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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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Summer Students in the Spotlight

August 8, 2018, by Clarisse Hart
For many students, the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program doesn't end in August. Many continue to work with their mentors to complete a senior thesis, publish a paper in a scientific journal, or present at a scientific meeting. Some also have their work featured by their home news organizations.Read more >

Farm to Fun

July 25, 2018, by Jerilyn Jean M. Calaor
Committing to an 11 week scientific program – especially one that bears the prestigious name of Harvard – can be pretty intimating. However, you (prospective students) need not to worry. While it is true that the research may be challenging at times, the people you’ll meet and the adventures you’ll venture in your weeks at Harvard Forest make the battles with field work, data entry, R, and deadlines seem so small. Here, I share highlights of two summers in Harvard Forest's Summer Program for Ecology – from farm to fun.Read more >

Blue vs. Wild

July 24, 2018, by Nia Riggins
Blue vs. Wild is an upcoming comic book about a girl and her adventures at Harvard Forest. It is a tale of friendship, science, and a whole lot of other things too. She and her field partner explore the wilderness and make observations through measuring seedlings, harvesting trees, taking canopy photos, and collecting soil samples. The woods can be a scary but beautiful place. It’s full of spiders and mice, but also adorable creatures like bright orange newts and frogs. This story revolves around the forest but there are several scenery changes! The whole gang explores other landscapes like...Read more >

Hemlock Hospice Documentary - Work In Progress

July 24, 2018, by Faizal Westcott
As a visual creative working in a science research environment, I’ve come to find that there’s a lot to be said about the conjunction between art and science. Most people would say that they are polar opposites from each other and might never put two and two together (that’s probably why I haven’t understood half the things people have tried explaining to me here). But during my time here and while working on this film on the Hemlock Hospice trail, I’ve come to realize that science-minded individuals aren’t just about the data and numbers and that the idea that scientists and artists can’t...Read more >

Life at the Harvard Forest

July 24, 2018, by Grace Duah
Before spending the summer at Harvard Forest, I was not exposed to real scientists. Interning here this summer allowed me to both witness and learn from real life scientists; seeing their daily interaction with their research. Life at Harvard Forest is the right type of fast pace. Upon arrival I was nervous to be so far away from home for the first time but was soon welcomed by the warm faces of everyone. I personally thought of life at Harvard Forest as a trilogy consisting of research, logistics and food. All three components are drastically different, however not even one in my opinion is...Read more >

Sketches of New England Wildlife

July 20, 2018, by Annina Kennedy-Yoon
Part of my work this summer involves setting up camera traps to show the diversity of wildlife within the area. This is part of a larger project that intends to convey the presence of these animals within the region. Within the first month of the cameras being set up, we have captured animals that some people have never seen during their time living in the region. Animals like moose, bears, and coyotes are a few of the rarities, however, we do also capture raccoons, bobcats, foxes, beavers, otters, squirrels, and others on camera. I find that sketching aspects of nature is a good way for me...Read more >

L.I.F.E : Living In a Forest Ecosystem

July 19, 2018, by Kyle Wyche
It's 5am and the Sun rays are barely reaching over the horizon when you hear your mentor yell “IT’S A BEAR! GET TO THE CAR!!” . Now, research at the Harvard Forest can lead to some crazy experiences depending on what project you’re on, but don’t worry because if you don’t like bears, experiences like this one, which a fellow researcher of mine had, are quite rare. In fact, we have 2 weeks left and I haven’t seen a bear or a moose this entire time, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed. Research here can range from super-cooling trees, to computer science, to building a system for a tree to...Read more >

Fields of View

July 18, 2018, by Ruth van Kampen
The words of my lab instructor rattled around in my head on the first day of introductory biology lab—“If what you see doesn’t interest you, you’re not looking close enough.” Annoyed, I fiddled around with the stage location and the coarse focus knob of the microscope, convinced I wasn’t going to see anything in the gross pond water with which we had made slides. The depth of field was all wrong and my eyes hurt from staring intently at the slide, backlit by the bright light of the microscope. Suddenly, something moved in the far edges of the field of view. I used two stage knobs to quickly...Read more >

