Archive for July, 2014

Tree cores and arm sores

Hey all! Here I am to give an update of my project.

As the title suggests, tree coring gives you sore arms. Tree cores and aerial photography dominate my day to day. The cores are telling an interesting story: the forest was disturbed more than once. By analyzing general patterns in the rings, several occasions where increased growth and suppression are obvious.  Some of these years directly coincide with known disturbances such as the Hurricane of 1938. However, not all of the events coincide with known disturbances. Whether these events are site-specific or cover the regional area is yet to be told.

Geo-referencing and creating a scale for the 1940’s aerial photography has proven frustrating and quite difficult. After multiple failed attempts at superimposing the gridding system over the aerial photography, I figured out the most appropriate method. Believe it or not, I went old-school and superimposed the grid with an acetate layer. Not only was it easier, but it kept the process simple and eliminated distortion inherent in geo-referenced products. I documented about 710 trees with substantial length – long enough to measure with Vernier calipers. Using the scale produced by geo-referencing the aerial photos, I was able to estimate the length of each tree bole. Using allometric equations based on the dominant species of a northern hardwoods forest, total fallen biomass can also be estimated.

Logging camp somewhere on the north facing slopes. Photo courtesy of C. Cogbill.

DISCLAIMER: I must confess that I never planned on harping down the exact number of fallen biomass and carbon, but rather produce a range of possibility. The methods used produce considerable uncertainty, but when the uncertainty is considered throughout the process, a viable range of possibilities can be produced.

Based on the results I have now, I can confidently state multiple preliminary conclusions.

To begin: there were multiple recorded and multiple unrecorded disturbance events in the study area. 

Secondly: The Hurricane of 1938 felled a significant amount of biomass (and carbon), possibly proportional of up to 25% of the previous standing forest.

Thirdly: The 1900-1920 logging event was not particularly severe in the study area.

Four: Don’t core Hemlocks; they’re usually a waste of your time.

Five: Tree size is never an accurate representation of age. If a Spruce is big – core it. If Spruce is small – core it. I recently sanded and counted a 144 year old spruce core, barely reaching 2” in length. If you see a decent Spruce, core it because you never know how old it is.

What happened in Watershed 6? Photo courtesy of C.Cogbill.

Further conclusions will be posted soon.

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Relief! Happily smiling after giving our talks. (Left: Kelly, Middle: Maggie, Right: Cailene)

This year marked the 51stHubbard Brook Cooperator’s meeting held at the Forest Service Headquarters at Hubbard Brook on July 9-10th. These meetings comprised two days of 8 minute talks rich of knowledge, data and intellectually stimulating science being done right here at Hubbard Brook! We, the soil science REU girls (Kelly and Cailene), as well as David, the meteorology guy, each gave talks at these meetings in front of our mentors, peers and all the scientists of HBRF, including the brilliant Gene Likens, one of the founding fathers of Hubbard Brook!! We prepared for these talks for quite some time, Kelly focusing on “C-horizon permeability and the Hubbard Brook Hydropedology Initiative," Cailene on “Soil Juice: Soil expulsion as an alternative method to traditional lysimetry” and David on "The atmospheric and environmental conditions responsible for high stream flow." We approached these meetings with much enthusiasm, a little bit of nervousness, and a whole lot of practice. Here’s a bit more on our individual experiences:

Kelly: It was such a wonderful opportunity being able to attend the Cooperator’s meeting this year. So much diverse research goes on here, ranging from microbiology to social reactions to climate change research, from meteorology to orchid studies, and the meetings are a wonderful way to bring the large and heterogeneous community of Hubbard Brook together to learn about all that goes on beyond our narrow research focuses. So much of the material covered flew completely over my head: it was both humbling and inspiring to realize just how much I have yet to learn in my field.

