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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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Climate Change Characters

July 11, 2016, by Karina Agbisit
Think of the most negative and dismissive response to the question of whether climate change is happening. Some things that come to mind are probably yelling, denying, references to private property rights, and bashing left-leaning politicians. Now think of the most positive and affirmative response to the same question—dedication to reducing reliance on fossil fuels, references to scientific studies, and encouraging elected officials to take action now. These two very different set of views on climate make up the ends of a spectrum of American beliefs on climate. The study Climate Change in...Read more >

I Dream of Gmail

July 11, 2016, by Kate Rawson
Dreaming of email, surveys, and spreadsheets.
Which tool is the most important for ecological research? A. Plant identification sheet B. Soil corer C. Microscope D. Map and Compass E. Statistical analysis software What if I told you that the correct answer was F: none of the above and that really, the most important thing for ecological research was a properly functioning email account? Would you believe me? While this may not be true for every project (ecological research is a wide field with a large variety of techniques used to investigate hypotheses) it is certainly true for the project that I am working on this summer. This summer,...Read more >

Grazing Our Problems Away: How Cows Can Put New England’s Conservation Issues Out to Pasture

July 6, 2016, by Anna Mayrand
Looking at New England’s forests today, it’s almost hard to believe that at one point, most of the land was open fields. In the 1880’s, land was cleared out by settlers to make fields for grazing and farming. The land has since recovered from its deforestation with 80% of the land now being dominated by forest. However, this gives rise to a new problem: the loss of open fields to growing forests. But wait, how can reforestation be a bad thing? Why not let the landscape return to its original state? Turns out in all the time these open fields were maintained, ecosystems adapted and new fauna...Read more >

How to roll your R’s like a scientist! / Aprendiendo la R científica

August 2, 2015, by Mayra Rodríguez-González
[The English version of this post is followed by a Spanish version, also written by Mayra.] In a world where both natural and human driven disturbances have caused an array of changes in the landscape, we would expect that land-use and land-cover change could become either an asset or a threat to our environment. Here at the Harvard Forest the landscape simulation crew has joined forces to predict land-use change effects on the ecosystem and its services. These services are benefits obtained from ecosystems that provide people with necessities such as fresh water, food and fuel. Understanding...Read more >

Balancing Conservation and Agriculture at the Farm

July 8, 2015, by Brittany Cavazos
This summer, my project is a bit different than most of the other students’ here. While the general idea of conservation is about saving the forest, my project involves protecting open areas, like pastures – or, in this case, an old golf course of the Petersham Country Club. The thing is, most of Massachusetts has been reforested over the last century or so and with it, the decline of species that are only present around forest edges or open areas. Additionally, there is the ever present need for pastures for agriculture. So the idea for my project centers on if we can conserve these open...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 >

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 >

REUs ace summer symposium!

August 12, 2010, by Aleta Wiley
In the final week of the Summer Research Program in Ecology for Undergraduates at Harvard Forest, all 33 students participated in the Student Symposium on August 11-12 in the Fisher Museum. Over a day and a half, all the students presented 15 minute talks to an audience comprising program mentors, university professors, Harvard Forest researchers, family members, and of course, their fellow students. As each student discussed his/her summer research, the audience was impressed with the diversity of projects presented ( Abstracts are available here ). Since Harvard Forest is an LTER (Long Term...Read more >

Vegetation sampling in wildlands and woodlands

August 9, 2010, by Maddy Case and Joe Horn
We have spent most of the summer traveling across New England to do field work at sites in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. At each site, we have been establishing permanent vegetation sampling plots for a long-term study comparing forest dynamics in managed and unmanaged forests. We carry 2-foot pieces of steel pipe into the woods (3 lbs per pipe x 3 plots x 4 pipes per plot + 10 lbs for other gear = Wicked heavy), use them to mark the corners of 20x20 meter plots, and survey these plots for herb-layer species, saplings, trees, evidence of historical disturbance, and environmental...Read more >

Tracking moose and deer

July 26, 2010, by Carlyn Perovich and Mickey Drott
We have spent the summer happily crawling around in the forest, bruising ourselves under mountain laurel in pursuit of the holy Grail of our project, moose poop. We are studying the impact of deer and moose browsing on the regeneration of forests, specifically looking at hemlock and oak seedlings. This research is particularly important since the number of white tailed deer continues to increase, and moose recently reappeared in Massachusetts after being extirpated since the mid-19th century. All the same, you don't have to be very knowledgeable about forest life to know that moose don't fit...Read more >

Woodpeckers and tree care

June 24, 2010, by Autumn Alexandra Amici and Anthony Rivera
The overall goal of this project is to understand the effects of tree care practices on habitat for cavity nesting birds, primarily woodpeckers. Most cavity nesting birds seek out dead snags for creating a nest. As cavity excavators, these birds provide habitat elements for a suite of species and are therefore important for biodiversity. While the dead snags that are important for these cavity-nesting birds may go unnoticed in a preserved area, they can be hazardous in towns and cities. By assessing the prevalence of cavity nesting birds in snags throughout an urban to wild land gradient, we...Read more >

"It's the network" - How personal connections shape land use decisions

June 21, 2010, by Megan Jones and Kristen Schipper
Megan Jones and Kristen Schipper
In the social science lab, conveniently located above the kitchen, we are working on the "It's the Network" project. Our goal is to assess - by means of a survey - how personal connections shape decisions about private forest use. We're interested in who people talk to (neighbors, foresters, loggers, friends, etc.), what they talk about (harvesting, conservation easement, selling their land, etc.) and the various levels of involvement and helpfulness of different types of people. We will be mailing our survey to 500 Vermont landowners in Windham County, and 500 New Hampshire landowners in...Read more >

Community ecology of "sarracenia pupurea" pitcher plants

June 15, 2010, by Roxanne Ardeshiri
Pitcher Plant
My name is Roxanne Ardeshiri , I'm an undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley, and I'm studying the community ecology of Sarracenia pupurea Pitcher Plants with Benjamin Baiser at the Harvard Forest. Because Pitcher Plants are essentially microecosystems, we are studying their community ecology to ultimately create model food webs for these systems.We will be measuring decomposition of prey (an ant) as a means of measuring the functionality of the system. This experiment will be conducted in the greenhouse, but all of the species we are using will have been collected from...Read more >