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Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

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July 3, 2018, by Katja Diaz-Granados

Under Pressure

It’s hard to fathom the idea of negative pressures. Pressure is always a force added, something pushing against and weighing down. What a tree does to move water goes completely against both gravity and our sense of what pressure can do. Thanks to a few simple properties, like the fact that water molecules stick to each other and that trees
July 18, 2017, by Jen Johnson

Cooking With a Laptop?

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,
July 13, 2017, by Colleen Smith

The Smallest of the Small, a Step into the Unknown

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,
August 2, 2016, by Patrick McKenzie

Improving Forest Change Modeling, One Parameter at a Time

Alongside uncertainty about the stability of future climate conditions comes uncertainty about future landscapes: Where will our forests be in 200 years? Forest landscape models have been designed to address this. Forest landscape models take small-scale ecological phenomena and apply them across large spatial and/or temporal scales. LANDIS-II (“LANdscape DIsturbance and Succession”) is a forest landscape model that consists of
July 28, 2016, by Moe Pwint Phyu

Dealing with (Computer) Bugs in the Forest

Imagine you are a scientist with amazing data sets trying to make a groundbreaking discovery. But first, you need to replicate the way that an earlier scientist analyzed data sets for you to contextualize the experiment. And you painstakingly replicate every step of the whole analysis, but then you run into bug after bug in your code. You finally figure
July 19, 2016, by Siqing "Alex" Liu

Data is Eating Ecology: How We Make Sense of It

Marc Andreessen famously proclaimed that “software is eating the world,” and to me, data is certainly eating up ecology. Andreessen meant that software is fundamentally changing how companies and economies work, and that the incumbents will be taken over by software companies. Though not a direct analogy, data is changing ecology by impacting every stage of the scientific enterprise, from
July 8, 2016, by Anna Calderon

Coding the Future (of Ants)

What if you could see into the future? Perhaps you are interested in knowing where your favorite animal or plant may be located fifty or one hundred years from now. It might be difficult to imagine what the world would look like, but species distribution models attempt to do just that. A species distribution model (SDM) is a method used
August 2, 2015, by Mayra Rodríguez-González

How to roll your R’s like a scientist! / Aprendiendo la R científica

[The English version of this post is followed by a Spanish version, also written by Mayra.] In a world where both natural and human driven disturbances have caused an array of changes in the landscape, we would expect that land-use and land-cover change could become either an asset or a threat to our environment. Here at the Harvard Forest the
July 30, 2015, by Nathan Justice

Ecological Tipping Points and Warning Signs

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
June 6, 2014, by Sofie McComb

Creating A New England Forest Map

Matthew Duveneck and Sofie McComb analyzing data in the scripting language R
The first week at Harvard Forest has passed and it already feels like I have been here for a month. There is always so much going on and so many things happening that time just flies by. Orientation was a two day whirlwind and finally on day three all the students got to meet their mentors and get to work.
June 6, 2014, by Luis Perez

Debugging Ecological Research

Barbara Lerner, Luis Perez, Nikki Hoffler, and Emery Boose working
With ecology, as with an increasing number of other fields, "big data" has become an intrinsic aspect of scientific research. Ask most field scientists and, with a grunt of disapproval mixed with displeasure, you are likely to hear about all the programming and statistical analysis that has to be done to gain meaningful results. Consider t he inevitable sensor drift
August 2, 2013, by Shaylyn Adams

You down with DDG?

Shaylyn Adams and Vasco Carinhas
"Ooh you're working at the Harvard Forest, that's cool, right?! You get to swing from trees, work on your tan, get some exercise and play with chipmunks, right?!" Well, actually, wrong (and I'm sure most field work is not that glorious). Instead of building tree forts and befriending Bambi, my job at the Harvard Forest takes place pretty much completely
July 30, 2013, by Lake Boddicker

A thousand little blank puzzle pieces

One of the aerial tram's sensors.
For the past two months I have been working on building an aerial tram with my two great teammates Devin Carroll and Faith Neff. This consisted of me sitting in front of a computer, occasionally graced by the presence of a sensor and motor, wondering why nothing was working. I think that I have gotten more of a tan from
July 26, 2013, by Vasco A. Carinhas

Exit the matrix

There is life outside the Matrix. We, as computer scientists, sometimes tend to forget that. However, Harvard Forest makes sure we are reminded on a daily basis. Besides our trampling through the fascinating virtual world that is created through coding, we are thrust into the world that already surrounds us as part of our summer internship experience. One of our
June 14, 2013, by Devin Carroll

Let's build a robot!

Image courtesy of http://www.industryleadersmagazine.com
When people hear the word robot they probably think of something like the photo below, a humanoid machine that acts like a person, but is smarter and stronger in nearly every way; robots that are self-aware and may be preparing to rise up against their creators. The primary goal of the robots from the above picture is to help people.
August 10, 2012, by Yujia Zhou

Trees and bugs in computers

Scientists often rely on sensors to collect data. However, sensors can go wrong due to various surprising yet possible reasons. Have you ever thought, what you would do if you lost a couple of hours’ data because a lightning destroyed the sensor? Also, your sensor may freeze during winter time due to low temperature. Moreover, certain sensors require calibration every
August 10, 2012, by Miruna Oprescu

Visualization tools for digital dataset derivation graphs

If you were a scientist working with more than 10,000 new data points every week, how well would you be able to keep track of all the changes you made to the data to obtain the final results? Moreover, if you were to look at your research 5 to 10 years from now, how well would you or any other
July 19, 2012, by Sonia Filipczak

Global warming and forest soil micro biomes

Global Warming has become a topic under much debate, yet carrying implications that affect everyone. Whether you are young or old, plant, animal, or microbe, some of the obvious signs such as less snow in the winter and unbearably hot summers should remind us how much of an impact each individual has on our world. Among all of the individuals
August 12, 2010, by Aleta Wiley

REUs ace summer symposium!

In the final week of the Summer Research Program in Ecology for Undergraduates at Harvard Forest, all 33 students participated in the Student Symposium on August 11-12 in the Fisher Museum. Over a day and a half, all the students presented 15 minute talks to an audience comprising program mentors, university professors, Harvard Forest researchers, family members, and of course,
August 10, 2010, by Elisabete (Baker) Vail

Using models to project how climate change might affect oak species distribution

Imagine if crystal balls which allowed us to catch a glimpse of the future, actually existed? What would you use them to see? Well, in a way – they do exist. In the abstract world of math and computers, “models” are fed datasets of current day information and asked to project future outcomes. Ecologists use them to forecast how current
August 3, 2010, by Sofiya Taskova and Morgan Vigil

Using computer science at Harvard Forest to increase integrity of scientific conclusions

This summer, we have had the privilege of working with Dr. Emery Boose and Dr. Barbara Lerner on a project involving a mash up of ecology and technology. For the past few weeks, we have been inundated with the buzzwords "data provenance", "sensor network", "Process Derivation Graphs", "Data Derivation Graphs", "stream discharge", and "weirs". Our headquarters is located in the