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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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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 >

Seminar: Good scientific presentation skills

July 29, 2010, by Aleta Wiley
Two weeks from now, all 33 summer REU students will be speaking in a two-day Symposium at Harvard Forest. They will have 15 minutes to discuss their research projects from this summer. For some, this will be their first public presentation. In preparation for their talks, David Orwig, Senior Ecologist at Harvard Forest, gave a seminar Tuesday night, “How to Give a Good Scientific Presentation”. Orwig discussed how the framework for a scientific presentation should parallel the structure for a scientific paper by including sections on objectives, methods, results, discussion, and conclusions...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 >

Tracking moose and deer

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

Helping the wood turtles and learning about passion: REU students participate in annual service and career day

July 20, 2010, by Aleta Wiley
Last week, all 33 REU students got to take a day off from their regular research projects in order to participate in Service and Career Day, an annual event held each summer for the Program. For 4 hours in the morning, the students worked for The Trustees of Reservations (TToR) , a land trust established in 1891. On the Brooks Woodland Preserve, just a few miles from Harvard Forest, TToR is restoring habitat to be suitable for wood turtles, a threatened species. The turtles need to be able to travel between a small creek in the woods and a newly-created opening in the forest where they will...Read more >

Linking phenology to ecosystem processes in forests of the northeast

July 19, 2010, by Andrea Garcia, Adam Young, and Cory Teshera-Sterne
We are working with Dr. Andrew Richardson and two of his postdocs, Koen Hufkins and Oliver Sonnentag, to investigate ways of monitoring and measuring the phenology (recurring life cycle events, such as flowering, spring green-up or senescence) of North American forests using webcams and digital imaging. This project is highly analytical and employs the use of computer programming languages such as R and MatLab. These programs let us process thousands of images so we can isolate ideal conditions in which to measure the vegetation indices for a given day or season. There are a multitude of...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 >

Whale-watching success! A beautiful day in Gloucester, MA

July 15, 2010, by Aleta Wiley, REU Proctor
Last Sunday, three students and I went whale-watching. Again. Several weeks ago , we had driven to Gloucester, MA, and spent four hours on a boat, in the midst of a cold, thick fog, and returned to shore with no whale sightings. Lucky for us, Cape Ann Whale Watch gave us vouchers to come back on a boat trip at no additional cost since they guarantee whale sightings on their trips. We knew we would be missing the final game of the World Cup, but we had high hopes it would be a good day for whales. And boy, did we have some sightings! It was a beautiful, warm day on deck of the Hurricane II,...Read more >

Red Oak vs. Tree of Heaven

July 14, 2010, by Leah Nagel
My project this summer is looking at the urban-to-rural gradient between downtown Boston and Harvard Forest. This research is a small piece of a larger project that is looking at the differences in a variety of factors along the gradient. These factors can include changes in the concentration of atmospheric CO2, nitrogen levels in the soil and in tree leaves, and pollution. My personal project is looking at how changes in all of these factors between the two endpoints of the gradient impact the growth rates of two trees: red oak (a tree that is native to Massachusetts) and the tree of heaven...Read more >

4th of July weekend

July 9, 2010
Over the 4th of July weekend, many students dispersed across the Northeast to entertain themselves for the three day break. Several students took advantage of the long weekend to visit friends and family in Washington, DC, New York, and Boston. Those who stayed at Harvard Forest found many ways to enjoy the beautiful, warm weather. One group went rock climbing at a gym in Worcester; another went Contra Dancing in Greenfield, and almost everyone went to the nearby Queen Lake to cool off with a swim in the clear, clean water. One night, several folks barbequed bratwurst, corn-on-the-cob, and...Read more >

Discovering how hurricanes have affected New England forests

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

Measuring carbon sequestration at Harvard Forest

July 7, 2010, by Fiona Jevon
Hi! I’m Fiona, and I work for Leland Werden, Bill Munger, and the Wofsy Group at Harvard University. The project that I am involved with this summer is looking at the influence of understory vegetation on carbon sequestration in the Harvard Forest. This is one small part of a much larger project, which has been going on here for the last 20 years, centered on the eddy flux tower. Over the past two decades, this tower has been collecting data on the amount of carbon that is released and absorbed by the surrounding forest. This summer, I’m focusing on how the understory affects the finding that...Read more >

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

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