The Forest

July 18, 2018, by Joe Wonsil
Watch The Forest using the link below! Here is the link Description: The Forest is an American television sitcom that aired on HFBC from July 5, 2018, to July 5, 2018, lasting one episode. Not everyone at the Harvard Forest goes out into the field. To the field workers, it may seem like the indoor workers have it easy sitting in air conditioned rooms on their computers. The Forest takes a step into their lives to see if this is true.... Disclaimer: The actions in this video are not necessarily representative of what happens at Harvard Forest. The intent of the video is to show that while we...Read more >

Harvard Forest Field Guide: The Common Trees Found on Prospect Hill

July 13, 2018, by Meghan Slocombe
As a Harvard Forest REU student, I am outside taking measurements everyday. These measurements range from things like diameter at breast height (DBH), tree height, the distances between trees, leaf area index (LAI), and percent cover by different lichen species. However, this blog post does not explain how I did any of those, or even what those measurements mean, and that's because none of these measurements mean anything if I can't first identify the tree I am taking measurements on. (Although some of these measurements are really cool and if you're interested you should definitely make the...Read more >

The FUNstrations of Field Work

July 13, 2018, by Emory Ellis
Once you have finished designing your summer project, it may seem easy: collect samples, process those samples, input the data, interpret the data, and present your findings. Easy… right? Not so much. Timing is everything. How can you finish your project if there are not enough hours in the day? This summer I am researching how silica fluxes and concentrations differ between trees in dry and wet regions in the Harvard Forest over the growing season (aka the summer). Before I came to the Harvard Forest, I knew that research was a long process. It will take time to develop a research project,...Read more >

It’s Just a Name – Don’t Sweat It

July 10, 2018, by Seanne Clemente
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet (2.2.46–47) You’ve probably heard it before, haven’t you? This timeless quote from a timeless tragedy written by a timeless author. Perhaps you have a faint recollection of an English teacher from high school. Do you flash back to said teacher making sense of what exactly Juliet meant when she said this to Romeo from her balcony? Or maybe you were more tech-savvy than you were a good listener, and you instead remember a quick Google search and a redirect to’s ‘ Romeo and...Read more >

Fashion Forward Forest Style Guide

July 9, 2018, by Saloni Shah
Saloni is a rising Senior at Boston University studying Earth and Environmental Sciences.Read more >

Landscape Modeling and Horror Movies: A Great Way to Spend a Summer

July 6, 2018, by Evan Waldmann
My summer research project involves expanding upon the mechanistic model, LANDIS-II, that is intended to simulate forest growth over rather vast landscapes. With the use of the Thompson Lab’s Land Use Plus extension, I have been tasked with creating dynamic and reactive responses to fire occurring across the Klamath, a National Forest in Northern California. One of my first big efforts on the project, besides learning how to deal with ever temperamental model that is LANDIS, was to parameterize the study region. If you are unaware of what it means to parameterize a model, it is just a fancy...Read more >

The Keys to a Good Research Community

July 6, 2018, by J. Marcos Rodriguez
As an undergraduate researcher here at Harvard Forest my particular project involves sampling the smaller seedlings of the forest’s woody plants (trees and shrubs) within one of the station’s largest observational plots. In measuring these plants, my partner and I are working to not only provide a more complete picture of the distribution of woody plants, but also test unanswered questions in ecology. For me however, the actual “research project” is only half of what makes a good research program. In order to have a fulfilling program, it is also necessary to consider the community of people...Read more >

Things to Know About HF

July 4, 2018, by Monica Velasco
If you’re wondering what the experience in the Harvard Forest program is in regard to the research, then you’re in the wrong post. I’m here to talk about the important stuff: people, food, housing, and fun things to do when you’re not working. All 25 people in the program, plus the proctors, are incredible people. People came from all over the US and even Guam. Being the only person from California was a little tough at times because I couldn’t just go home on the weekends like others did. Still, I felt like I fit in really well. It was also pretty cool sharing and learning different cultures...Read more >

