You are here

Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

Printer-friendly version

Scratch and Sniff: A Lesson in Plant Identification

July 30, 2016, by Alice Linder
When I was quite young, my parents would page through picture books with me, pointing out the different animals in the illustrations. Once I noticed an animal or shape I’d seen before, I insisted (in the way only a 2-year-old can) that we look through all of the other books to find that same animal. As we found each appearance in turn, I excitedly shouted “Same! Same!” and started the cycle anew with the next animal I recognized. Fast forward to the summer of 2016, and the skills I honed as an annoyingly curious 2-year-old have proved quite useful. I’ve mainly been working out in the field...Read more >

Brutally Honest with Ants: "That’s not your color"

July 29, 2015, by Roxanne Hoorn
Integration of the arts into ecology research seems like an idea whose time has finally come. Unfortunately, nature doesn't seem eager to embrace this expressive movement in the form incorporated in my research: the painting of ants. Nevertheless, as part of our summer project, my research partner Cody Raiza and I would find a colony of our ant genus of choice and hunker down for a few hours of tedious ant-butt painting. Perhaps I should start by explaining why we painted the ants, or why we even care about ants at all. People don't seem to think much about ants and when we do, we're usually...Read more >

Ant-ticipating Change: As forests change, will ants?

July 21, 2015, by Tess McCabe
Aphaenogaster ant nest
Ants work hard. In fact, a single leafcutter colony can consume more than the average cow . But different ants work hard in different ways. Some will move seeds around, letting plants grow in new areas. Some will build vast underground tunnels that aerate the soil. Different kind of ants are useful. That's where I come in. I do two things. I figure out what ants we're working with, and I figure out what ants we will be working with. Here at Harvard Forest and at Black Rock Forest , I am looking at how the numbers and types of species of ant has changed over time, and how they will change. Our...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 >

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
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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 ( ). 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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

Discovering how hurricanes have affected New England forests

July 7, 2010, by Meredith Kueny and Lianna Lee
Lianna and I are working on the Simulated Hurricane Long Term Ecological Research project out on the Tom Swamp tract of the Harvard Forest. As a part of this project we are collecting another year's worth of data and information on how the original trees are fairing as well as documenting new canopy regeneration and understory dynamics. This summer specifically we’ve worked on recording the current status of the original trees, quantifying the amount of dead wood, mapping new trees that have grown to 5cm Dbh (diameter at breast height), analyzing leaf liter, and observing understory...Read more >

Fungal diversity in response to nitrogen deposition and soil warming

June 30, 2010, by Samuel Perez
Hello everyone, my name is Samuel Perez and I am working on microbial communities at Harvard Forest with Professor Anne Pringle from Harvard University. I am a rising senior majoring in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. This summer, I am working with decomposer fungi in the Chronic Nitrogen Plots and the Soil Warming Plots in Barre Woods. My project at the Harvard Forest is to study the effects of nitrogen deposition and soil warming on the species diversity of decomposer fungi. The process of decomposition is important because it allows nutrients sequestered in living organisms to return...Read more >