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Major Grants Support New Harvard Forest Research

July 2, 2012
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Tower at Harvard Forest

Six major grants totaling over $8 million will greatly expand Harvard Forest's research, conservation, and education capacity over the next several years:

National Science Foundation - Walkup towers for research, communication, and outreach at the Harvard Forest
$340,000 - Ellison, Richardson, Munger, Friedl (BU), Orwig

Two canopy-level walk-up towers and instrumentation tramways will be constructed at the Harvard Forest, replacing an existing 22-year-old research tower and creating new opportunities for research and education. New canopy-based measurements will be streamed to the internet in real-time, and Harvard Forest researchers, educators, and students (including K-12 classes) will be able to study the forest from a treetop “platform in the sky.” The towers will also forge strong linkages with HF’s Long-Term Ecological Research program, SIGEO mega-plot, and NEON research infrastructure.

National Science Foundation - Assessing Rapid Changes in Ecosystems
$1.1 mil - Foster, Oswald (Emerson)Chilton (Umass), DoucetteShuman (UWY), Ellison

Using paleoecological and archaeological data, researchers will investigate periods of rapid change (major droughts, insect outbreaks, and changes in human population and land use) over the past 6,000 years in Southern New England. Study areas are coastal (Cape Cod and the islands), near-coastal (Taunton River), and inland (Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers). Understanding how ecosystems responded to changes in the past can yield valuable insights about the consequences of rapid changes today. This research will include students from the Summer Field School in Archaeology and Paleoecology.

National Science Foundation - Forecasting and forestalling tipping points in an aquatic ecosystem
$500,000 - Ellison, Gotelli (UVM), Balliff

Nutrient enrichment from fertilizers, runoff, and atmospheric deposition can cause lakes, rivers, and streams to flip into low oxygen states characterized by algal blooms and fish die-offs. These points of ecosystem change, called tipping points, are poorly understood and can be irreversible. In greenhouse micro-ecosystems, researchers will add extra nutrients to trigger such a flip, while working to identify early indicators of the impending change. Future applications of this work include the development of simple water-quality test kits that can forecast ecosystem tipping points early enough to successfully prevent them.

National Science Foundation - Shifting Land Use and Forest Conservation: Understanding the Coupling of Social and Ecological Processes along Urban-to-Rural Gradients 
$240,000 - Short (BU), Kittredge (UMass), Hutyra (BU), Foster

Our modern forest landscape is shaped by the decisions of thousands of individual landowners, municipalities, governments, and environmental organizations. Through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and archival research, project scientists will investigate the complex social and ecological factors that shape forested landscapes in rural, suburban, and urban areas. The project will make an immediate impact through the Keystone Project, a joint effort between the Harvard Forest and University of Massachusetts, which provides training and resources to community leaders in Massachusetts on land conservation and management.

Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust - Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative: Vision to Action
$70,000 - Lambert

The Wildlands and Woodlands vision for New England brings together scholars, conservationists, and private sector interests in an effort to double the pace of forest conservation in the region. This collaborative grant to Harvard Forest, Highstead, and Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust will advance efforts to 1) coordinate and promote the W&W vision, 2) connect regional conservation partnerships to new resources, (3) develop a “conservation investment zone” in the Quabbin-to-Wachusett region, and (4) develop new scientific resources to motivate forestland conservation.

National Science Foundation - Harvard Forest LTER V: New Science, Synthesis, Scholarship, and Strategic Vision for Society
$5.8 million - Foster, Blanchard (UMass), Boose, Chilton (UMass), Colburn, Crone, Davidson (Woods Hole), DeAngelis (UMass), DeStefano (USGS), Donahue (Brandeis), Doucette, Ellison, Faison (Highstead), Finzi (BU), Frey (UNH), Hart, Hutyra (BU), Kittredge (UMass), Lambert, Melillo (MBL), Moorcroft, Munger, Ollinger (UNH), Orwig, Oswald (Emerson), Pallant, Richardson, Short (BU), Snow, Sobczak (Holy Cross), Stinson, Thompson (Smithsonian), Williams (Clark)

This 6-year grant will support Harvard Forest’s central research and education programs, involving 30 researchers, 200 graduate and undergraduate students, and dozens of institutions. It will also advance education and outreach that reach over 3,000 K-12 students annually, as well as elected decision-makers, land managers, and the news media. A diverse portfolio of Harvard Forest research projects in the social, biological, and physical sciences will address one fundamental research question: What will be the interactive effects of climate change, biological processes, and human land-use on ecosystem dynamics, processes, and the services they provide to humans and wildlife over the next 50 years?

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