A Day as a Harvard REU Student

July 3, 2018, by Shreena Pyakurel
It is 7:00 AM on a Friday and I wake up as I remember that it is Friday, or as Jerilyn, one of my research partners, says Chai Day! Friday is a special day because it starts with enjoying Tim’s amazing hot breakfast with chai. I think almost everyone makes it to Friday breakfast even if they do not make it to other days, and everyone is generally in high spirits as we plan our weekend trips while enjoying delicious food. Fast forward to 9:00 AM and now it is time to start our workday. This summer I am working with my mentor Martha Hoopes, and my amazing research partners on the Harvard Farm...Read more >

Under Pressure

July 3, 2018, by Katja Diaz-Granados
It’s hard to fathom the idea of negative pressures. Pressure is always a force added, something pushing against and weighing down. What a tree does to move water goes completely against both gravity and our sense of what pressure can do. Thanks to a few simple properties, like the fact that water molecules stick to each other and that trees lose a lot of water, trees don’t maintain an active circulatory system like ours, but instead use a gradient of negative pressures to drive evaporating water from leaves and replenish it with a continuous chain of water molecules pulled up from the soil...Read more >


June 29, 2018, by Brooklynn Davis
tldr: Harvard Forest REU has the perfect setup (no worries about housing, food, or having fun, they provide it all!) to give its students a true research experience, and experience is the most effective teacher. So I just finished my first semester as a declared environmental science major. Before that I was pre-med (we all go through that phase, right?), and before that I was lifeguarding to pay my way through enjoying high school. Needless to say, other than a class called ​Intro to Environmental E​ngineering, coming into this REU program I had pretty much zero experience in ecology, plant...Read more >

Tree Mortality Project

June 29, 2018, by Laura Puckett
When I tell people that I am studying forest ecology, they probably assume that I am studying the living organisms in forests. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This summer, I am focused on dead trees. This is because we want to develop a better understanding of the rate of tree mortality and causes of tree mortality here. Trees are an important store of carbon, and tree mortality adds considerable variability to forest carbon dynamics. By sampling recently dead trees, we hope to develop a better understanding of how tree mortality is affecting carbon storage in the forest. The area of forest...Read more >

Ants and Trees - A Blog-Cast

June 27, 2018, by Maggie Anderson
Listen to the podcast with the link below! Maggie is a rising Senior at Lawrence University studying Biology.Read more >

Some of what goes unnoticed: A glimpse underground

June 27, 2018, by Eva Paradiso
When you first walk into the Harvard Forest during the prime summer days you might notice the large patch of poison ivy filling the forest floor, the countless tree trunks creating a maze throughout the forest, or the green leaves obscuring the sky. If you listen closely, you will hear the sounds of the forest: birds calling, chipmunks, squirrels, mosquitoes buzzing all too loudly in your ear, or the sound of caterpillar poop falling from the sky. The smell of crisp air filled with an earthy aroma calms the soul. On a hot day an occasional breeze cools the body. The forest tickles the senses...Read more >

What does a forest look like in 2318?

June 25, 2018, by Max Ferlauto
Somehow your body gets frozen for three hundred years. Maybe you fell through a lake in the middle of winter and froze solid, maybe Darth Vader threw you in carbonite, maybe you were forgotten in a cryogenic chamber. In any case, you are revived three hundred years later and wake up in a hospital. After the nurses perform their tests and you’ve overcome the shock that, instead of having to use the restroom, waste is automatically teleported into a customizable receptacle, you’re allowed a fifteen minute walk through the hospital. A news feed displays on the floor as you step on the rubbery...Read more >

