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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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Kuzushi: The gentle art of balance

July 27, 2017, by Corey Carter
Corey at Tram
The forest is like a living organism, it breathes and expels water much like we breathe air. This process of evapotranspiration is… I’m sorry I can’t do this, every blog post, every year talks about the same thing, in a slightly different way. I’m going to talk to about something that has helped me during some dark times and it may help you during these last trying weeks of Harvard REU. It is called Kuzushi! I know many of you are cocking your head to the side and looking at me like a confused cocker spaniel. Don’t worry, that’s normal; I reacted the same way when my Judo master Thomas Crane...Read more >

Attack of the Invasive Species: Garlic Mustard and Exotic Earthworms Affect Plant Diversity

July 26, 2017, by Karina Martinez
Treating Plot
Imagine easy-on-the-ears bluegrass melodies, an occasional summertime thunderstorm, a mama bear on the side of the road with her cubs, illuminating fireflies within the grasses at night, and vivid green forest scenery. This is a summer to remember for an Angelino city girl. These experiences come from living at Harvard Forest, and traveling within Massachusetts and New York with my mentors Mercedes Harris and Erin Coates, two master students from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. All the sites that I have traveled to are characteristically similar second-growth forests that are...Read more >

Can Manganese Help Save the World from Climate Change? Let’s Find Out!

July 21, 2017, by Sarah Pardi
Sarah performing pyrophosphate mineral extractions. Photo by Alex Gamble
Each morning after I eat breakfast with my fellow researchers/friends, I make my daily commute to University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It’s a beautiful 45 minute drive along windy roads through dense forest and quaint rural towns. Upon arrival at Paige Lab, I get to work on the soil samples I’ve collected from our plot back at Harvard Forest. My research this summer, under the mentorship of Marco Keiluweit and Morris Jones, focuses on the role of manganese on forest floor litter decomposition through a soil moisture gradient. What most people don’t realize is that soil releases three times...Read more >

When Phenology Meets Technology

July 21, 2017, by Jolene Saldivar
Phenology is the biological response to the changing seasons. Day length, temperature, precipitation, and other factors drive leaf-out and leaf fall in trees. In order to avoid undergoing damage by putting their leaves out too early as winter transitions to spring, trees require a particular amount of sunlight each day before leaves can emerge. Similarly, when the hours of daylight begin to decrease with the onset of fall, trees withdrawal nutrients from their leaves, drop them and become dormant for the winter. Understanding phenology is important because climate change has already brought,...Read more >

Cooking With a Laptop?

July 18, 2017, by Jen Johnson
Visual representation of flow
How are data analysis and the collection of provenance like cooking? Data analysis is based on datasets, like those collected in the field and laboratory. Datasets are the basis for the rest of the analysis and represent the raw ingredients of a meal. Next, analyses are performed on these datasets. There is a wide variety of possible analyses to perform, comparable to the multitude of ways to clean, slice, and flavor even the most basic combinations of ingredients. But have you ever tried to make a dish with only a list of the ingredients? While stews and smoothies may work out, many dishes...Read more >

White Oak Regeneration, Is It a Crisis or Not?

July 17, 2017, by Nicholas Patel
Boring Tree at the Mohawk Trail State Forest
Scientists and foresters have documented and monitored the increasing mortality of oak trees in the United States for over the past century. This decline has become a high-profile issue because oaks account for one third of our nation’s hardwood saw timber volume, most of which is coming from eastern states. Of the 20 commercially valuable oak species, white oak is the most important in the United States’ timber market. White oak is a slow-growing species with a territory ranging from northern Florida to southern New England. One part of this decline is that many forest ecologists and...Read more >

The Smallest of the Small, a Step into the Unknown

July 13, 2017, by Colleen Smith
canopy photo taken with the hemispherical camera
7:00 am Snooze 7:10 am Snooze 7:30 am Wake up, pull on cargo pants, lace up boots 8:10 am Breakfast 9:00 am Walk onward into the lair of the mosquitos with my net on and trustee meter stick in hand This is more or less how I’ve begun each of my days here at Harvard Forest. I have a schedule, I know what I have to get done, and I do it (gladly). I never in my life imagined that I would end up here, and when I got here I could have never imagined what I would spend my summer doing. I was initially hired on to study soil microbiology, but in a strange and fortuitous turn of events I ended up...Read more >

Where did that data come from, anyway?

