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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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The blog of an ecologist dog

August 10, 2012, by Snickers
This summer, my mom takes me to work with her. She is a "research mentor," whatever that means. We go to Harvard Forest several times a week. I am very excited about going there because I am never alone. I usually stay by the table where my mom works and people come to pat me from time to time. When 12:00 pm comes, I start wagging my tail with excitement because I know it's time to go on a walk. I love walking through the forest. When I come back from the walk, I want to make friends with the cows in the pasture. However, Mom always gets upset when I get too close to them. After lunch, my...Read more >

Trees and bugs in computers

August 10, 2012, by Yujia Zhou
Scientists often rely on sensors to collect data. However, sensors can go wrong due to various surprising yet possible reasons. Have you ever thought, what you would do if you lost a couple of hours’ data because a lightning destroyed the sensor? Also, your sensor may freeze during winter time due to low temperature. Moreover, certain sensors require calibration every year because of inexorable sensor drift. As a result, raw data is usually not very reliable before some special processing, or “quality control.” This summer, I worked with Dr. Emery Boose and Prof. Barbara Lerner on quality...Read more >

Visualization tools for digital dataset derivation graphs

August 10, 2012, by Miruna Oprescu
If you were a scientist working with more than 10,000 new data points every week, how well would you be able to keep track of all the changes you made to the data to obtain the final results? Moreover, if you were to look at your research 5 to 10 years from now, how well would you or any other scientist be able to reproduce your results from the original data? This summer, I am working with Emery Boose, researcher at Harvard Forest, Barbara Lerner, professor of Computer Science at Mt. Holyoke College and Yujia Zhou, rising senior at Dikinson College, to develop effective tools for creating,...Read more >

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 >

K-12 phenology lessons for the phenocam project

August 6, 2012, by Katherine Bennett
Katie Bennett and students.
  In the fall of 2011, the Ashburnham- Westminster Regional School District became the first of five schools to join Dr. Andrew Richardson’s Phenocam Network with the installation of a digital phenocam on the roof of Overlook Middle School in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. As a part of the Phenocam project, students at the K-12 level have expanded the scope of phenological monitoring that is part of the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Program protocol, Buds, Leaves, and Global Warming. In this protocol, students work with Dr. John O’Keefe to monitor buds and leaves on schoolyard trees to...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 >

Part one of biotic change in hemlock forests - Moose, deer, and porcupines

August 1, 2012, by Andrew Moe
This summer, along with my mentor Ed Faison , a research associate at Harvard Forest and ecologist at Highstead Arboretum in Connecticut, I have been working on a project investigating the impacts of herbivory by moose, deer, and porcupine on regenerating forests. More specifically, we are interested in looking at regeneration within stands of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Here in New England, hemlock forests are under attack. The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an exotic insect already responsible for widespread mortality of hemlock throughout the Eastern U.S., has arrived in...Read more >

Part three of biotic change in hemlock forests - Ants and spiders

August 1, 2012, by Yvan Delgado de la Flor
Eastern hemlock is a foundation species in eastern North America and plays a critical role in the local biota. This tree deeply shades the soil, creating a unique microclimate for some species. Currently, hemlocks are dying rapidly due to the invasive woolly adelgid, a nonnative phloem-feeding insect, causing alterations to the understory microclimates. Hemlocks are being replaced slowly by hardwood forests. All of these changes affect the entire ecosystem and result in the local extinction of some arthropods; for example, some ants and spiders are very sensitive to changes in temperatures...Read more >

Part two of biotic change in hemlock forests - Rodents

August 1, 2012, by Elizabeth Kennett
3:40am my alarm goes off. I adorn my headlamp, throw on some field clothes, tuck my pants into my socks, and climb into my mentor Ally Degrassi's truck. We're going trapping. The afternoon before this we had been out to the Ridge block, one of our two. Each block consists of four hemlock forest treatments. The first two treatments are one plot that was logged out five years ago and is now full of young vegetation and the second is a plot in which the hemlocks within it have been girdled; killing the trees but leaving them standing, this was done to mimic the affect of the Wooly Adelgid, a...Read more >