity for a proper education. I had a chance to Skype with a very excited 8 year old named Uzuri, which means beauty in Swahili. Her village is in Kowak, Tanzania. Her village...Read more >

What do we care about more? Biodiversity or old trees?

June 7, 2013, by James Leitner
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
I hear my alarm go off, 3:45am uhhhh. Time to get up and check the traps to see if we caught any rodents. My research project is seeing how the declines of the hemlock trees are affecting the amount of small rodent species like mice, shrews, voles, and flying squirrels. And yes, they are all adorable. Hemlock trees can grow more than one hundred feet tall and can live for hundreds of years. They provide homes for a lot of animals and insects, and are also a good food source for some animals that eat the leaves. Since they are so tall, they provide a lot of shade and make the area around them...Read more >

Time lapse photography goes underground

June 5, 2013, by Arline Gould
A close-up of our non-waterproof Minirhizotron
We rarely give much thought to what goes on beneath our feet. Even those of us who enjoy outdoor activities spend considerable amounts of money on shielding our soles from the earth upon which we walk. So much of what we know and experience pertains only to aboveground settings. Plants, on the other hand, derive much of their livelihood from the soil on which most of us are content merely to tread. This summer, I have the opportunity to alter common conceptions of forests, specifically the temperate forests I have grown up in and learned from throughout my entire life. With my mentor, Rose...Read more >

Trees on fire

June 4, 2013, by Dmitri Ilushin
Yeah, I'm the goof who messed up on crossing his arms.
Kenya? Been there. Japan? Seen that. Michigan highway I-96? Saw that last week. The best part is that I can do all this without leaving the comfort of my computer. My research at the forest involves trying to extract the day that leaves come out and when they fall off. The thing is, we don't really notice when the world gets just a bit hotter each year ourselves, but trees and other types of plants react pronouncedly to any subtle changes in average temperatures. I study these reactions by looking at pictures of trees over time from cameras located all around the world. In doing so, I try to...Read more >

Orientation: Science, homework, and friends! Oh my!

June 3, 2013, by Trynn Sylvester
Devin Carroll and Faith Neff in a hemlock canopy
"Twenty-four of twenty-six students settled into Harvard Forest on May 19 and 20. After a long Spring Semester, these dedicated and aspiring scientists are committing themselves to learn about lab safety, to memorize a new set of forest trails, to conduct research, to produce academic writing, and to deliver presentations for the next 11 weeks. Come July 31 and August 1, scientists and participants' families with gather to listen to each student present on his or her summer research at the annual Symposium..."Read more >

Spotlight on summer students

October 1, 2012
Just a few of the many accomplishments by Harvard Forest summer students past and present: Deepa Rao (REU '11) won the Christopher Goetze prize this year for best senior thesis in the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science department at MIT. Her thesis, a continuation of her Harvard Forest summer project, was advised by her summer mentor, Laura Meredith. She and Laura are working on publishing their results; in the meantime, they'll present this research at AGU's annual meeting this fall. Megan Bartlett (REU '09) and her mentor Andrew Richardson have published a new paper, "Variation in...Read more >

The blog of an ecologist dog

August 10, 2012, by Snickers
This summer, my mom takes me to work with her. She is a "research mentor," whatever that means. We go to Harvard Forest several times a week. I am very excited about going there because I am never alone. I usually stay by the table where my mom works and people come to pat me from time to time. When 12:00 pm comes, I start wagging my tail with excitement because I know it's time to go on a walk. I love walking through the forest. When I come back from the walk, I want to make friends with the cows in the pasture. However, Mom always gets upset when I get too close to them. After lunch, my...Read more >

Trees and bugs in computers

August 10, 2012, by Yujia Zhou
Scientists often rely on sensors to collect data. However, sensors can go wrong due to various surprising yet possible reasons. Have you ever thought, what you would do if you lost a couple of hours’ data because a lightning destroyed the sensor? Also, your sensor may freeze during winter time due to low temperature. Moreover, certain sensors require calibration every year because of inexorable sensor drift. As a result, raw data is usually not very reliable before some special processing, or “quality control.” This summer, I worked with Dr. Emery Boose and Prof. Barbara Lerner on quality...Read more >

