Archive for June, 2014

REU Introduction: David Morgan

Enjoying the cold winter on Mt.Monadnock

Hello! My name is David Morgan. I am going into my senior year at Plymouth State University where I am studying meteorology. I was born and raised right here in the great state of New Hampshire. Naturally I enjoy spending time outdoors and taking advantage of the amazing environment available here in the Granite State. I am an avid hiker who loves the mountains in every season of the year. I have been interested in meteorology for almost as long as I can remember. I have known I wanted to study the atmosphere since I was 9 years old. It was then that I watched in amazement as a towering thunder cloud built upward into the sky and pulsed with electricity. I have been fascinated by the study of weather ever since. Weather affects everybody in one way or another. My passion is in understanding why different weather related phenomenon are occurring and how they are impacting everyone. This summer I will be working on a project that combines both meteorology and hydrology in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the causation behind high stream flow in a small watershed.

I will be working with Eric Kelsey, Scott Bailey and many others on this project. The main goal is to develop a forecasting model that takes into account both the environmental and the atmospheric conditions that are causing high stream flow here at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest at watershed 3. In order to do this we will be studying the 99.6th percentile of instantaneous stream flow events. In other words we will be looking at the most extreme daily flow values from the entire stream flow record. Each event will then be analyzed in terms of parameters such as precipitation, snowmelt, antecedent soil moisture, the type of storm that caused the event, the storms track and the atmospheric moisture content. A hydrograph will be created for each event and base flow will be separated out so that an event runoff volume can be determined. This will allow us to understand exactly how much water was coming out of the stream during each peak flow event. After this we will compare the different causation variables to the event runoff volume and determine which factors play a larger role in high stream flow. Once we know what is causing high stream flow events we plan to develop a binary regression model using statistics that will predict a probability of a high stream flow occurrence knowing the atmospheric and environmental conditions.

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REU Introduction: Jamal Jarrett

Our "American Gothic" pose

Hey there! My name is Jamal Jarrett and I am currently a graduating senior at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. I am a biology major, minoring in chemistry and history. I am enjoying my time in New Hampshire, it is VERY different from what I am used to, but that is a good thing. I am originally from Kansas and never seen these many mountains!  Since I have been up here I can count on two hands how many times I have heard, “Toto, I have a feeling were not in Kansas anymore.” I love to stay active by working out, playing sports, hiking, and bicycling. I also enjoy drawing, reading history, and learning things about different cultures.

I am mentored by Don Buso and Dr. Michelle Pruyn. My main project with Don consists of looking at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest Watershed 6 site specific forest history and major disturbances (from 1800 to present) to see how much of an impact they actually had on forest growth and species composition (hardwoods vs conifers). The reason why we are reexamining the history is because we know most of these disturbances (such as 1910 cut, 1938 hurricane, 1942 salvage logging) happened but don’t know to what severity and W6 has served as the biogeochemical reference watershed for HBEF since 1963. In the past, red spruce were more common in the lower elevations of W6 before major logging happened which promoted regrowth of hardwoods.

Tree cookies of dead Red Spruce saplings

This summer I will aim to supply data for the reconstruction of a multi-modal timeline of W6’s biomass release.  It is important to look back and understand the history of HB so we can get an idea of forest resiliency and sustainability with following damage to the forest. My data will consist of tree cookies of dead spruce saplings (2-10 cm in diameter) west of W6 and a ranking of live spruce saplings health in the area. Hopefully, I can find reoccurring disturbances within the rings of the cookies, red spruce age structure within the area, and other correlations with my data. This historical study of the removal of  red spruce population by logging can be paired with studies of calcium and nitrogen cycling that could be related to forest’s response to climatic warming.

My other project with Michelle, I am looking at wood anatomy of Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, and American Beech tree’s growth rings before and after calcium addition in Hubbard Brook. Calcium is a component of wood growth and we are comparing average vessels, lumen area and number, fiber cell wall thickness, and fiber length to see how trees respond.

