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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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Isn't that Neat?!

July 29, 2016, by Nathan Stephansky
The only constant is change, so I’ve heard. Therefore, life is not about changing the future to attain some desirable outcome, which can be difficult, perhaps impossible, in our ever-changing world. Rather, life is about understanding the present to predict the future to guide us through the unknown. With the changing climate, predicting how ecosystems around the world will respond to increases in temperature, atmospheric carbon, and more unpredictable weather patterns is essential in preparing for our future. With predicted increases of drought in New England, my team at Harvard Forest is...Read more >

Ecology Technology: Where Computer Science and Climate Change Collide

July 7, 2016, by Lauren Ebels
In a time when unpredictable weather events like droughts and floods are on the rise and water is thought to be “the next oil” of the world, understanding water reserves in forests is extremely relevant. Our project at Harvard Forest focuses on transpiration—the process of water movement through plants—and strategies for effective long term observation of overall forest health. While there are a variety of creative methods for gathering information on transpiration and forest health, most of them are implemented on a tree-to-tree basis, or are tedious at the very best. Our project develops...Read more >

Some Important Small Things

July 27, 2015, by Julia Fisher
Mass extinction. Climate Change. Drought. Buzzwords that the media has been shouting out to the world with dire predictions of impending doom. Words that seem too large and far away to fit into our daily lives. My study at the Harvard Forest aims to shed light on all of these things, beginning at a scale too small to see without the aid of a microscope. Since I was a little girl, I have stood in the woods and listened to the trees whisper to each other, branches gently swaying and leaves trembling in the breeze. Now I imagine that I hear water, flowing water, water traveling up from the earth...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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

Using computer science at Harvard Forest to increase integrity of scientific conclusions

August 3, 2010, by Sofiya Taskova and Morgan Vigil
This summer, we have had the privilege of working with Dr. Emery Boose and Dr. Barbara Lerner on a project involving a mash up of ecology and technology. For the past few weeks, we have been inundated with the buzzwords "data provenance", "sensor network", "Process Derivation Graphs", "Data Derivation Graphs", "stream discharge", and "weirs". Our headquarters is located in the Shaler Common room (where we do most of our programming and computer work), but we do make a weekly trip out to the six hydrology sites in the forest to collect manual and logged data as well as water samples and...Read more >

Studying tree hydraulics and electronics on the ground and in the canopy

July 2, 2010, by Lisa Chen and Sarah Fouzia Choudhury
We are studying tree hydraulics; specifically, we’re measuring sap flow in trees to understand at a fundamental level how trees get water from their roots to their canopy. A large component of this project is to understand the methodology used to assess sap flow, which includes the granier and the pulse system. Furthermore, we are also interested in evaluating the effectiveness of the method and the best way to calibrate the data. We are currently collecting and analyzing the data that is coming in from the granier and the pulse system that we have installed. There is some de-bugging we have...Read more >