Visualization tools for digital dataset derivation graphs

August 10, 2012, by Miruna Oprescu
If you were a scientist working with more than 10,000 new data points every week, how well would you be able to keep track of all the changes you made to the data to obtain the final results? Moreover, if you were to look at your research 5 to 10 years from now, how well would you or any other scientist be able to reproduce your results from the original data? This summer, I am working with Emery Boose, researcher at Harvard Forest, Barbara Lerner, professor of Computer Science at Mt. Holyoke College and Yujia Zhou, rising senior at Dikinson College, to develop effective tools for creating,...Read more >

Team ragweed

August 8, 2012, by Tiffany Carey and Courtney Maloney
One of the many signs of Spring is the United States’ report on pollen counts across the country. These pollen counts are essential, due to the 35 million Americans who get hay fever every year from pollen. In our project, we investigated whether allergenic pollen concentrations from three ecotypes of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) produce more pollen in response to rising CO2 concentrations. Our objective was to test for differences in pollen production by ecotypes from these climatically distinct parts of New England. In order to predict when and where pollen allergies are most...Read more >

K-12 phenology lessons for the phenocam project

August 6, 2012, by Katherine Bennett
Katie Bennett and students.
  In the fall of 2011, the Ashburnham- Westminster Regional School District became the first of five schools to join Dr. Andrew Richardson’s Phenocam Network with the installation of a digital phenocam on the roof of Overlook Middle School in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. As a part of the Phenocam project, students at the K-12 level have expanded the scope of phenological monitoring that is part of the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Program protocol, Buds, Leaves, and Global Warming. In this protocol, students work with Dr. John O’Keefe to monitor buds and leaves on schoolyard trees to...Read more >

MODIS satellite imagery as applied to phenological assessment, team BU

August 6, 2012, by Erin Frick and Jose Luis Rugelio
MODIS tile
Observations of vegetation phenology can be collected not only from ground-level field studies but also space borne remote sensing instruments. In particular, satellite images may be used to assess vegetative phenophase transition dates such as spring onset, maximum vegetation cover and senescence across regional scales. One approach to such assessment entails analysis of data from the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument. MODIS provides measurements of light reflectance that can be analyzed to estimate phenophase transition dates with respect to variation in land...Read more >

Near remote sensing to track changes in phenology in forests, team Harvard

August 6, 2012, by Dmitri Ilushin, Sascha Perry, and Hannah Skolnik
A representative photo from Kenya of a water buffalo at a watering hole.
This year, the Richardson Lab of Harvard University and the Friedl lab of Boston University set out to study climate change using two different methods, remote sensing and near remote sensing. This summer, the two teams predominantly focused on honing the methods already established by other scientists to study the changing climate as well as widen the subset of biomes and localities studied. Team Harvard is comprised of Dmitri Ilushin of Harvard University; Sascha Perry, Lincoln University in Missouri; and Hannah Skolnik of Columbia University. We are under the direction of the Richardson...Read more >

Part one of biotic change in hemlock forests - Moose, deer, and porcupines

August 1, 2012, by Andrew Moe
This summer, along with my mentor Ed Faison , a research associate at Harvard Forest and ecologist at Highstead Arboretum in Connecticut, I have been working on a project investigating the impacts of herbivory by moose, deer, and porcupine on regenerating forests. More specifically, we are interested in looking at regeneration within stands of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Here in New England, hemlock forests are under attack. The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an exotic insect already responsible for widespread mortality of hemlock throughout the Eastern U.S., has arrived in...Read more >

Part three of biotic change in hemlock forests - Ants and spiders

August 1, 2012, by Yvan Delgado de la Flor
Eastern hemlock is a foundation species in eastern North America and plays a critical role in the local biota. This tree deeply shades the soil, creating a unique microclimate for some species. Currently, hemlocks are dying rapidly due to the invasive woolly adelgid, a nonnative phloem-feeding insect, causing alterations to the understory microclimates. Hemlocks are being replaced slowly by hardwood forests. All of these changes affect the entire ecosystem and result in the local extinction of some arthropods; for example, some ants and spiders are very sensitive to changes in temperatures...Read more >

