You are here

Summer Research Experience: Student Blog

Printer-friendly version
August 2, 2017

What’s Out There?: A Small Yet Large Study of Harvard Forest

This summer I am working under Sydne Record and John Grady’s project on seedling dynamics. I chose this internship to get more of a feel for the ecological field that I was introduced to a few years ago, and to continue research in Sydne’s lab at my home institution. The aim of my project is to understand seedling population dynamics,
July 6, 2017, by Jerilyn Jean M. Calaor

A Piece of Home Where the Cows Roam

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
June 30, 2017, by Alina Smithe

Moo-ve Over Forest! It’s Time to Make Roam for the Grasslands

Cows in Field
Imagine a sea of green grass swaying in the wind, sprawling mountains in the distance, cows browsing at their leisure. This is probably not the view that comes to mind when you picture Harvard Forest. But here at the Harvard Farm, an abandoned golf course on the outskirts of the forest that is now maintained as agricultural grassland, ecological research
July 12, 2016, by Melinda Paduani of the Disturbance Dynamics Duo

Tree Rings, Disturbance, and Life under the Scope

Consider the major events that you have experienced throughout your life. Some people keep mementos and souvenirs to remember the places they have been to or take photos to look back at what they saw; others only have their memories. Trees, on the other hand, “write their stories” in their rings. The patterns that they form serve as a visual
June 28, 2016, by Molly Wieringa

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

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
August 4, 2015, by Cody Raiza

East Coast Dreamin’: Six or Eight Legs at a Time

Arriving to Harvard Forest from drought stricken California, I could have never imagined a place with so much water and lush green vegetation; precipitation so thick that the trees "rain" for hours after warm summer showers, rivers hugging every winding country road, and lakes bursting at the seams. New England is a magical place where no one must consider turning
August 3, 2015, by Josia DeChiara

Some Genes Like It Hot

Biology is a 3D puzzle; an infinitely large logic game with the universe, made up of numerous rings, bars, and strings inexplicably intertwined. A scientist attempts to make sense of these knots, looking for patterns in the pathways. This summer, I have been trying to trace these connections in strings of DNA in hopes of uncovering the story of soil
July 29, 2015, by Roxanne Hoorn

Brutally Honest with Ants: "That’s not your color"

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
July 21, 2015, by Tess McCabe

Ant-ticipating Change: As forests change, will ants?

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
July 3, 2015, by Katrina Fernald

Katrina and the Hurricane: Telling a story with dead wood

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
June 26, 2015, by Harry Stone

Bienvenue à la Forêt Harvard

"You're bringing leaves and stem samples across the border?" the CPB (Customs and Border Patrol) Agent asks quizzically at our car. How to respond in a short answer? "For ecological research" was the meek reply we settled on, and with a grunt the agent pulled us aside for further questioning. This interaction occurred yesterday on my return trip from the
June 11, 2014, by Claudia Villar

Hugging Hemlocks

In the early hours of most summer mornings, our team of researchers trudges through the New England forest along a well-worn path, shaded by the young, light-green leaves of the oak, maple and birch trees above us. Equipped with backpacks overloaded with gear including measuring tapes, hard hats, clipboards, and hammers, we chat about our families, our hometowns, and our
July 10, 2013, by Justine Kaseman

Global warming in a plastic bucket

The elusive red backed salamander.
This summer at Harvard Forest, I am researching the top down effects of vertebrates on the ecosystem. We are using warming chambers which are about 10 feet in diameter and are heated up from 0 degrees to 5.5 degrees celcius over ambient temperature. For our experiment, we have created 3 mesocosms, which are like tiny environments in five gallon buckets.
June 26, 2013, by Amy Balint

The slugs are trap happy, but where are the rodents?

