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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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Kuzushi: The gentle art of balance

July 27, 2017, by Corey Carter
Corey at Tram
The forest is like a living organism, it breathes and expels water much like we breathe air. This process of evapotranspiration is… I’m sorry I can’t do this, every blog post, every year talks about the same thing, in a slightly different way. I’m going to talk to about something that has helped me during some dark times and it may help you during these last trying weeks of Harvard REU. It is called Kuzushi! I know many of you are cocking your head to the side and looking at me like a confused cocker spaniel. Don’t worry, that’s normal; I reacted the same way when my Judo master Thomas Crane...Read more >

Can Manganese Help Save the World from Climate Change? Let’s Find Out!

July 21, 2017, by Sarah Pardi
Sarah performing pyrophosphate mineral extractions. Photo by Alex Gamble
Each morning after I eat breakfast with my fellow researchers/friends, I make my daily commute to University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It’s a beautiful 45 minute drive along windy roads through dense forest and quaint rural towns. Upon arrival at Paige Lab, I get to work on the soil samples I’ve collected from our plot back at Harvard Forest. My research this summer, under the mentorship of Marco Keiluweit and Morris Jones, focuses on the role of manganese on forest floor litter decomposition through a soil moisture gradient. What most people don’t realize is that soil releases three times...Read more >

When Phenology Meets Technology

July 21, 2017, by Jolene Saldivar
Phenology is the biological response to the changing seasons. Day length, temperature, precipitation, and other factors drive leaf-out and leaf fall in trees. In order to avoid undergoing damage by putting their leaves out too early as winter transitions to spring, trees require a particular amount of sunlight each day before leaves can emerge. Similarly, when the hours of daylight begin to decrease with the onset of fall, trees withdrawal nutrients from their leaves, drop them and become dormant for the winter. Understanding phenology is important because climate change has already brought,...Read more >

The Smallest of the Small, a Step into the Unknown

July 13, 2017, by Colleen Smith
canopy photo taken with the hemispherical camera
7:00 am Snooze 7:10 am Snooze 7:30 am Wake up, pull on cargo pants, lace up boots 8:10 am Breakfast 9:00 am Walk onward into the lair of the mosquitos with my net on and trustee meter stick in hand This is more or less how I’ve begun each of my days here at Harvard Forest. I have a schedule, I know what I have to get done, and I do it (gladly). I never in my life imagined that I would end up here, and when I got here I could have never imagined what I would spend my summer doing. I was initially hired on to study soil microbiology, but in a strange and fortuitous turn of events I ended up...Read more >

There’s More to the Soil Than You Think

July 12, 2017, by States Labrum
Chloroform addition to measure microbial biomass. Photo by Aaron Aguila
From Spring Hill, Tennessee to Petersham, Massachusetts, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be here at Harvard Forest. I have learned so much in the short time that I have been here. There are so many outdoor activities to do around the area and there is always something fun going on. All the REU students stay together in the Fisher House and we all get along. It is interesting to get to know everyone’s unique background. So, you may be wondering what am I doing coming from Tennessee to be at the Harvard Forest. Working alongside with my mentors Jerry Melillo, William Werner, and...Read more >

Trust Me, I’m an Engineer… in the Forest.

July 12, 2017, by Valentin Degtyarev
Tram starting to move
When you think of someone who is in the field of Computer Engineering, you picture someone who sits indoors in their little cubicle, working with a computer all day. Even when you Google search a computer engineer, you are only shown pictures of geeks like me working indoors, sticking their hands in the complicated wiring of a computer system. That’s more or less what I expected to be doing with the rest of my life when I made the decision to take this career path. Next thing I know, I get hired to do research for Harvard Forest where I will be applying my skills on some sort of project...Read more >

Everyone’s trying to avoid ticks here this summer, I’m trying to find them

July 9, 2017, by Aaron Aguila
Aaron taking samples
When most people think of infectious diseases they think of the common cold, the flu, diseases that we give to each other. Some of the world’s worst outbreaks, however, happened when people moved into uninhabited places or made changes to those local habitats. This summer I have been researching how the makeup of a forest after it has been harvested for trees is related to the risk of exposure of disease, specifically Lyme’s disease. Between my mentors, my peers, and myself, we are collecting enormous amounts of data on the forest structure for a post-harvest carbon dynamics and forest...Read more >