Part two of biotic change in hemlock forests - Rodents

August 1, 2012, by Elizabeth Kennett
3:40am my alarm goes off. I adorn my headlamp, throw on some field clothes, tuck my pants into my socks, and climb into my mentor Ally Degrassi's truck. We're going trapping. The afternoon before this we had been out to the Ridge block, one of our two. Each block consists of four hemlock forest treatments. The first two treatments are one plot that was logged out five years ago and is now full of young vegetation and the second is a plot in which the hemlocks within it have been girdled; killing the trees but leaving them standing, this was done to mimic the affect of the Wooly Adelgid, a...Read more >

Forest dynamics in former plantations

July 23, 2012, by Anne Cervas
This summer, I am working with my mentor, Audrey Barker Plotkin , to study former plantations at the Harvard Forest. We are working in the field to record the growth and changing vegetation dynamics as the former plantations grow back as native forest after a century of plantation forestry. We are also combining data from the Harvard Forest Archives to the data we collect in the field to study the growth and composition of the plantation forests compared to the native second-growth forest. Plantations were an important component of the Harvard Forest in the first fifty years after its...Read more >

Global warming and forest soil micro biomes

July 19, 2012, by Sonia Filipczak
Global Warming has become a topic under much debate, yet carrying implications that affect everyone. Whether you are young or old, plant, animal, or microbe, some of the obvious signs such as less snow in the winter and unbearably hot summers should remind us how much of an impact each individual has on our world. Among all of the individuals on this planet, soil microbes make up a large population and their response to climate change should be of concern. After all, there are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than people on Earth! Similar to us, microbial communities are affected by the...Read more >

The adventures of taco

July 16, 2012, by Candice Hilliard, Adalyn Naka, and Margaret Garcia
Our first task for our summer project was a giant scavenger hunt throughout the whole forest: find our 100 plots, where we were to take measurements throughout the summer. Armed with our Tacoma, also known as Taco, a GPS unit, a map, and three bug jackets, we began our search. Our plots consist of three short but wide pieces of PVC pipe, called collars, which are each marked by a flag. Here’s a shot of one of our plots—can you find the flags? The collars are where we measure carbon respiration of the soil. Using our lovely Li-Cor, we can get a reading of how much carbon dioxide the soil is...Read more >

Conservation awareness

July 11, 2012, by Laura Bartock and Emma Schnur
Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state, but it is also the eighth most forested with more than 60% of the commonwealth covered by woodland. Of all this vast forested land, private families own more than 75% of it. That means that the future of our forests is in the hands of families just like yours and mine. In order to understand how the forests may change in time, we need to understand how these families are making decisions about their woodlands. That’s why we’re here this summer. We’re working with Dave Kittredge of UMass Amherst on employing the fourth iteration of the...Read more >

Forest and atmosphere dynamics

July 9, 2012, by Alexander Kappel and Paul Quackenbush
Long-term scientific research estimates that northern mid-latitude forests, like the Harvard Forest, store nearly a quarter of the billions of tons of CO2 added to the atmosphere annually by fossil fuel burning ( http://www.lternet.edu/vignettes/hfr.html ). These forests provide an invaluable resource in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and slowing climate change. However, the mechanisms behind carbon sequestration in these forests require more investigation in order to begin to predict how these forests might continue to take in carbon over the coming years with...Read more >

Soil microbial respiration in a warming world

July 2, 2012, by Lauren Alteio
This summer, I am working with Jerry Melillo , Lindsay Scott, and members of the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory to analyze the activity of soil microbes in response to soil warming. We study the extremely dynamic microenvironments within the soil to understand how the health of forest ecosystems can be affected by global climate change. Soil plots at Prospect Hill have been heated for twenty-one years, meaning the project is older than me! Initially in the project, scientists saw that the amount of carbon dioxide released through microbial respiration was greater in the...Read more >

