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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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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 >