Asking the hard questions… about extreme events and tree response

July 7, 2017, by Caitlin Keady
Caitlin showing off core
Who remembers last year’s drought? Well, the trees sure do. Imagine the beginning of spring, when leaves are starting to return and wildflowers are blooming. Then picture a sudden overnight frost. All those plants and trees that were kicking off their growing season likely went into shock and halted growth. Even though the frost only lasted one night, it may have lasting effects throughout the growing season. Pretty grim, I know. Extreme events such as drought and late spring frosts can cause disturbances among tree populations, resulting in abnormally narrow or wide rings, where each ring...Read more >

Novel Methods, let’s have a party in the Harvard Forest!

July 5, 2017, by Johnny Buck
Harvard Forest Barn Tower
Don’t you just love the emergence of plants in the spring or the changes in leaf coloring of trees in the fall? I’ve always admired the beauty and complexity of these events growing up. If you really pay attention to nature, you notice the first and last signs of insects at certain times of year, and when the migration of birds and animals happens. Do you notice the time of year your favorite fish are active and not active? These events are called phenologic events and the study of these events is called phenology. Phenology looks at the life cycles of the natural world and how they are...Read more >

Let’s C About Carbon Capture

June 29, 2017, by Molly Leavens
Measuring in Transect
Climate change is happening and it is stressing me out. Humans are releasing exorbitant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and simultaneously cutting down forests, a mechanism that re-captures this carbon dioxide. This imbalance is making the world HOT and unleashing innumerable global ecological, financial, and health consequences. The story of climate change is increasingly well told, but we have struggled to combat this trend because our need to reduce our carbon consumption is at odds with our need to power our energy intensive life styles...Read more >

Improving Forest Change Modeling, One Parameter at a Time

August 2, 2016, by Patrick McKenzie
Alongside uncertainty about the stability of future climate conditions comes uncertainty about future landscapes: Where will our forests be in 200 years? Forest landscape models have been designed to address this. Forest landscape models take small-scale ecological phenomena and apply them across large spatial and/or temporal scales. LANDIS-II (“LANdscape DIsturbance and Succession”) is a forest landscape model that consists of a core program with several extensions that are downloaded separately and can be individually activated to simulate various ecological processes. Together with its...Read more >

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 >

Blowing Bubbles for the Sake of Science

July 22, 2016, by Kate Anstreicher
Preview Haiku: (You will understand it by the end of my blog post!) Air-Seeding Threshold: pressure bomb, micropipette… darn. Open vessel. You may see a trend in our 2016 blog post introductions: most students at the Harvard Forest this summer are studying the impact of climate change on the New England forest system. But as you have likely also noticed, our projects diverge from there in a multitude of ways. Some budding scientists collect jars of soil or tree cores. Others work inside with computers, people, or even paint. Regardless of material, we manage to use science, communication and...Read more >

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 >

Coding the Future (of Ants)

July 8, 2016, by Anna Calderon
What if you could see into the future? Perhaps you are interested in knowing where your favorite animal or plant may be located fifty or one hundred years from now. It might be difficult to imagine what the world would look like, but species distribution models attempt to do just that. A species distribution model (SDM) is a method used to produce maps that attempt to predict where a species might occur in the future based on environmental factors that govern its current location. SDMs are powerful tools which have a wide range of applications: for conservation purposes, to predict where...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 >

Change is Underfoot

June 27, 2016, by Megan Wilcots
With all the talk of climate change and increased CO 2 emissions wreaking havoc on the globe’s ecosystems, you might think that all the carbon we’re emitting is going straight into the atmosphere, condemning us to a sticky, sweaty future. But, in fact, the global climate has a secret, and it’s beneath your feet. Global soils contain more carbon than what is stored in the atmosphere and plants, and they play an important role in the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. With warming and precipitation expected to increase in many parts of the world, soils’ response to these new...Read more >