Global climate change with ants and slugs

June 25, 2012, by Matt Combs and Katie Davis
Ants with Matt Combs Melting wax, digging through sand, and orchestrating the spectacular deaths of entire colonies of ants - seems more fitting for a preschooler than an undergraduate student, working a full-time job. Yet somehow, fate has landed this college senior his dream job: spending the summer in a professional scientific setting while doing things even a little kid would find cool. I represent one-half of the Warm Ants team this summer, which is a long-term research project working to determine the effects of rising air temperatures on ant ecology. We take measurements every month...Read more >

Hemlock trees and their pests

June 25, 2012, by Julia Brokaw and Vincent Waquiu
We got out of the truck at one of our research sites and saw two older women painting a picture of the forested road in afternoon sunlight. It was a beautiful scene, but what the artists didn’t know was that they were surrounded by stressed, thinning, and sick hemlock trees infested with the Hemlock Woolley Adelgid (HWA), the invasive insect pest currently attacking Eastern Hemlock Trees. Hemlock trees are a ‘foundation species’ of forests. They are long-living, shade tolerant conifers that usually grow in groups or are assembled with other tree species. Hemlocks contribute to watershed...Read more >

Pitchers and their tipping points

June 18, 2012, by Jennie Sirota
My project for this summer studies the extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea . I am working with Aaron Ellison and Benjamin Baiser on a newly funded research project that studies the widespread issue of tipping points. Tipping points are the change from one state to another. These can occur in many different systems, such as in the atmosphere or even in the economy. While it is difficult to predict the changes, we study tipping points to attempt to prevent them from happening because it is energy and resource expensive to return from a change. To test tipping points, we...Read more >

Underground photography of root growth

June 13, 2012, by Samuel Knapp
I’m still shocked by the opportunity I have been given this summer. Being from the upper-Midwest, I was unsure what I would find when I arrived at the Harvard Forest. Much to my delight, the people of Massachusetts and Harvard Forest have been friendly and welcoming. The region is beautifully forested, and the surrounding communities live up to all the great things I’ve heard about New England culture (accents included). My research this summer at the Harvard Forest looks into the unseen world of roots, specifically the timing of their growth and decay. Trees allocate carbon to roots in the...Read more >

Butterflies and bumblebees

June 11, 2012, by Aubrie James and Kelsey McKenna
This summer, we’re studying animal movement with Dr. Elizabeth Crone and some of her “Cronies” (lab members and affiliates): post-doctoral fellow Greg Breed , Harvard OEB graduate student James Crall, and research intern Dash Donnelly. We’re looking at how anthropogenic landscape changes and resource availability affect population dynamics in two different organisms: bumblebees and butterflies. Since we’re both especially interested in morphological changes, we’ll sometimes stop fieldwork for a day and head out to the Concord Field Station in Bedford, MA where we’ll use high-speed cameras to...Read more >

Providing safe and clean water

June 4, 2012, by Tefiro Kituuka Serunjogi
This summer I will work with Dr. Betsy Colburn to advance a research project I started in high school. The objective of my original project was to investigate ways in which hygienic and clean water could be provided to the people of my local community back home in Uganda. My goal this summer is to build an implementable prototype of a filtration system and then test it for effectiveness, reliability and efficiency. Through my tests, I will look at how well the system purifies water, the life span of the system, and the logistics involved in maintaining the system. My filtration system...Read more >

What are you up to now?

May 30, 2012
Bennet Leon Summer Research Program '05 Mentors: Audrey Barker-Plotkin Project: Evolution of pit and mound microtopography 15 years after a simulated hurricane (abstract)  Hometown: Sudbury, MA College and major: Bates College, class of 2007, Geology What you miss most about the Summer Research program: Being around enthusiastic students with similar interests and spending all day in the hemlock forest or simulated hurricane experiment. What you miss least about the program: Having Lyme disease--check for ticks! What about the program has stuck with you: A better understanding of our...Read more >

Harvard Forest 2012 summer research program kicks off!

