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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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Fine woody debris dynamics after an ice storm

August 23, 2011, by Jakob Lindaas
I used to walk through a forest, always looking up in wonder at the tall, sturdy trees and their vast canopies. But after this summer I have a newfound appreciation for what lies underneath these great sentries of the forest realm. Among the seasonal litterfall and the rotting remains of former protectors of peaceful succession, lay my study subjects. These are fallen soldiers of a war raged in December of 2008, between a mighty ice storm and the winter vigil kept by the mighty red oaks, their sidekick red maples, their hemlock allies, and their understory minions: beeches, yellow birches and...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 >

REU skydiving!

August 23, 2011, by Laura Hancock
After all the work and research is done, we definitely know how to have some fun! The last weekend of the program, three fellow REU students--Lindsay Day, Alanna Yazzie, Keke Mitchel, and I decided to do something extremely exciting and go skydiving! We've all wanted to try it, so to me it seemed like the perfect way to end the summer. About 20 minutes from Harvard Forest, in Orange, Massachusetts, is a top-notch skydiving facility, Jumptown . All of four of us decided to jump tandem, though you could go through a day of training and jump on your own. We exited the plane at 13,500 ft and...Read more >

Sampling the lyford grid

August 23, 2011, by Kate Eisen and Collette Yee
A permanent plot study provides an amazing opportunity for ecological research because it allows scientists to observe changes over ecological time. While many studies take place over a few field seasons at most because of funding or other limitations, permanent plot studies allow scientists to ask questions that only be answered over years or decades by providing a larger window into the dynamics of a site or population over time. For this reason, permanent plot studies are also essential to studying organisms like trees that grow slowly and often live for a long time. At 42 years old, the...Read more >

Urban ecology

August 23, 2011, by Ashley Golphin
Whereas most of the 2011 Harvard Forest REU group conducted research in rural forested areas, my research partner Stephan Bradley and I braved the streets of inner-city Boston to expand our understanding of how urban ecosystems function with regards to urban greening. Urban greening is the expansion and conservation of vegetated areas in cities through local stewardship practices. For this study we choose 7 urban green sites (community gardens and pocket parks) and paired them with 7 nearby non-green sites (abandoned lots) to explore how human use patterns, along with related measures of...Read more >

Water transport in trees

August 23, 2011, by Alena Tofte
Multitudes of tightly packed rings in an old, sturdy tree hide a secret – not only do they elucidate to a discerning viewer a historical record of how much the tree grew each year for the course of its life, but these rings also contain the remnants of its once-functional woody vascular tissue, the xylem. Xylem once threaded thin streams of water and vital nutrients throughout the growing tree’s roots, trunk and crown. Water transport in trees is a process ruled by a multitude of factors, including the porosity of the wood, the size of the vessels which comprise the vasculature, the species'...Read more >

"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 >

Paleoecology lab

August 3, 2011, by Lindsay Day
This summer, I researched and contributed to the reconstruction of past ecosystems by working in the Paleoecology lab. Our main field research experience involved a lake-coring trip to Martha’s Vineyard. My mentor Wyatt, lab manager Elaine Doughty, Director of Harvard Forest David Foster and I loaded up the big green van with canoes and coring equipment and took the trip out to the Vineyard. Lake coring involves attaching a wooden board to two canoes and loading all sorts of tubes and poles into the constructed raft. The four of us rode the raft out to the deepest point in the lake and...Read more >