Presenting at the meetings myself was, admittedly, fairly nerve-racking. Cailene and I, who have worked together closely throughout the summer and generally function to keep each other sane, in this case only served to enable each other’s madness. I think we are both naturally anxious people, and the prospect of presenting our research in front of such a large and expert crowd was, to say the least, intimidating. I do not know how many times we practiced our presentations for each other, or how many silent glances of mutually-felt panic we exchanged in the days leading up to the meetings, but I do know that by the time I actually stood up to present, Cailene had heard my talk enough times that she probably knew it better than I did! Thank you Cailene, I’m sure I would never have been able to do this without your support! Though it was stressful anticipating the meetings, looking back in retrospect I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to present at the meetings, and in fact just to have been able to attend at all. It was a truly enjoyable and enlightening experience from start to finish.

Cailene: I LOVE the Hubbard Brook Cooperator’s meeting! I feel fortunate to have been a part of such a unique event that allows attendees to share and learn about the wonderful projects that make the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation what it is. As exhausting and mentally stimulating as these two days of meetings are, they are an incredible opportunity for scientists to share research and receive feedback from the supportive, intellectual curious community of individuals who attend the meetings. Accordingly, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to share my own REU project with the HB community. It did, however, come with its challenges…

The daunting, empty conference room before it was filled with the HBRF community

I’ve never been much of a public speaker, so the thought of giving a talk about my project to a sea of brilliant scientists had me shaking in my hiking boots. Together, Kelly and I spent hours upon hours practicing our talks and making endless corrections to our PowerPoint presentations. Kelly, my mentor Dr. Scott Bailey and Maggie Burns (who is a research tech and good friend at HB) were extremely supportive and helped make my talk a success that I look back on with a smile (Many thanks to those three!). From preparing my data and making the presentation, to delivering the talk with confidence and enthusiasm, the entire process was an invaluable learning experience. The best part of all, however, was getting feedback from scientists of all different fields and leaving the meetings with new and exciting ideas for my project! The meetings were a wonderful experience and I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this annual event!

David: This was my second year giving a presentation at the annual cooperative meeting. I truly enjoyed the opportunity. Though it is definitely a nerve racking situation to stand in front of so many highly regarded and incredibly intelligent people, it was something that allowed me to learn and grow in so many ways. Listening to the presentations of others and seeing the passion they all had for their project’s was truly inspiring. The value of these meetings is truly priceless. The amount of knowledge I gained within that 2 day span is incredible. The feedback that other scientists from many different backgrounds provided me has propelled my project forward. If you’re a lover of science and you have the opportunity to attend the meetings, do not pass it up! I look forward to attending again.

I was also immensely impressed with the presentations of my fellow REU’s. They were able to grab my attention and keep me wanting more. Now that’s saying something because they were talking about soil and I am a meteorologist! I give huge props to all of the speakers at this year’s meetings and especially to Cailene and Kelly!

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REU Introduction: Tiffany Lutz

I found a newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) in the nearby Mirror Lake while capturing Sunfish.

Hi! My name is Tiffany Lutz and I am a senior at Rutgers University currently studying Biology. For as long as I can remember I have been interested in the great outdoors. While growing up in South Carolina I was always finding ways to get my hands dirty outside and discover what lay just beyond our back door. After finishing at Rutgers I plan on applying to various Graduate Programs that focus on Ecology.

While I am interested in all living creatures, my main passion and focus is amphibians and reptiles. Thus, my project this summer at Hubbard Brook is observing if Brook Trout (Salvenlinus fontinalis) and Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus) have any impact on Spring Salamander’s (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) foraging and activity levels.

 Salvenlinus fontinalis and Gyrinophilus porphyriticus are found in the same streams and as a result are constantly competing for the same energy and habitat resources. Their co-habitation disproves many of the ideas behind “Gause’s Law of Competitive Exclusion,” which states, “if two species are competing for the same resources and space, one competitor will always overcome the other, leading to extinction”

Lepomis gibbosus is not found in the streams with Gyrinophilus porphyriticus, but have recently been introduced to nearby Mirror Lake. It is well documented that non-native introduced species have led to a decline in amphibian populations in various areas around the country. My research hopes to prove that Gyrinophilus porphriticus would be at a great advantage if they could recognize these non-native fish as potential predators.