July 13, 2017, by Connor Gregorich-Trevor
Imagine that you've found an interesting piece of research, but you feel that it left certain questions unanswered. So you decide to start your own project based on this research. But when you go to begin, you find out that the authors gave almost no information about how they obtained their data. You don't know what kind of programs they used, what analyses they ran, or even what tools they used to collect the data. Because you have no way of knowing this, you will be unable to replicate their experiment, and you will be left unable to complete your project. One of the most frustrating parts...Read more >

There’s More to the Soil Than You Think

July 12, 2017, by States Labrum
Chloroform addition to measure microbial biomass. Photo by Aaron Aguila
From Spring Hill, Tennessee to Petersham, Massachusetts, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be here at Harvard Forest. I have learned so much in the short time that I have been here. There are so many outdoor activities to do around the area and there is always something fun going on. All the REU students stay together in the Fisher House and we all get along. It is interesting to get to know everyone’s unique background. So, you may be wondering what am I doing coming from Tennessee to be at the Harvard Forest. Working alongside with my mentors Jerry Melillo, William Werner, and...Read more >

Trust Me, I’m an Engineer… in the Forest.

July 12, 2017, by Valentin Degtyarev
Tram starting to move
When you think of someone who is in the field of Computer Engineering, you picture someone who sits indoors in their little cubicle, working with a computer all day. Even when you Google search a computer engineer, you are only shown pictures of geeks like me working indoors, sticking their hands in the complicated wiring of a computer system. That’s more or less what I expected to be doing with the rest of my life when I made the decision to take this career path. Next thing I know, I get hired to do research for Harvard Forest where I will be applying my skills on some sort of project...Read more >

Everyone’s trying to avoid ticks here this summer, I’m trying to find them

July 9, 2017, by Aaron Aguila
Aaron taking samples
When most people think of infectious diseases they think of the common cold, the flu, diseases that we give to each other. Some of the world’s worst outbreaks, however, happened when people moved into uninhabited places or made changes to those local habitats. This summer I have been researching how the makeup of a forest after it has been harvested for trees is related to the risk of exposure of disease, specifically Lyme’s disease. Between my mentors, my peers, and myself, we are collecting enormous amounts of data on the forest structure for a post-harvest carbon dynamics and forest...Read more >

Asking the hard questions… about extreme events and tree response

July 7, 2017, by Caitlin Keady
Caitlin showing off core
Who remembers last year’s drought? Well, the trees sure do. Imagine the beginning of spring, when leaves are starting to return and wildflowers are blooming. Then picture a sudden overnight frost. All those plants and trees that were kicking off their growing season likely went into shock and halted growth. Even though the frost only lasted one night, it may have lasting effects throughout the growing season. Pretty grim, I know. Extreme events such as drought and late spring frosts can cause disturbances among tree populations, resulting in abnormally narrow or wide rings, where each ring...Read more >

A Piece of Home Where the Cows Roam

July 6, 2017, by Jerilyn Jean M. Calaor
Marking the coordinates on Harvard Farm
“Welcome to Boston,” a voice over the airplane intercom announced. Already 7,955 miles away from home, I still had an hour-long car ride ahead of me. I fought through heavy eyes as the city skyscrapers blurred into towering trees. Finally, we turned onto a dirt road, and the 22 hours of travel to Petersham came to an end. Stepping out of the car into the cold night, it was clear I had left the warm summer breeze, sandy beaches, and vibrant blue ocean of Guam behind. Soon after, we visited where I would be spending most of my working day – the Harvard Farm. As I took in the sea of green...Read more >

Novel Methods, let’s have a party in the Harvard Forest!

July 5, 2017, by Johnny Buck
Harvard Forest Barn Tower
Don’t you just love the emergence of plants in the spring or the changes in leaf coloring of trees in the fall? I’ve always admired the beauty and complexity of these events growing up. If you really pay attention to nature, you notice the first and last signs of insects at certain times of year, and when the migration of birds and animals happens. Do you notice the time of year your favorite fish are active and not active? These events are called phenologic events and the study of these events is called phenology. Phenology looks at the life cycles of the natural world and how they are...Read more >