Monday, July 23, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: Forest Dynamics in Former Plantations

By Anne Cervas

This summer, I am working with my mentor, Audrey Barker Plotkin, to study former plantations at the Harvard Forest. We are working in the field to record the growth and changing vegetation dynamics as the former plantations grow back as native forest after a century of plantation forestry. We are also combining data from the Harvard Forest Archives to the data we collect in the field to study the growth and composition of the plantation forests compared to the native second-growth forest. 

Plantations were an important component of the Harvard Forest in the first fifty years after its founding in 1907. The plantations we’re studying were planted with several different tree species, mostly pine and spruce, between 1916 and 1944 on former farmland or pasture that had been abandoned throughout the 1800s. Plantations were created in an attempt to increase the productivity and value of the Harvard Forest, as well as experiment with various methods of planting and tending trees. Following the 1938 hurricane, which severely damaged a large portion of the forest, and the mixed success of the plantations in their first few decades, plantation management decreased around 1950. By 2007, approximately 135 acres of plantations remained at Harvard Forest, as the rest of the original 270 acres had been harvested or out-competed by native forest. Of the remaining plantation forests, about half were clear-cut in 2008 and 2009, and have been growing back as native early successional woodland. The other half was left untouched and remains as forested plantations.  

Along with my mentor Audrey, I am spending much of the summer out in the field, surveying the vegetation in the 22 plots that she set up in 2007 before half the plantations were cut down. Slightly less than half of the plots are in plantations that are still forested, while the rest are in former plantations that are now growing back as native forest following the clear-cutting. In each plot, we measure the diameter of the trees, stumps, and pieces of dead wood on the ground (any trees or large branches that have fallen or were left after clear-cutting), and record information about seedlings and saplings. We also record every type of plant aside from trees—shrubs, ferns, grasses, etc.—that is in the plot, and estimate how much space each plant covers inside the plot. From the data we collect, we can observe and quantify how these sites are changing over time.

In addition to the fieldwork and data collection, I am also spending time this summer in the Harvard Forest archives, using information and data from the plantations over the years. By combining the data from our fieldwork this summer with the plantation and other forest data that exist from the last century, I will analyze the growth of the plantations over the last 100 years and answer questions about the plantations during and after the era of active tending. I am looking at how plantation growth, in terms of the average tree height, diameter, and volume, has changed in the decades after plantations were abandoned, and whether the growth in plantations over the last century has differed depending on the original composition of the plantation.  

In addition to the archival data on plantations, I’m using data from two different forest inventories, one from the peak era of plantation forestry and the other from about 40 years after plantations were abandoned. Using the forest inventories along with plantation data will allow me to look at plantation growth compared to the overall forest growth over time. By comparing various measurements, I am analyzing whether the growth of the plantations over the past century has differed significantly from the growth of the rest of the forest. 

Finally, I am looking at the differences in the other plant species present (aside from trees), both in the plantations over time and in plantations as compared to the forest as a whole. By analyzing the effects of different species, planting methods, and treatments on the growth of plantations, and comparing the growth and species richness of plantations to that of the forest as a whole, I hope to discover the impact and outcome of the plantations over the past century at the Harvard Forest.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: Global Warming and Forest Soil Micro Biomes

By Sonia Filipczak

Global Warming has become a topic under much debate, yet carrying implications that affect everyone. Whether you are young or old, plant, animal, or microbe, some of the obvious signs such as less snow in the winter and unbearably hot summers should remind us how much of an impact each individual has on our world. Among all of the individuals on this planet, soil microbes make up a large population and their response to climate change should be of concern. After all, there are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than people on Earth!

Similar to us, microbial communities are affected by the rise or fall in temperature, causing them to become more or less active. Why is this important, you may ask? Well, microbes are instrumental in the cycling of CO2 as well as breaking down and recycling nutrients from decomposing material to produce fresh nutrients needed for many things that sprout from the soil. This summer I am researching with Dr. Jeff Blanchard, of UMass Amherst, to analyze and identify what species of microbes are present in the soil and theorize how they will be affected as Earth’s temperature increases. 