Gathering roots from a Yellow Birch tree

So far I have taken part in running course roots, testing them for their conductivity by running a mixture of water and HCL through them to see how fast they absorb and push the water through the other side. I also have played a part in sap flow sensor construction, which monitors obviously sap flow. My favorite part thus far of the project is slicing the roots (very thin) and looking at the anatomy under the microscope. It’s pretty cool to look at, but it is an art to it.  Defining the differences in response to increases in calcium availability and other nutrients will help us explain why trees grow where they do, improving forest management practices.

Until next time readers, I will be sure to give you an update on my projects, adventures, and experiences when the summer progresses.

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Jessica hiking in the Sierra de Francia!

Hello everyone! My name is Jessica Hernandez and I am originally from the Central Valley of California. Growing up with the valley at my feet, a trio of mountain ranges in my backyard, and the ocean never more than a short drive to the west, it’s no wonder why I have been passionate about studying biology since before I can remember! As a rising senior and Biology major at Pomona College in southern California, I’ve become increasingly curious and enamored with the field of conservation biology and amphibians. So what better way to spend my summer than to study one of the most interesting amphibians on earth: salamanders!

Under the mentorship of Dr. Jon Davenport, I will be studying the influence of behavioral traits on homing behavior in the northern spring salamander, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. To better understand this influence, I will be collecting two genetically divergent populations of salamanders from Kineo Brook and testing them for boldness or shyness traits. Afterwards, salamanders will be displaced from their original capture location to see if they successfully move back “home.” I’m looking forward to discover if there is an existing correlation between the boldness or shyness of a salamander and it’s movement towards or away from home.

Understanding the ability (or inability) of salamanders to return after being moved away from their home will shed some light on how such individuals would respond to displacement as a result of natural or anthropogenic events, such as extreme flooding, drought, or urban planning. Overall, the ultimate success of salamanders when it comes to homing may have significant consequences in terms of isolated populations and gene flow. The behavioral component of this study is also important to consider since the “boldness” or “shyness” of an individual may be significant in his or her ability to home—or respond to displacement—successfully.

An adult northern spring salamander!

As a study species, salamanders, like most amphibians, are extremely unique in that they breathe partially or entirely through their skin. Northern spring salamanders, in particular, belong to the family of “lungless salamanders” and rely completely on their skin to breathe. This porousness absorbs water as well as gases, such as oxygen and nitrogen, which makes salamanders extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Since salamanders are able to absorb pollutants, their decline over the past few decades is a significant cause for concern. Therefore, understanding their movements and ability to respond to natural events will give us a window into current, and potentially impending, population and ecosystem dynamics. And, hopefully, by the end of the summer we’ll be able to use boldness and shyness trends in salamander populations to predict some of these movements!

So far I am having an incredibly amazing time chasing salamanders in the streams of the White Mountains and exploring all of the natural treasures the Atlantic Northeast has to offer!

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Greetings from Thornton, New Hampshire! I’ll introduce myself as Jarred Jones, an REU student from Gettysburg College. I’m not actually from Pennsylvania though… Groton, Massachusetts is my hometown, not even two hours from Hubbard Brook. Groton is a classic New England town with a vibrant small population of humans and cows living together in harmony. Mostly cows though.

Why am I here at Hubbard Brook? Here’s a little about myself.

Growing up in Groton, I got a little bit of both worlds. I was close enough to Boston to experience the city life, but also rural enough to be embedded with a love for the outdoors. Fly fishing, hunting, and exploring characterize the majority of my time…when I’m not studying. I’m a rising senior and Environmental Studies major at Gettysburg College, double minoring in Biology and Mathematics. At Gettysburg, the Environmental studies major is relatively malleable, allowing me to create my own concentration – Wildlife Ecology.  However aside from wildlife ecology I have a keen interest in disturbances in forested ecosystems – the theme of my project this summer.

My mentor this summer is  Don Buso,  Technician and Manager of Field Research at HBEF. Together, we will be attempting to solve a simple mystery: what happened in Watershed 6, the biogeochemical reference watershed? Recent work has theorized the growth regime of W6 over that past 40 years to be consistent with normal northern hardwoods biomass accumulation rates. Extrapolated backwards, it is logical to assume that Watershed 6 was clear cut in 1915.  However, high-resolution photographs of Watershed 6 from the 1940’s and 1950’s reveal a mature deciduous canopy dotted with conifers and hundreds of fallen trees on the ground. These conditions would not have been likely had Watershed 6 actually experienced a severe cut 30 years earlier. The standing history of Watershed 6 neglects the 1938 hurricane and site-specific history that is an important factor in the growth regime pattern.

