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!

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!

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!

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!

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.

Mirror Lake Survey Results

Some Results from the Mirror Lake Survey

Some Results from the Mirror Lake Survey


Happy (almost) fall everyone! Liza and I have been busy finishing off our summer research on Mirror Lake, and are excited to share a small sample of our results. We learned a lot this summer about the Lake and all the wonderful people who live on and use the area. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in and helped out with our research, we couldn't have done it without you!

Aubrey and Liza

     In 1976, The Endless Chain of Nature was first published. Written by Patricia Patterson Sturges (1930-2002), this book is based on the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study, which began in 1963. Patricia was very involved at Hubbard Brook and her grandson later became the first "third generation" researcher at Hubbard Brook. Patricia dedicated much of her time to educating children about science. Out of this devotion came The Endless Chain of Nature, a book that is accessible to middle-school readers and older.

     The Endless Chain of Nature follows the scientific adventures of researchers, just like us REUs. Key ecological ideas are introduced while an engaging story of real scientists solving real problems unfolds. This story takes place at the beloved Pleasant View Farm, where I am currently writing this blog post! Although the house has changed quite a bit, characters remain the same. We (the students) still interact with teachers and great scientists everyday! The 50th anniversary of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study was a prime example of great minds sharing their knowledge. Even after 50 years, Hubbard Brook remains a world-renowned scientific research site, and we can thank Patricia Patterson Sturges for spreading the word. Her book is a great way to get into science, and we encourage everyone to check it out at: http://endlesschain.pressbooks.com/.


Thank you so much to everyone who completed and returned the surveys regarding Mirror Lake. Liza and I are busy analyzing the responses and are looking forward to putting all of our results together. For those of you who do not know, included in the survey packet created by Liza and myself was an opportunity to enter a raffle for a chance to win a kayak, ATV, or snowmobile rental for two from Kelly Chase at OutBack Kayak in Woodstock, NH (http://www.outbackkayak.org). Without further adieu, the winner is.......

Ticket number 607657!

If this is your ticket number, please contact Liza at lltetley@plymouth.edu and she will get you all set up with Kelly. Thanks again to everyone who participated! Special thanks to OutBack Kayak for donating their time and resources to our research!

Orchid Update

The week of July fourth, the long-awaited event happened- the orchids opened up and flowered!  I've spent a lot of time since then  visiting orchids that were known to be flowering this year and counting the number of pollinia that have been taken.  Pollinia are sacs of pollen that the orchid flowers have at their entrance so that anybody wishing to drink nectar will pick up these sticky capsules, bringing them to the next flower they visit.

A flowering round-leaved orchid in watershed 1. The red arrows point to pollinia.

I have been using the number of pollinia missing from the flower spike as an indicator of how much pollinator activity an orchid is experiencing this season.  I hope to be able to relate this to factors such as spike height, the number of flowers produced by the plant and the distance to nearest flowering neighbor.  This will tell us whether orchids benefit from having neighbors, and whether growing taller and producing more flowers increases their chances of pollination.

The other part of my orchid project has to do with motion-activated cameras which I placed on orchids to try and capture a sight of their elusive pollinator!  Unfortunately this didn't pan out like I had hoped although I did get this picture of what may be a bat?

A long-eared bat?

None of my cameras picked up any pollinators, so that was disappointing.  The orchid pollinator remains a mystery for now!  Hopefully as I start analyzing my data, some other interesting things will come from my project.


Salamander Update!

"It's definitely Science...or a pet store" - Geoff Wilson

Six weeks into the ten week program, I finally got my REU project off the ground!  These nine tubs, located in the Henrietta Kendall Towers Lab next to Pleasant View, were completed Monday the 15th.  Each tub is designed to reflect a small area of rocky stream bottom, and the water is kept oxygenated by aquarium bubblers.  Six Two Lined salamander larvae were released into each tub.  Three tubs were then left as controls, three had a larger Spring salamander larvae added, and the final three had a Spring salamander larvae added inside a small cage.  Sixty total salamanders were collected from Bagley Brook inside the Hubbard Brook Forest, and will be returned after my study is over.

What each tub looks like inside, notice cover objects and Spring salamander cage made of PVC pipe

The inside of a PVC cage. The Spring salamander is in the upper left and the much smaller Two Lined salamander is in the bottom right.

What the heck am I doing with 60 captive salamanders?  Besides giving myself a headache, since I had to weigh and measure each one, I'm hoping to learn something about how the predation threat of the Spring salamander affects the Two Lined salamander's behavior.  Every other night until August 2nd, I will using a red light to visit the tubs from 10 pm until 2 am!  Spending 5 minutes on each tub, I turn off the bubbler and write down how many salamanders I see, where they are in the tub, and if they are active or inactive.  I just completed my second full night of observations, and Russell saved my life by making me some coffee partway through.  Hopefully I can keep staying awake!  Stay tuned 🙂