Part of my experiment is looking into the microbes that are present in the soil and how that influences the amount of CO2 that is being respired as a result of the temperature flux. The results come from two Harvard Forest plots, one on Prospect Hill the other in Barre Woods. At each site there are two plots, one that serves as a control, the other is warmed year round, 5 degrees Celsius above ambient temperature. Since the Prospect Hill warming plot has been under observation for the past 20 years, the longest of this sort, we have been able to identify trends that other researchers were not able to see. For example, over a short period of time, CO2 respiration has been documented to rise and then fall. However, given the extra 5-10 years in this experiment over others, we have observed that the CO2 respiration has again risen. An important point to note is that warming increases respiration thereby accelerating climate change. In our experiment, warming has decreased the organic layer, with broken down leaves, to half the level of the control. Ultimately, through warming, we are essentially turning soil into atmospheric gases. Now that we have observed this change, we must identify which microbes are present and responsible for what is going on under our feet! 

To identify the microbes, we extract DNA from soil samples through a lot of really cool steps, including placing less than 0.5g of soil into “bead beating” tubes, which are filled with little beads that agitate and crack open cells; this step is followed by mixing the soil with various solutions and giving it a good shake. To do so, the tubes are taped down on a gyrating machine top also known as a “vortex”. After this, the tubes are then centrifuged for a few minutes, as well as going through a series of extractions to remove the supernatant to get a pure sample; it is now ready for PCR, or polymerase chain reaction. This is a biochemical technology, in molecular biology, that amplifies a single or a few copies of a piece of DNA across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence. Once this is completed, the information is sent out to be sequenced at a lab.

The other part of my project is Bioinformatics. Strange word? Well you can think of it as the bridge between the computer and science world. With the information we will receive from the lab, I will write a computer program to scan through the sequences and match all similar traits that will help me, identify microbial species.

Doing this will help bring us one step closer to the answer of a question that we must consider: how will a warmer climate affect the microbes and ultimately us?

Monday, July 16, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: The Adventures of Taco

By Candice Hilliard, Adalyn Naka, and Margaret Garcia

Our first task for our summer project was a giant scavenger hunt throughout the whole forest: find our 100 plots, where we were to take measurements throughout the summer. Armed with our Tacoma, also known as Taco, a GPS unit, a map, and three bug jackets, we began our search. 
(Adalyn on the left, Candice in the middle, and Margaret on the right)

Our plots consist of three short but wide pieces of PVC pipe, called collars, which are each marked by a flag. Here’s a shot of one of our plots—can you find the flags? 

The collars are where we measure carbon respiration of the soil. Using our lovely Li-Cor, we can get a reading of how much carbon dioxide the soil is emitting. The main two components of soil carbon emissions are microbe and root respiration. Soil is the largest terrestrial carbon sink, but also releases much more carbon into the atmosphere than humans do each year. We are unaware of how this exchange will be affected in a changing climate. The best way to predict the effect of global warming on soil carbon respiration is to gain a better understanding of what factors influence the ability of soil to store and release carbon.  

Our project focuses on determining how soil carbon emissions change with factors like vegetation density, soil type, temperature, etc. Working with help of our mentor, Jim Tang of the Marine Biological Lab and his team Tim Savas, Xi Yang, and Dr. Qian Yu, we each focus on a different aspect of the project. Candice works on characterizing soil respiration over the natural gradient of varying vegetation and soil types throughout the forest while Adalyn focuses on experiments that manipulate factors like temperature to see how they affect soil respiration and Margaret uses GIS software to display the data that we collect in a clear manner. 


“What is the natural gradient?” This was one of the first questions I asked my mentor after listening to him explain what I would specifically be doing as part of the research project this summer. It turns out that the “natural gradient” simply means the differences in the types of vegetation and soil that occur throughout Harvard Forest without any human interference. There are fifty plots on and around Prospect Hill which all vary in the type of dominant vegetation and soil. I am specifically looking at the dominant tree species at each plot and how much moisture the soil retains at each site. 

In order to assess which tree species are dominant, we are recording tree species and D.B.H (tree diameter at breast height) of all trees located inside of a 20x20 square meter area around the center of each plot. To determine how well the soil drains, we put a moisture sensor into the ground which gives us the percentage of moisture at each collar. Collecting this information will allow me to determine the patterns of vegetation and soil drainage occurring within the forest.

With the help of my group members, I am measuring the soil carbon efflux from these fifty plots and will later be analyzing the data we collect to see if vegetation and drainage of soil have an effect on respiration. I am very excited to check my observations and ideas about the dominant vegetation at each plot against this data in order to see if I have been observant as I trek through the field every day. I have also become extremely interested in vegetation this past year after taking a trip to Argentina and Chile to study global plant diversity. The segment of the project that I am working fits perfectly with this new found interest, as I am able to hug trees while measuring their diameter.