Soil Science: Sifting, Sampling, and CO2

June 22, 2016, by Katie Polik
When most people think of greenhouse gases they think of smoke stacks, car exhaust, and fossil fuels. These all lead to more carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) entering the atmosphere, driving climate change. But there’s another source of CO 2 doesn’t come to mind quite as readily, and it’s right beneath your feet: soil. Soil isn’t all bad news. As plants grow, they store carbon from the atmosphere. Their fallen branches and leaves decompose, moving that carbon into the soil. In fact, soils end up storing the most organic carbon in the terrestrial ecosystem. This carbon eventually cycles back into the...Read more >

East Coast Dreamin’: Six or Eight Legs at a Time

August 4, 2015, by Cody Raiza
Arriving to Harvard Forest from drought stricken California, I could have never imagined a place with so much water and lush green vegetation; precipitation so thick that the trees "rain" for hours after warm summer showers, rivers hugging every winding country road, and lakes bursting at the seams. New England is a magical place where no one must consider turning their fluffy turf grass yard into a succulent garden or rockscape in response to the west coast drought. Looking out a car window across a sprawling valley, one tries to comprehend how many hundreds of metric tons these trees occupy...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 >

Getting to the Bottom of Paleoecology

July 24, 2015, by Megan Shadley
This summer I have been inducted into a prestigious group on the Harvard Forest grounds known as Club Paleo. The lucky few of us that work in the paleoecology lab attempt to decode climate and forest ecology conditions from thousands of years ago in order to infer how changes in the past could help predict how climate will change in the future. This research is conducted by gathering quantitative data from sediment cores extracted from lakes and ponds throughout New England. With my mentor Wyatt Oswald and researcher Elaine Doughty, this summer I have helped with the extraction of two new...Read more >

Fun in a Warming Forest

July 23, 2015, by Alana Thurston
Let's play a word association game: Climate change. Rising waters, acidifying oceans, species migration and extinction, extreme weather, and an ever-warming climate. Yes, all of these things and more. And while these are all of global concern, how about the impacts of climate change on a smaller, more regional level? Here at Harvard Forest, we're asking exactly that. Currently, Harvard Forest has three soil warming experiments running, each of which has cables installed under the soil to warm the plots 5 degrees Celsius above ambient temperature in an attempt to measure how a warmer climate...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 >

No Such Thing As Too Much Garlic? Think Again!

July 6, 2015, by Natalie Gonzalez
One of the first things my driver told me on my way to Harvard Forest from the Boston airport was that Massachusetts was in the middle of a drought. Now I thought this was odd because, looking out of my window, I saw lakes sitting on both sides of the road. Being from California I expected a slightly different view of the city when the word "drought" was used. For the rest of the summer I would experience large amounts of cold rain, humidity, thunderstorms, high temperatures, and frizz....sometimes all in the same day (except for the frizz, that's become an everyday problem). "They call this...Read more >

Seeing Forrest through the Trees

June 24, 2015, by Forrest Lewis
Forrest Lewis and Evan Goldman at Harvard Forest
I've heard a lot of puns, jokes, and quips since starting my research internship at the Harvard Forest last month. But I guess when your parents name you after a bohemian misspelling of a New England biome, you get what you deserve. So whether it was destiny, free will, or "Popular Baby Names 1995" that brought me here, I've come to love my time at the Harvard Forest. To rewind a bit, the Harvard Forest (spelled with only one 'r') is actually what it sounds like—a forest, owned by Harvard University, with trees, plants, moose, and everything else characteristic of the Massachusetts wilderness...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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

"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 >

Soil carbon dynamics and its controls at Harvard Forest

June 9, 2011, by Moussa Bakari, Julianna Brunini, and Leticia Delgado
Like plants and animals, soils “breathe.” That is, the microbes and roots found in dirt release carbon dioxide as they respire, and then the CO2 diffuses its way into the atmosphere. Our project focuses on the rate of this diffusion, or the CO2 flux, because we hope to better understand processes that affect the storage and release of CO2 in soils. Whether the net flux is positive or negative will greatly impact future climate change, so understanding soil carbon dynamics is an integral part of understanding climate change. Interestingly, the amount of carbon found in soils is double that in...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 models to project how climate change might affect oak species distribution