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

June 22, 2018, by Emilio Arias
I grew up in Miami, surrounded by a vibrant tropical landscape... Then I moved to Atlanta for school and fell in love with the city and the nature... And now I'm in Massachusetts excited to explore its forests! Field work began rather quickly but we found ways to lighten up the day. Our first weekend we visted Tully Lake and got to swim next to a waterfall! The following weekend we took a road trip to Cape Cod and had a blast on the beach! We've visited Boston a couple of times and it's an amazing city with so much to see and do. We continue our field work every day, striving toward...Read more >

Blog…Cast! (A Harvard Forest Podcast)

June 20, 2018, by Kyra Hoerr
Listen by clicking the image below! Kyra is a rising Junior at Bryn Mawr College studying Philosophy.Read more >

Coding Explained in Three Comics

June 20, 2018, by Orenna Brand
This summer, I’m working on the Data Provenance in R project. It is essentially a programming job. And, unfortunately, frustration is a part of the job of software engineering. But, comedy is born out of frustration, and so here we are. My experience thus far can be best described with these three comics: 1. It’s important to practice good style. 2. Programming can be a lonely endeavour sometimes. 3. Joe (my project partner) and I are the resident IT people because we ~sort of~ know how to program in R. R is not the best software development language out there (it was made for statistical...Read more >

The Forest--Spooky Stories for Prospective Students

June 18, 2018, by Jon Hamilton
7:45. Night descending. Mosquitoes coming out. Trees tossing shade. Not an ideal time for a run, but I began it anyways. Out I went, venturing from Shaler Hall toward the Hemlock Hospice, a mile into the Forest. Slowly, light faded. I turned left, heading into the Hospice, hoping to cut through to the road on the other side. Fun fact for those who don’t know: even on bright days, hemlocks create an extremely dark understory. Looking left and right, it was like a scene from a horror movie. There was even a bit of fog rolling in, generating the perfect aesthetic—just not the one I was going for...Read more >

What’s Out There?: A Small Yet Large Study of Harvard Forest

August 2, 2017
This summer I am working under Sydne Record and John Grady’s project on seedling dynamics. I chose this internship to get more of a feel for the ecological field that I was introduced to a few years ago, and to continue research in Sydne’s lab at my home institution. The aim of my project is to understand seedling population dynamics, with respect to abundance and growth rates, within Harvard Forest’s 35 hectre megaplot. Colleen (my research partner) and I have randomly set up fifty 1 m 2 pvc plots across the megaplot, and have located, tagged and measured the height of all stems that have a...Read more >

From the Zen Garden to the Zen Forest

August 1, 2017, by Salua Rivero
Art installation - Salua Rivero
There was only one place, my secret place, on my campus in which I felt happy and free; the Zen Garden. It was the only green space on campus, a tiny square hidden by trees and only one picnic table to sit on. That was where I went to read, to write poetry, to meditate, to be alone and to think. After a while, I realized that I only felt happy while I was there, since I spent most of my day in class or working. I went there every morning before class, during lunch and during every break I had. I knew my heart yearned to be outdoors and that was as close to being outdoors as I could get in...Read more >

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 >

Attack of the Invasive Species: Garlic Mustard and Exotic Earthworms Affect Plant Diversity

July 26, 2017, by Karina Martinez
Treating Plot
Imagine easy-on-the-ears bluegrass melodies, an occasional summertime thunderstorm, a mama bear on the side of the road with her cubs, illuminating fireflies within the grasses at night, and vivid green forest scenery. This is a summer to remember for an Angelino city girl. These experiences come from living at Harvard Forest, and traveling within Massachusetts and New York with my mentors Mercedes Harris and Erin Coates, two master students from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. All the sites that I have traveled to are characteristically similar second-growth forests that are...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 >

Cooking With a Laptop?

July 18, 2017, by Jen Johnson
Visual representation of flow
How are data analysis and the collection of provenance like cooking? Data analysis is based on datasets, like those collected in the field and laboratory. Datasets are the basis for the rest of the analysis and represent the raw ingredients of a meal. Next, analyses are performed on these datasets. There is a wide variety of possible analyses to perform, comparable to the multitude of ways to clean, slice, and flavor even the most basic combinations of ingredients. But have you ever tried to make a dish with only a list of the ingredients? While stews and smoothies may work out, many dishes...Read more >

White Oak Regeneration, Is It a Crisis or Not?

