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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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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 >