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Our Changing Forests: How Do Forests Grow and Change Over Time?

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Research Questions & Overview

How do forests grow and change over time in response to different environments and land use?
How will forest composition and growth respond to future natural and human-caused disturbances?

Grade Levels: 7-12
Minimum number of data collection field visits: 2 field sessions total.

Our Changing Forests Project Resources

Related Research:

A team of ecologists with a wide range of expertise related to forest change provide support for this project. Collaborating ecologists include Audrey Barker Plotkin (Harvard Forest ecologist and coordinator of the HF Long-Term Ecological Research program), Joshua Rapp (Harvard Forest research associate who studies the conservation, management, and ecology of trees), Dave Orwig (HF forest ecologist who studies long-term forest change as well as invasive forest pests), and Edward Faison (Highstead ecologist who studies long-term forest change, co-leads the Ungulate-Forest Dynamics project, and is coordinator of the Woodlands and Wildlands Stewardship Science initiative, on which this Our Changing Forests project is based).

Schoolyard Research Methods:

Autumn: 2 visits- This protocol would require a minimum of two field site visit(s) with students, in addition to teacher field site setup session(s) prior to the start of the school year.

Students can contribute to this study by monitoring a 20meter by 20 meter plot in a wooded area near their schools. Students will record species identification, and measure Diameter of Breast Height (DBH) of trees in the study plot every other year. An additional plot will be set up and monitored in the second year of the study and continuing on alternate years of the 1st plot. Students also record site information related to topography, evidence of disturbance, invasive species or wildlife presence, etc. as part of a site description report for each plot updated each year that plot is monitored.

  • Teacher participates in the Summer Institute for Teachers to learn project content and methods. Teachers are provided with project materials.
  • Teacher locates wooded plot area in schoolyard or local conservation area, and maps the research site.
  • Teacher and students collect data during designated time periods 2 times a year.
  • Teachers are encouraged to attend one of the fall Data Workshops.
  • Teacher and students provide data to the Online Database.
  • Data are posted on the Harvard Forest online database.
  • Teacher and students may choose to analyze their data and compare it to regional schoolyard data.
  • Teacher and students are encouraged to come meet the scientist at the Harvard Forest.
  • Teachers are encouraged to attend the Spring Workshop.