In addition, I am working on a side project where I am sampling four different streams for Brook Trout. For this project I am taking notes on their microhabitats and safely catching and marking them in an effort to track their movements within the streams.

I find it fascinating how two species can be vying for the essential same resources, but still manage to strike a balance in day-to-day life and coexist. I am looking forward to finding out the results! The research is keeping me busy, but also giving me tons of new experiences.

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Into the Wild:Briana Becerra

Hello Friends,

My name is Briana Becerra, I hail from the beautiful state of California. This upcoming fall semester I will be a junior classman at California State University Monterey Bay; there I study Environmental science, technology, and policy with an emphasis in ecology and minor in biology.  When not being driven into an early grave by school related stress, I enjoy longboarding, reading, listening to music, and quoting geeky movies during social situations. I found science to be the most fascinating subject in school; I enjoyed learning about the natural world and the relationships that exist within ecosystems. I am beyond ecstatic that this summer I was given an opportunity to participate in a research project at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire under the mentor ship of Dr. Natalie Cleavitt.

This summer I will be comparing tree regeneration patterns in 30 and 100 year old northern hardwood forests. I will be paying special attention to seedling age structure and the mycorrhizal colonization of young seedling roots and their relationship to light levels and litter inputs. The focal species include American Beech (Fagus grandifolia ) and Sugar Maple ( Acer saccharum). The principle areas of study include lower and mid elevation herb plots on watersheds five and six of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Seedling counts will be taken and comparatively analyzed between watershed five, a recovering disturbance area, and watershed six the reference watershed of Hubbard Brook.  A total of five hundred 1mby 1m plots will be analyzed in their composition and seedling demography to determine the effect of light on seedling regeneration and mycorrhizal fungi colonization.

This is my first summer research experience as an undergraduate. As scary as it is to be so far from home, the knowledge and experience I am gaining as a field researcher cannot outweigh my homesickness.  I hope many individuals will consider and apply to this amazing research opportunity here at Hubbard Brook.  Thank you for your time.

Posing while aging Sugar Maple Seedling

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Hello I’m Ben Poling, a student at Virginia Tech studying Forest Resource Management and policy.  I am currently living in Christiansburg Virginia but am originally from a small town in western New York.  I served in the United States Navy for two enlistments and in 2012 decided to go to college and study natural resources.  Here at Hubbard Brook I will be researching to find if soil drainage characteristics play a pivotal role in the mode of tree damage observed after a windstorm.  I am working with Dr. Natalie Cleavitt of Cornell University who will be mentoring me on my quest to find answers!

Windstorm damage is a frequent occurrence in mountain’s and heavily forested areas.  Modes of damage can vary from snap-off to complete uproot and often is dependent on landscape conditions.  In this study we are proposing to look at the correlation between soil drainage characteristics and mode of damage during a windstorm.  In short we want to find out if the soil type and drainage characteristics predispose trees to a certain mode of damage.  The main questions we mean to answer in this study are: Do soil drainage characteristics play a bigger role in mode of tree damage than soil depth, and does this relationship change with storm intensity?  Focal tree species in this study will be American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Red Spruce (Picea rubens), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis).  We are primarily looking at tree snap-off’s and uprooting as this appears to be the most frequent mode of damage observed in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest.  This would be the first time soil drainage characteristics and tree damage have been looked at solely in this manor, but not the first time windstorm damage has been investigated.  In earlier studies it has been noted that tree diameter at breast height (DBH) and species (SPP) played a large role in mode of damage (Chris J. Peterson and S.T.A. Pickett 1991).  In 2013 C.J. Peterson et al. compared windthrow damage by size of disturbance area while maintaining soil characteristics, tree species, climate and topography as constants.  In another study data was collected on 12 coniferous tree species looking at rooting depth and anchorage in different soils with a focus on Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) to be utilized for wind risk models (Bruce C. Nicoll et al. 2006).  We find that this study is in closest resemblance to our own but does not address certain details we wish to address that will be more applicable to glacial till in the mountains.  This is an important matter because it can give insight as to what we can expect in future windstorms in terms of damage and areas that are at the highest risk of damage.  As more and more people move into the wildland urban interface (WUI) this matter becomes even more pressing in terms of predicting for the type and level of tree damage and to what extent the damage will be as this information can save homes and more importantly the lives of people living in the WUI.  From a scientific standpoint this study can be continued and expanded upon to include many other at risk regions and can be utilized for modeling programs to help predict windstorm damages.