May 29, 2012
On May 21st, we welcomed 29 students to the Harvard Forest for our 2012 Summer Research Program. Our students were introduced to Petersham, Massachusetts after flying or driving into the Harvard Forest from all over the world. As one student from Uganda, studying at Grinnell College in Iowa, will work on economically friendly water sanitation techniques for the poor populations of Africa and a group of three from Cornell University, Brown University and Villanova University will study the soil carbon dynamics of the Harvard Forest, research at the forest this summer will be diverse and...Read more >

More summer research program alumni news

April 2, 2012
As we prepare for our 2012 crop of Summer Research students, congratulations are in order for a few program alumni: Israel Del Toro (REU '08), a graduate student at UMass-Amherst, has earned a Fulbright to study ants in Australia in 2012-2013. Maggie Wagner (REU '09) has earned an NSF GRFP fellowship to support her graduate work in conservation genetics at Duke University. Nick Povak (REU '02), Megan Manner and Donald Niebyl (both REU '04) have published a paper in Ecosphere with several Harvard Forest scientists on the density and distribution of the hemlock woolly adelgid.Read more >

Spotlight on summer students

January 17, 2012
Several of our recent Summer Research Program students have had their research featured in the news this year: Jakob (REU '11) via The New York Times! (pp3-4 + slideshow) Linn and Sofiya (REU '11) via Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts Alanna (REU '11) via San Juan College (p. 5) Tara (REU '11) via the U. of Massachusetts-Amherst Andrew (REU '11) via Ripon College in Wisconsin Sam (REU '11) via Middlebury College in Vermont Lindsay (REU '11) via Emerson College in Massachusetts Kevin (REU '11) via Notre Dame in Indiana Marcus (REU '11) via Clark U. in Massachusetts Kate (REU '11)...Read more >

Fine woody debris dynamics after an ice storm

August 23, 2011, by Jakob Lindaas
I used to walk through a forest, always looking up in wonder at the tall, sturdy trees and their vast canopies. But after this summer I have a newfound appreciation for what lies underneath these great sentries of the forest realm. Among the seasonal litterfall and the rotting remains of former protectors of peaceful succession, lay my study subjects. These are fallen soldiers of a war raged in December of 2008, between a mighty ice storm and the winter vigil kept by the mighty red oaks, their sidekick red maples, their hemlock allies, and their understory minions: beeches, yellow birches and...Read more >

Microbes in a warmer world

August 23, 2011, by Tara and Kelden
A major area of research here at Harvard Forest focuses on understanding the ecological changes within the forest due to a rapidly warming climate. These climate conditions are replicated at the forest using several experimentally warmed plots that are heated by resistance cables placed beneath the soil surface. In collaboration with the Marine Biological Labs (MBL), we attempted to understand microbial diversity and function within these manipulated plots, in order to investigate the roles of these microbes in the global carbon cycle in response to warming. This study was motivated by prior...Read more >

Ragweed in a changing climate

August 23, 2011, by Linn Jennings, Laura Hancock, and Samuel Safran
Ambrosia artemisiifolia , better known as common ragweed, is a leading cause of hay fever allergies. It grows in disturbed areas, like roadsides and abandoned fields. Increased atmospheric CO2 has been shown to increase the pollen production and growth of ragweed. Thus, with predicted changes in land use and climate, pollen production of common ragweed is likely to increase. Our team carried out three experiments – a presence/absence study, a demographic study, and greenhouse experiment – to collect data that will be used to develop maps of allergy risk under both current and future...Read more >

REU skydiving!

August 23, 2011, by Laura Hancock
After all the work and research is done, we definitely know how to have some fun! The last weekend of the program, three fellow REU students--Lindsay Day, Alanna Yazzie, Keke Mitchel, and I decided to do something extremely exciting and go skydiving! We've all wanted to try it, so to me it seemed like the perfect way to end the summer. About 20 minutes from Harvard Forest, in Orange, Massachusetts, is a top-notch skydiving facility, Jumptown . All of four of us decided to jump tandem, though you could go through a day of training and jump on your own. We exited the plane at 13,500 ft and...Read more >

Sampling the lyford grid

August 23, 2011, by Kate Eisen and Collette Yee
A permanent plot study provides an amazing opportunity for ecological research because it allows scientists to observe changes over ecological time. While many studies take place over a few field seasons at most because of funding or other limitations, permanent plot studies allow scientists to ask questions that only be answered over years or decades by providing a larger window into the dynamics of a site or population over time. For this reason, permanent plot studies are also essential to studying organisms like trees that grow slowly and often live for a long time. At 42 years old, the...Read more >