July 17, 2017, by Nicholas Patel
Boring Tree at the Mohawk Trail State Forest
Scientists and foresters have documented and monitored the increasing mortality of oak trees in the United States for over the past century. This decline has become a high-profile issue because oaks account for one third of our nation’s hardwood saw timber volume, most of which is coming from eastern states. Of the 20 commercially valuable oak species, white oak is the most important in the United States’ timber market. White oak is a slow-growing species with a territory ranging from northern Florida to southern New England. One part of this decline is that many forest ecologists and...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 >

Where did that data come from, anyway?

July 13, 2017, by Connor Gregorich-Trevor
Imagine that you've found an interesting piece of research, but you feel that it left certain questions unanswered. So you decide to start your own project based on this research. But when you go to begin, you find out that the authors gave almost no information about how they obtained their data. You don't know what kind of programs they used, what analyses they ran, or even what tools they used to collect the data. Because you have no way of knowing this, you will be unable to replicate their experiment, and you will be left unable to complete your project. One of the most frustrating parts...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 >

A Piece of Home Where the Cows Roam

July 6, 2017, by Jerilyn Jean M. Calaor
Marking the coordinates on Harvard Farm
“Welcome to Boston,” a voice over the airplane intercom announced. Already 7,955 miles away from home, I still had an hour-long car ride ahead of me. I fought through heavy eyes as the city skyscrapers blurred into towering trees. Finally, we turned onto a dirt road, and the 22 hours of travel to Petersham came to an end. Stepping out of the car into the cold night, it was clear I had left the warm summer breeze, sandy beaches, and vibrant blue ocean of Guam behind. Soon after, we visited where I would be spending most of my working day – the Harvard Farm. As I took in the sea of green...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 >

Moo-ve Over Forest! It’s Time to Make Roam for the Grasslands

June 30, 2017, by Alina Smithe
Cows in Field
Imagine a sea of green grass swaying in the wind, sprawling mountains in the distance, cows browsing at their leisure. This is probably not the view that comes to mind when you picture Harvard Forest. But here at the Harvard Farm, an abandoned golf course on the outskirts of the forest that is now maintained as agricultural grassland, ecological research extends beyond the trees. Though forests gather the attention of most conservation efforts in New England, grasslands also offer vital but fleeting ecosystems. Most grasslands originated from the clearing of forest for agricultural purposes,...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 >

Life on the Edge

August 1, 2016, by Ian Smith
Despite being conducted in rural Petersham, Massachusetts, the inspiration for my summer research project comes from patterns observed in urban environments. We live in a growing world in which cities are expanding, both in terms of population and geography. As cities sprawl outwards, forested regions, such as New England, are converted into fragmented landscapes where the forest is interrupted by human land use. Replacing forests with something else can have significant impacts on the carbon cycle as forests play a key role in removing and storing atmospheric carbon. However, the data that I...Read more >

The Great Coarse Woody Adventure

July 31, 2016, by Rebecca Sparks
Amid the rolling hills and towering trees of Petersham, Massachusetts, this summer I’ve had the opportunity to research carbon storage dynamics in Harvard Forest. At a time when humans are releasing unprecedented levels of carbon into the atmosphere, a comprehensive understanding of carbon dynamics is more important than ever. While many consequences of this change are known, there is still uncertainty regarding ecosystems’ response to climate change. We need to understand how ecosystems handle carbon now so that we can predict how those dynamics might change as we alter the composition of...Read more >

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 >

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 >

Dealing with (Computer) Bugs in the Forest

July 28, 2016, by Moe Pwint Phyu
Imagine you are a scientist with amazing data sets trying to make a groundbreaking discovery. But first, you need to replicate the way that an earlier scientist analyzed data sets for you to contextualize the experiment. And you painstakingly replicate every step of the whole analysis, but then you run into bug after bug in your code. You finally figure out that you missed a crucial step in the data manipulations leading up to the statistical tests—because the earlier scientist forgot to mention it in their methods. My mentors, Barbara Lerner and Emery Boose, try to tackle this problem by...Read more >