Thanks for reading about my project and what I will be working on, I hope that you found it interesting and informational.  Please feel free to ask any questions about the project, I will be happy to answer them, and keep following the blog for updates as I will be posting periodically throughout the rest of the summer.  Till next time…

Benjamin T. Poling

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REU Introduction: Kelly Floro

Hello! My name is Kelly Floro. I am a rising junior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where I study environmental science with a concentration in ecology. This subject has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and my love of the outdoors has always spurred my passion for environmental studies and sustainability. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking, beekeeping, gardening, and baking. I’m very excited by the opportunity to spend this summer conducting fieldwork at Hubbard Brook. It has thus far proved to be a wonderful way to learn more about my field of study while spending time outdoors getting acquainted with the White Mountains—in particular, with the soils.

I am working with Dr. Scott Bailey on a project to characterize the variability in soil properties throughout the Hubbard Brook valley. Specifically, I’ll be looking at the C horizon (which is essentially the bottom-most, least weathered layer of the soil). I want to find out how the properties of the C horizon, especially with regard to water flow, vary throughout the experimental forest. How easily does water flow through the soil? What is the relationship between water flow and properties such as soil structure, particle size, and density? We know that soils throughout this region are derived from materials that were deposited by glaciers during the last ice age, but are subtle differences in the nature of this glacial material influencing soil characteristics and hydrology?

Understanding water flow and deep soil characteristics is important because it tells us much about the properties of the soil and landscape through which that water is moving. It can tell us about soil stability and flooding potential for land use purposes, and can provide insight into how soils in this region were formed. Furthermore, by understanding how quickly water flows and in what direction, we can predict how nutrients and environmental pollutants carried by water are moving and where they might end up, which has implications for both human and environmental health.

I am so thrilled to be participating in this project, and look forward to the research ahead of me. Thanks so much for taking the time to check out this blog! I’ll be happy to keep everyone posted on my work as the summer progresses.

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REU Introduction: Josiah Weeks

¡Hola mis amigos! My name is Josiah Weeks and I am a native New Hampshirite who will be a senior at

A handsome devil sitting outside of Pleasant View Farm

Plymouth State University this fall. Growing up in NH’s Lakes Region, my love of nature has been nurtured by constant contact with mountains, lakes, rivers, and forests. Since beginning classes at PSU my love for the outdoors has evolved into a passion for conservation, animal biology, and ecology. As far as this summer goes, I’m excited to be getting to spend my days out in the field, hiking the White Mountains, swimming in Mirror Lake, and learning Español from some of my fellow estudiantes here at Pleasant View Farm.

This summer at Hubbard Brook I am working on a stream ecology project with Dr. Kerry Yurewicz. The goal of my study is to analyze the diversity and abundance of invertebrates transitioning to stream systems from the surrounding forest and vice versa. After doing this I want to compare how these factors vary between conifer and deciduous forests. In order to collect my data on stream invertebrate output, I will use emergence traps, which capture insects leaving the stream after changing into their adult forms. To determine the input of invertebrates into the streams I have put out pan traps, which are simply

An emergence trap looking worse for wear after being swept downstream

trays filled with water and a few drops of dish soap. The soap reduces the surface tension so that anything that falls in will go under the water, rather than staying on top and possibly escaping before I can record what they are. I am expecting to see variation between forests due to differences in habitat preference and nutrient availability in different forest types.

My data collection was going well prior to a big rainstorm that brought in approximately 5 inches of precipitation and carried off all 40 of my traps. Now I’m back in the building stage, but will hopefully be back on track soon. And to throw a positive spin on this, I can now say that I have experienced true field research, because as many supportive scientists here at HB have told me, “Fieldwork never goes as it is planned”. Thanks for reading, adios!

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