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Wandering alone in a forest

Tuesday, June 11, 2013, by Channing Press
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I understand why, for most people, wandering about all alone in a forest, measuring over 1000 pieces of dead wood might not seem like the ideal college summer break. However, just when I think I am going to die from inhaling too much bug spray for fear of Lyme-disease-ridden-ticks and pesky Mosquitos, a little orange newt will stumble quite charmingly, trying to climb on the log I am measuring or a bird will sing a special song to me and I will remember just how cool my job is. Suddenly, a smile will appear on my face and a feeling of overall peace and beauty will rush through my bones.

An orange newt.My project is one of many here at The Harvard Forest that looks at the carbon cycle. Specifically, I observe how much carbon is in dead wood which we fancily refer to as "coarse woody debris" just to sound intelligent. To do this, I take a lot of measurements and note down a lot of observations and then, my very non-computer-science-oriented-self, struggles to analyze all of my data using a program called R (an elaborate version of excel). This makes for long but enjoyable days which I happily make even longer by waking up at 5am to go to the YMCA to work out. I've even managed to recruit other crazy people in the group to go with me!

It is easy to stay motivated since the erratic rain and chilly weather in June on the east coast constantly reminds me that climate change is real, thus making my research much more pertinent and necessary. The rain, however, has been a little bit of a bummer since most of us in the program are active outdoor people. Still, even in adverse conditions, we always find ways to keep ourselves busy by playing video games, learning new crafts, or hating on the Miami Heat.

Other highlights from my first four weeks have been group bike rides, bonfires, and trips into Boston. I have made some really great friends here. In contrast to a common perception, there is a lot more to everyone here than just a gathering of science geeks! Overall, I just plan on continuing to enjoy, ride, and glide along the ups, downs, and turns that come with forest research ecology.

Channing Press

Quirky Q&A with Channing

If you could invite 5 famous people to your party, who would they be?

Nelson Mandela, Usain Bolt, Bo Jackson, Barack Obama, Morgan Freeman

What object would you like to be able to draw really well?

Animals in general would be awesome to draw.

Would you rather travel by train, car, plane, or ship?

By ship because I love the open ocean. Train would be my next method and after that car and plane because I don't like driving and am slightly scared of flying.

You have the choice to live with a gorilla who knows sign language or a dog who sings lullabies, which do you choose?

A dog who can sing lullabies. Gorillas will learn pretty soon how to do sign language anyway.

Would you rather see a movie, a parade, or a magic show?

A parade because I like being outdoors with a bunch of people who are just excited and having a good time. 

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