Urban ecology

August 23, 2011, by Ashley Golphin
Whereas most of the 2011 Harvard Forest REU group conducted research in rural forested areas, my research partner Stephan Bradley and I braved the streets of inner-city Boston to expand our understanding of how urban ecosystems function with regards to urban greening. Urban greening is the expansion and conservation of vegetated areas in cities through local stewardship practices. For this study we choose 7 urban green sites (community gardens and pocket parks) and paired them with 7 nearby non-green sites (abandoned lots) to explore how human use patterns, along with related measures of...Read more >

Water transport in trees

August 23, 2011, by Alena Tofte
Multitudes of tightly packed rings in an old, sturdy tree hide a secret – not only do they elucidate to a discerning viewer a historical record of how much the tree grew each year for the course of its life, but these rings also contain the remnants of its once-functional woody vascular tissue, the xylem. Xylem once threaded thin streams of water and vital nutrients throughout the growing tree’s roots, trunk and crown. Water transport in trees is a process ruled by a multitude of factors, including the porosity of the wood, the size of the vessels which comprise the vasculature, the species'...Read more >

"Warm ants"

August 3, 2011, by Natashia, Michael, and Kevin
The Warm Ants team is interested in examining the effects of climate change on ecosystem services, species interactions, and biodiversity. We are continuing monitoring of the open top heated chambers at the long term Warm Ants plot through monthly pitfall trapping, winkler sampling, vegetation surveys, and artificial nest investigation. Check out a video we made describing the experimental design of the heated chambers! Michael is studying the effects of climate change on ant-aphid mutualisms. He wants to see how species interactions will change under artificially warmed conditions. The Warm...Read more >

Climate change impacts on phenology and ecosystem processes of northeastern forests

August 3, 2011, by Bridget, Libby, Lakeitha, Rachel, and Isaac
Phenology is the study of changes in organisms due to the seasonal cycle. Phenological shifts in forest and other ecosystems, due to climate change, could have important impacts on carbon and nutrient cycling. Therefore, it is important to find easy and accurate ways of tracking phenology in numerous ecosystems over an extended period of time. The Harvard Forest has multiple digital cameras set up to take photos of the canopy. These cameras are part of a larger network of digital cameras known as the Phenocam network. Images from this network are used to evaluate changes in phenology based on...Read more >

Paleoecology lab

August 3, 2011, by Lindsay Day
This summer, I researched and contributed to the reconstruction of past ecosystems by working in the Paleoecology lab. Our main field research experience involved a lake-coring trip to Martha’s Vineyard. My mentor Wyatt, lab manager Elaine Doughty, Director of Harvard Forest David Foster and I loaded up the big green van with canoes and coring equipment and took the trip out to the Vineyard. Lake coring involves attaching a wooden board to two canoes and loading all sorts of tubes and poles into the constructed raft. The four of us rode the raft out to the deepest point in the lake and...Read more >

Summer winding down for student researchers but the fun isn't over just yet

July 28, 2011, by Moshe Roberts, Summer Proctor
As students wrap up their projects, polish their abstracts and start preparing their presentations for the annual symposium in August, they are still finding time for some exciting excursions to local cities, Boston and the coast. Students attended the midnight premier of the eighth and final Harry Potter movie on July 15, getting into the spirit by coming in costume! This summer has been one of the hottest yet, with many days topping 90 degrees, and students took the weekend as an opportunity to explore one of Massachusetts’ great State Parks on the coast at Plum Island. With salt marshes...Read more >

Interns explore boston

June 23, 2011, by Moshe Roberts, Summer Proctor
Throughout June, the interns have had the opportunity to explore their surroundings from the farmers markets and produce stands of Petersham to the local businesses at Taste of Amherst to the urban atmosphere of Boston. At Taste of Amherst, students were able to sample dishes from a variety of restaurants and eateries all gathered together in the beautiful town green for this annual food festival. While looking for farms to pick fresh strawberries, the students discovered Carter & Stevens Country Store, where fresh produce, wine and local products abound, along with a slew of farm animals...Read more >

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