My research team!
The past few weeks have had one thing in common: line after line of empty traps. This summer, I'm studying rodents and other small mammals to find out what happens to them when eastern hemlock forests die off due to an invasive insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid. To determine which species are present and estimate their population sizes, fellow
June 11, 2013, by Hannah Wiesner

Snapshots from a forest: Comparing 1937, 1992 and 2013

Pat O'Hara measures this tree's DBH, or diameter at breast height.
Laying out two tape measures to create a 22.5m x 22.5m square, my first field exercise this summer took place not within the Harvard Forest’s 3,500 acres, but instead on the lawn behind a residential cabin. We were learning to use a compass to place a stake at the NE, NW, SE and SW corners of the square, which is
June 7, 2013, by James Leitner

What do we care about more? Biodiversity or old trees?

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
I hear my alarm go off, 3:45am uhhhh. Time to get up and check the traps to see if we caught any rodents. My research project is seeing how the declines of the hemlock trees are affecting the amount of small rodent species like mice, shrews, voles, and flying squirrels. And yes, they are all adorable. Hemlock trees can grow
August 1, 2012, by Andrew Moe

Part one of biotic change in hemlock forests - Moose, deer, and porcupines

This summer, along with my mentor Ed Faison , a research associate at Harvard Forest and ecologist at Highstead Arboretum in Connecticut, I have been working on a project investigating the impacts of herbivory by moose, deer, and porcupine on regenerating forests. More specifically, we are interested in looking at regeneration within stands of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Here in
August 1, 2012, by Yvan Delgado de la Flor

Part three of biotic change in hemlock forests - Ants and spiders

Eastern hemlock is a foundation species in eastern North America and plays a critical role in the local biota. This tree deeply shades the soil, creating a unique microclimate for some species. Currently, hemlocks are dying rapidly due to the invasive woolly adelgid, a nonnative phloem-feeding insect, causing alterations to the understory microclimates. Hemlocks are being replaced slowly by hardwood
August 1, 2012, by Elizabeth Kennett

Part two of biotic change in hemlock forests - Rodents

3:40am my alarm goes off. I adorn my headlamp, throw on some field clothes, tuck my pants into my socks, and climb into my mentor Ally Degrassi's truck. We're going trapping. The afternoon before this we had been out to the Ridge block, one of our two. Each block consists of four hemlock forest treatments. The first two treatments are
July 23, 2012, by Anne Cervas

Forest dynamics in former plantations

This summer, I am working with my mentor, Audrey Barker Plotkin , to study former plantations at the Harvard Forest. We are working in the field to record the growth and changing vegetation dynamics as the former plantations grow back as native forest after a century of plantation forestry. We are also combining data from the Harvard Forest Archives to
June 25, 2012, by Matt Combs and Katie Davis

Global climate change with ants and slugs

Ants with Matt Combs Melting wax, digging through sand, and orchestrating the spectacular deaths of entire colonies of ants - seems more fitting for a preschooler than an undergraduate student, working a full-time job. Yet somehow, fate has landed this college senior his dream job: spending the summer in a professional scientific setting while doing things even a little kid
June 25, 2012, by Julia Brokaw and Vincent Waquiu

Hemlock trees and their pests

We got out of the truck at one of our research sites and saw two older women painting a picture of the forested road in afternoon sunlight. It was a beautiful scene, but what the artists didn’t know was that they were surrounded by stressed, thinning, and sick hemlock trees infested with the Hemlock Woolley Adelgid (HWA), the invasive insect
June 18, 2012, by Jennie Sirota

Pitchers and their tipping points

My project for this summer studies the extraordinary carnivorous pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea . I am working with Aaron Ellison and Benjamin Baiser on a newly funded research project that studies the widespread issue of tipping points. Tipping points are the change from one state to another. These can occur in many different systems, such as in the atmosphere or
June 11, 2012, by Aubrie James and Kelsey McKenna

Butterflies and bumblebees

This summer, we’re studying animal movement with Dr. Elizabeth Crone and some of her “Cronies” (lab members and affiliates): post-doctoral fellow Greg Breed , Harvard OEB graduate student James Crall, and research intern Dash Donnelly. We’re looking at how anthropogenic landscape changes and resource availability affect population dynamics in two different organisms: bumblebees and butterflies. Since we’re both especially interested
August 23, 2011, by Kate Eisen and Collette Yee