The Invasion of Garlic Mustard Plants: The Aliens of Nature

July 27, 2016, by Sydney-Alyce Bourget
Gray slimy skin, large head, and dark piercing black eyes are some features that compose the classic science fiction alien. In typical science fiction fashion, these aliens come from outer space and invade the Earth. Their superior technology and intellect provide them with a competitive advantage over the human race allowing them to monopolize Earth’s precious resources, while annihilating its inhabitants from existence. Although an alien invasion has not occurred in real life, the concept of foreign organisms invading an area is not limited to the world of science fiction. In fact, these...Read more >

Knowing the Dirt on Soil Microbial Respiration

July 26, 2016, by Rebeca Bonilla
I’ve been avoiding this for so long. No matter how cool I think this project is and no matter how much I love experimenting on these tiny organisms, I keep it hidden from her. She has no idea what I’m doing. I know that she'll find out eventually, but for now I've been keeping it hushed up. She knows I’m in the boonies doing scientific research for Harvard Forest under the mentorship of Lauren Alteio and Jeffrey Blanchard, but she doesn’t know I’m working on the effects of climate change on microbial communities in the soil. Sure, it sounds super science-y and complicated, but once I explain...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 >

How do I love thee, soil? Let me count thy roots!

July 22, 2016, by Sarah Goldsmith
The next time you find yourself in a hemlock forest, take moment to notice what is around you. Take your gaze skyward to the thick and verdant canopy or downwards to the dim and dappled light that dances in playful patterns across the thick layer of needles carpeting the forest floor. Close your eyes and listen for the myriad of birds and insects that call this forest home or take a deep breath and inhale the rich and distinctive smell of the forest-- the light scent of newly grown needles highlighting the deeper earthy smell of the soil. It is perhaps one of my favorite scenes to come across...Read more >

Field Experiments: The Struggle is Real

July 20, 2016, by Alex Salinas
One of the first things that struck me on my way to Harvard Forest from the Boston airport was the vivid scenery. Coming from the heart of Texas, I couldn’t believe all the lush forests and lakes that surrounded me. It was all so surreal that it took me a few hours to convince myself I was actually here. What I was excited for most was the fact that for the next 11 weeks I would get to spend almost every day outside in this beautiful scenery doing field research! Little did I know at the time, however, Mother Nature was not going to let my research proceed as smoothly as I was expecting. One...Read more >

Data is Eating Ecology: How We Make Sense of It

July 19, 2016, by Siqing "Alex" Liu
Marc Andreessen famously proclaimed that “software is eating the world,” and to me, data is certainly eating up ecology. Andreessen meant that software is fundamentally changing how companies and economies work, and that the incumbents will be taken over by software companies. Though not a direct analogy, data is changing ecology by impacting every stage of the scientific enterprise, from hypothesis formation to conclusion. This explosion of data comes from multiple sources, from the proliferation of cheap sensors to the better detail and scope of satellite coverage. This flood of data has...Read more >

Tree Rings, Disturbance, and Life under the Scope

July 12, 2016, by Melinda Paduani of the Disturbance Dynamics Duo
Consider the major events that you have experienced throughout your life. Some people keep mementos and souvenirs to remember the places they have been to or take photos to look back at what they saw; others only have their memories. Trees, on the other hand, “write their stories” in their rings. The patterns that they form serve as a visual history of extreme weather, insect infestations, growth cycles, and many other details that are revealed upon closer inspection. I will admit to being the type of person who believed that science was confined to carefully outlined experimental methods 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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

From the Ground Up: What’s Going On With Young Hemlocks?

