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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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From the Ground Up: What’s Going On With Young Hemlocks?

June 28, 2016, by Molly Wieringa
The first thing I would have anyone know about me is that I’m in love with the color green—the green of leaves and grasses and the edge of the sunset. It’s a color with a thousand shades and tints, a color that dances with light and seems strangely alien in any setting but the natural one. Luckily, there’s a lot of green in the woods, so for me a summer at the Harvard Forest falls somewhere on the spectrum between ‘this is just too cool to be real’ and ‘I get to spend the whole day outside?!?’ Fortunately, it is real, and I do get to spend about half my days out among the trees, investigating...Read more >

Change is Underfoot

June 27, 2016, by Megan Wilcots
With all the talk of climate change and increased CO 2 emissions wreaking havoc on the globe’s ecosystems, you might think that all the carbon we’re emitting is going straight into the atmosphere, condemning us to a sticky, sweaty future. But, in fact, the global climate has a secret, and it’s beneath your feet. Global soils contain more carbon than what is stored in the atmosphere and plants, and they play an important role in the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. With warming and precipitation expected to increase in many parts of the world, soils’ response to these new...Read more >

What Has Transpired Here? Automating Sap Flow Measurements to Track Forest Health

June 23, 2016, by Alex Widstrand
One of the most direct ways to track forest health is through water content – and in a forest, water is everywhere , from the soil, to the trunks, to the leaves and even the air. Tree sap itself is comprised of at least 90% water. But when water is everywhere, measuring it reliably gets tricky. Since most of the water in a tree will flow through the trunk at some point, measuring a tree’s sap flow is a good way to estimate how much water there is – and, therefore, how healthy the tree is. In one day, a single large tree is capable of drawing up to 100 gallons of water from the soil. One...Read more >

Soil Science: Sifting, Sampling, and CO2

June 22, 2016, by Katie Polik
When most people think of greenhouse gases they think of smoke stacks, car exhaust, and fossil fuels. These all lead to more carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) entering the atmosphere, driving climate change. But there’s another source of CO 2 doesn’t come to mind quite as readily, and it’s right beneath your feet: soil. Soil isn’t all bad news. As plants grow, they store carbon from the atmosphere. Their fallen branches and leaves decompose, moving that carbon into the soil. In fact, soils end up storing the most organic carbon in the terrestrial ecosystem. This carbon eventually cycles back into the...Read more >

Drawing Conclusions: The Art of Forests over Time

June 14, 2016, by Anna Guerrero
Think of your favorite tree. Is it a sprawling red oak, dominating the landscape? Perhaps it is an elegant quaking aspen, shaking in the summer breeze. Can you tell me how old it is? Can you tell me the history of the surrounding trees and the land? Can you say how it will look in 10 years? 50 years? 250 years? Difficult as it may seem, there are researchers here at the Harvard Forest asking these very questions, and the answers are never as straightforward as you’d think. Hurricanes, disease, insects, farming, frosts, drought, logging, tornadoes, and other types of disturbance shape and...Read more >