Sampling the lyford grid

A permanent plot study provides an amazing opportunity for ecological research because it allows scientists to observe changes over ecological time. While many studies take place over a few field seasons at most because of funding or other limitations, permanent plot studies allow scientists to ask questions that only be answered over years or decades by providing a larger window
August 3, 2011, by Natashia, Michael, and Kevin

"Warm ants"

The Warm Ants team is interested in examining the effects of climate change on ecosystem services, species interactions, and biodiversity. We are continuing monitoring of the open top heated chambers at the long term Warm Ants plot through monthly pitfall trapping, winkler sampling, vegetation surveys, and artificial nest investigation. Check out a video we made describing the experimental design of
June 20, 2011, by Rachel Brooks

Pitcher plant communities as model food webs

Covered in mud, and smelling similar to the stagnant swamp I found myself surrounded by, I peer deep into the small cuplike leaves of the Sarracenia purpurea (Northern Pitcher Plant), a long-lived carnivorous plant. Contained in these delicate green and red veined pitchers (which have become my life for this summer) an entire detritus-based food-web thrives. This community, consisting of
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 9, 2010, by Maddy Case and Joe Horn

Vegetation sampling in wildlands and woodlands

We have spent most of the summer traveling across New England to do field work at sites in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. At each site, we have been establishing permanent vegetation sampling plots for a long-term study comparing forest dynamics in managed and unmanaged forests. We carry 2-foot pieces of steel pipe into the woods (3 lbs per pipe
July 26, 2010, by Carlyn Perovich and Mickey Drott

Tracking moose and deer

We have spent the summer happily crawling around in the forest, bruising ourselves under mountain laurel in pursuit of the holy Grail of our project, moose poop. We are studying the impact of deer and moose browsing on the regeneration of forests, specifically looking at hemlock and oak seedlings. This research is particularly important since the number of white tailed
July 7, 2010, by Meredith Kueny and Lianna Lee

Discovering how hurricanes have affected New England forests

Lianna and I are working on the Simulated Hurricane Long Term Ecological Research project out on the Tom Swamp tract of the Harvard Forest. As a part of this project we are collecting another year's worth of data and information on how the original trees are fairing as well as documenting new canopy regeneration and understory dynamics. This summer specifically
June 24, 2010, by Autumn Alexandra Amici and Anthony Rivera

Woodpeckers and tree care

The overall goal of this project is to understand the effects of tree care practices on habitat for cavity nesting birds, primarily woodpeckers. Most cavity nesting birds seek out dead snags for creating a nest. As cavity excavators, these birds provide habitat elements for a suite of species and are therefore important for biodiversity. While the dead snags that are
June 15, 2010, by Roxanne Ardeshiri

Community ecology of "sarracenia pupurea" pitcher plants

Pitcher Plant
My name is Roxanne Ardeshiri , I'm an undergraduate at the University of California-Berkeley, and I'm studying the community ecology of Sarracenia pupurea Pitcher Plants with Benjamin Baiser at the Harvard Forest. Because Pitcher Plants are essentially microecosystems, we are studying their community ecology to ultimately create model food webs for these systems.We will be measuring decomposition of prey (an
June 14, 2010, by Adam Clark and Margaurete Romero

Luna moths on the nightshift

Luna Moth
The Warm Ants project consists of many mini projects taking place within the chambers. One of these projects is a 24-hour baiting, which means that we must observe which ants are attracted to tuna baits set out in the different temperature chambers for all hours of the day, on the hour. Two of us – Margaurete and Adam – took
June 10, 2010, by Adam Clark, Erik Oberg, and Margaurete Romero

The warm ants group

Margaurete collecting butterflies.
In their third week, the Warm Ants Triumvirate has dived into both the long term "Warm Ants" project and individual projects with a burning desire to elucidate the effects of climate change on ants. Each member is responsible for helping with the long term "Warm Ants" experiment which involves a monthly 24 hour baiting study and monthly pitfall trapping. In