June 28, 2016, by Molly Wieringa
The first thing I would have anyone know about me is that I’m in love with the color green—the green of leaves and grasses and the edge of the sunset. It’s a color with a thousand shades and tints, a color that dances with light and seems strangely alien in any setting but the natural one. Luckily, there’s a lot of green in the woods, so for me a summer at the Harvard Forest falls somewhere on the spectrum between ‘this is just too cool to be real’ and ‘I get to spend the whole day outside?!?’ Fortunately, it is real, and I do get to spend about half my days out among the trees, investigating...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 >

What Has Transpired Here? Automating Sap Flow Measurements to Track Forest Health

June 23, 2016, by Alex Widstrand
One of the most direct ways to track forest health is through water content – and in a forest, water is everywhere , from the soil, to the trunks, to the leaves and even the air. Tree sap itself is comprised of at least 90% water. But when water is everywhere, measuring it reliably gets tricky. Since most of the water in a tree will flow through the trunk at some point, measuring a tree’s sap flow is a good way to estimate how much water there is – and, therefore, how healthy the tree is. In one day, a single large tree is capable of drawing up to 100 gallons of water from the soil. One...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 >

Drawing Conclusions: The Art of Forests over Time

June 14, 2016, by Anna Guerrero
Think of your favorite tree. Is it a sprawling red oak, dominating the landscape? Perhaps it is an elegant quaking aspen, shaking in the summer breeze. Can you tell me how old it is? Can you tell me the history of the surrounding trees and the land? Can you say how it will look in 10 years? 50 years? 250 years? Difficult as it may seem, there are researchers here at the Harvard Forest asking these very questions, and the answers are never as straightforward as you’d think. Hurricanes, disease, insects, farming, frosts, drought, logging, tornadoes, and other types of disturbance shape and...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 >

Some Genes Like It Hot

August 3, 2015, by Josia DeChiara
Biology is a 3D puzzle; an infinitely large logic game with the universe, made up of numerous rings, bars, and strings inexplicably intertwined. A scientist attempts to make sense of these knots, looking for patterns in the pathways. This summer, I have been trying to trace these connections in strings of DNA in hopes of uncovering the story of soil life after decades of experimentally-induced warming. In October of 2011, soil cores were taken from each of the three soil warming experiments at the Harvard Forest and immediately immersed in a bath of ethanol and dry ice. This precious, mad-...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 >

Ecological Tipping Points and Warning Signs

July 30, 2015, by Nathan Justice
It takes a very special kind of person to be an ecologist. They must be tenacious, inquisitive, and most importantly, they must demonstrate unyielding optimism. A common goal amongst ecological scientists is to better understand the world around us, and to capitalize on this knowledge in order to facilitate Nature's narrative with minimal human interruption. Ecology, along with sibling-branches like conservation biology, wildlife biology, and forestry, have a tendency to feel like an uphill battle in pursuit of this goal. Despite the appearance of ecological processes progressing at a...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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

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 >

Katrina and the Hurricane: Telling a story with dead wood

July 3, 2015, by Katrina Fernald
Harvard Forest is a place with history. Our home for the summer was originally built in the 1700's, on our second day, we visited a 400-year-old black gum tree, and the bowls in our kitchen probably date from the end of the Stone Age. Harvard has owned this patch of forest in Petersham, Massachusetts since 1907, and the amount of research and data that has accumulated since then is immense. I first began to understand the importance of this impressive history on two field days last week to Pisgah State Park in Winchester, New Hampshire. An average day here at the Forest for me most often...Read more >

Bienvenue à la Forêt Harvard

June 26, 2015, by Harry Stone
"You're bringing leaves and stem samples across the border?" the CPB (Customs and Border Patrol) Agent asks quizzically at our car. How to respond in a short answer? "For ecological research" was the meek reply we settled on, and with a grunt the agent pulled us aside for further questioning. This interaction occurred yesterday on my return trip from the University of Montreal Laurentides field station in Saint-Hippolyte about an hour and a half north of Montreal. For some further background information, I had spend the last week in Quebec collecting samples from roughly 160 individual plants...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 >


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 >