August 10, 2010, by Elisabete (Baker) Vail
Imagine if crystal balls which allowed us to catch a glimpse of the future, actually existed? What would you use them to see? Well, in a way – they do exist. In the abstract world of math and computers, “models” are fed datasets of current day information and asked to project future outcomes. Ecologists use them to forecast how current events will shape our future planet. This is what I have spent my summer, attempting to do. My project attempts to project the possible affects that increasing climate change may have on oak species distribution. Focusing on 27 oak species, located across the...Read more >

Using GIS to model how climate change and land use will affect the abundance of common ragweed

July 30, 2010, by Israel Marquez
The big picture of the project I am working in is to model how climate change and difference in land use will affect the allergenic potency of Artemisia artemissifolia , better known as common ragweed. This is the first year of a four-year study, so creating a database that will work for the rest of the project is indispensable. I am working on developing part of a geodatabase containing a myriad of GIS shape files, from “all roads” layers to layers containing parcel owner information and population densities. Using GIS, my team has created a layer that combines three different land cover...Read more >

Soil warming and hardwoods

July 27, 2010, by Sarah Gray
Here at the Harvard Forest, I am working on the effects of soil warming on various hardwoods. There has already been an experiment to test the effects of global warming on soil. The 20-year-long experiment found that with increased soil temperatures there was an increase in microbial activity. This increase in microbial activity led to more usable nitrogen in the system. Nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in tree growth; with more nitrate and ammonium availability, trees can continue to grow. Ammonium can easily be made into many amino acids, proteins, which the tree can use. However, nitrate...Read more >

The effects of large-scale deforestation

July 16, 2010, by Crystal Garcia and Angie Marshall
We are working in the clearcut up on Prospect Hill near the fire tower. Previously, this area was a spruce plantation, but 2 years ago, it was deforested and timber was harvested. This area is now used as a research site to highlight the effects of large-scale deforestation efforts. A flux-tower was set up in the middle of the area to help capture the carbon, water, and energy fluxed between the land and the air. The data we are collecting will be used to put the flux tower measurements into context to better understand the effects of climate variability on carbon sequestration and release...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 >

Luna moths on the nightshift

June 14, 2010, by Adam Clark and Margaurete Romero
Luna Moth
The Warm Ants project consists of many mini projects taking place within the chambers. One of these projects is a 24-hour baiting, which means that we must observe which ants are attracted to tuna baits set out in the different temperature chambers for all hours of the day, on the hour. Two of us – Margaurete and Adam – took the night shift from 10pm to 6am, and encountered an unexpected visitor. While waiting near the shed to continue the data collecting, a large insect flew right into us, startling the stillness of the night. As it landed, we were so surprised to see a large Luna moth...Read more >

“What these numbers actually mean”

June 11, 2010, by Aleta Wiley: REU Summer Proctor
Maya, Joanna, and Claudia using a Portable Photosynthesis System.
Yesterday, I tagged along with three students working on a collaborative project who were out, collecting data in the field, for the first time this summer without their research mentors. It is amazing how much they all have learned in less than two weeks here at Harvard Forest! For their project, they are studying changes in soil respiration under varying scenarios. Yesterday, they were working in the "dirt plots" – a series of 21 plots (each about 10 x 10 ft) in the Tom Swamp Tract of the Forest. The plots had been subjected to different treatments; for example, some had all of the detritus...Read more >

The warm ants group

June 10, 2010, by Adam Clark, Erik Oberg, and Margaurete Romero
Margaurete collecting butterflies.
In their third week, the Warm Ants Triumvirate has dived into both the long term "Warm Ants" project and individual projects with a burning desire to elucidate the effects of climate change on ants. Each member is responsible for helping with the long term "Warm Ants" experiment which involves a monthly 24 hour baiting study and monthly pitfall trapping. In addition, each is responsible for his or her individual project involving ant nests, mutualism, and thermal tolerance. Daily tasks have varied from spending time in the lab identifying ants, sorting pitfall collections from previous months...Read more >