Our study focuses on determining an improved history of Watershed 6, and approximate flow of soil carbon in the last 200 years.  This is important because logging and disturbances can cause change in biomass and nutrients within an ecosystem, and these changes are difficult to quantify without a clear history. In addition, an accurate history of Watershed 6 is valuable for use in theoretical modeling of ecosystem development, resilience and sustainability at Hubbard Brook.

Throughout the summer I will be taking cores from Red Spruce and Eastern Hemlock; both long lived species with distinct growth rings. I will be looking for years that the tree’s growth is suppressed and released, comparing them with years of known forest disturbance to create an accurate timeline. The 1940’s photographs will be used to estimate historic carbon flow through Watershed 6.

Despite already having sore arms, I’m still excited for what’s to come!

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REU Introduction: Cailene Gunn

Digging up inactive prenart lysimeters!

Hello, hello! My name is Cailene Gunn. I am a rising junior at Bates College studying geology with a focus on environmental geochemistry! I hail from a small town in northern Connecticut where I grew up hiking, frolicking and enjoying the great outdoors. As much as I adore the beautiful rolling hills and farmlands of my hometown, I am thrilled to be spending my summer in the stunning state of New Hampshire with the White Mountains as my playground. Aside from hiking, I spend much of my free time painting mason jars, stargazing and listening to happy music. But when hard at work, it's all about the soils!

This summer I’m working with Dr. Scott Bailey on the soil water chemistry project. Soils are important indicators of the health and integrity of an ecosystem and the chemistry of soil water solution can provide valuable information about plant nutrient availability, pollutant transport and hydraulic processes within an ecosystem. Unfortunately, it is difficult to accurately obtain and determine the chemistry of soil solutions. The traditional method of lysimetry for soil extraction is expensive and typically limited to small-scale studies within research centers like Hubbard Brook. My job is to develop a technique called soil water expulsion (or "soil juicing," in more colloquial terms). Soil expulsion a unique methodology for extracting soil water in a non-invasive, relatively inexpensive manner. Soil expulsion allows one to saturate and expel solution from any soil sample from any site, so the development of this method has the potential to extend soil survey projects to broader, more accessible landscapes!

Soil expulsion experiment set up at the Forest Service Headquarters on a beautiful day

I'm  currently in the protocol-building stage of my project. I've been busy testing the effects of saturation time, pressure and homogenization on the chemistry of the soil solution obtained through expulsion. Once I come up with a consistent, reproducible protocol, I will compare soil expulsion, zero-tension lysimetry and tension (prenart) lysimetry through various chemical analyses. If we conclude soil expulsion as a reliable technique, it could help further studies on the effects of pollution in forest ecosystems, stream ecology, anthropogenic perturbation on natural processes etc. Consequently, increased knowledge about these issues could lead to a better understanding of forest ecosystems and more effective policy implementations in the future.

Until the next post, thanks for reading and keep a look out for updates on my project and stories of exciting adventures to come!

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Beginning the Blog

REU students at Plymouth State

On June 11, 2014 Hubbard Brook REU students sat in on a discussion led by June Hammond Rowan about the REU blog. We are currently using this blog post to learn how to blog!

To gain access to the blog site, REU students have to use their Plymouth State account. Then everyone can start posting. We anticipate posting about cooking, trees, water, dirt, salamanders, bugs, and weather to name a few! Students will supplement their learning by participating in activities in their area of interest (like hiking, swimming...)

Part of the session this evening was spent discussing writing and developing a writing habit. Encourage others to write. Have writing parties! Don't avoid writing because of your imperfect lamp. Maybe keep a journal, or an online journal, such as a blog!

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Summer 2014

Welcome to the Plymouth State University/Hubbard Brook Research Experience for Undergraduates program for the summer of 2014! Students participating this summer will be posting about their projects and related activities. Please check back often to learn more about their summer.

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