My part of the project focuses on the treatment part of this experiment; that is: if we change the factors that drive how much carbon dioxide soil can store and release, what happens? I have five different treatments: warming, nitrogen addition, root respiration exclusion, leaf litter manipulation, and stem respiration. That last one is to try to get a sense of just how much tree trunks contribute to carbon dioxide emissions—even though plants take in CO2 during photosynthesis, some of this gas is released while the product of the process is being transported through the stem. This is probably my favorite treatment plot because we get to ride Bucky, our handy-dandy cherry picker, way up into the canopy to get measurements from the tops of tree trunks. Here’s a picture of Candice and I up in Bucky taking measurements with Licor! 


The treatment plot I find most interesting? I’d have to say it’s nitrogen addition. I have a passion for all things food, and our agricultural system currently dumps 17 billion tons of nitrogenous fertilizers onto our lands every year. Some research says 20% of nitrogen applied to land is lost through surface runoff or leaching intro groundwater. How is this going to impact the ability of the largest terrestrial carbon sink to store carbon? It might just be one more reason to eat organic!!  

Finally, the warming plot is definitely going to show some interesting results in the context of climate change. With anthropogenic emissions of CO2 warming the planet, what effect will that have on soil carbon emissions? If warmer soil releases more CO2, then the atmosphere will have more carbon dioxide, which means a warmer plant, which means warmer soil…that’s a positive feedback loop! Helping to make predictions such as these is exciting. There’s so much we don’t know about how our actions impact the environment, and being a part of the community that helps to characterize these interactions is pretty cool. 

That’s pretty much my part of the project. I’m super excited to see the results—Margaret is going to make our data much easier to understand with her mapping skills, so let’s see what she’s been working on!


My specific role in the project is to tie both Candice and Adalyn’s results together. The general goal is to take an average of their measurements and display them on a map. Now, a standard map contains many lines, shapes, and points which symbolize roads, bodies of water, and towns. This type of standard map is used to display the direction of an area. By the end of the program, I will take this simple concept and apply it to our research. In order to do so, I will be using a program called GIS (Geographic Informational Systems) which integrates computer technology and data spatially. Viewing numbers from this perspective will help me find and understand patterns and trends. For this project I will have access to an already existing map of the entire forest. On this map are our plot coordinates with their corresponding numbers, as well as the gate entrances which we use to access each site. In addition, the roads and their subsequent trails can also be viewed.  

For each area being studied, I am going to take the average of the total measurements taken per plot and incorporate them into the map. These values will not only represent the carbon dioxide flux from the Li-Cor, but they will also include average temperature (°C) and moisture (%) per plot. An array of colors will be used to provide a range of values per area. The resulting image will allow me to depict trends and patterns that indicate where carbon is being released the most in the entirety of the forest. For example, I will be looking to see if the carbon flux is higher in areas with increased temperature or if it is lower compared to other regions of the land.

This information is important because increase carbon dioxide can cause climate change and alter many species of plants and animals. Also, in relation to the goal of the project, my section will organize the data from Candice and Adalyn in a spatial and visually appealing matter to see just how much the forest is being affected by soil respiration. It has been an honor to be the first student from Villanova University in this program. Working in a group with two very dedicated ladies has been a wonderful experience.

Although we all have a different focus within the project, we all work together to collect the data that we analyze. We have learned a lot about science this summer, but we have also realized how important a good group dynamic is in accomplishing our goals. We work really well together, and have a good time doing it. We have also shared countless memorable experiences, both good and bad. Whether we are lost and/or getting eaten alive by bugs in the woods, celebrating finding the last of our elusive plots, or singing along to the radio while we drive Taco to our next plot, we are doing it as a team. We have had a great time so far, and cannot wait to see what our hard work shows about soil. So, if you need your soil carbon respiration measured, who you gonna call? TEAM TANG!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: Conservation Awareness

With Laura Bartock
Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state, but it is also the eighth most forested with more than 60% of the commonwealth covered by woodland. Of all this vast forested land, private families own more than 75% of it. That means that the future of our forests is in the hands of families just like yours and mine. In order to understand how the forests may change in time, we need to understand how these families are making decisions about their woodlands.

That’s why we’re here this summer. We’re working with Dave Kittredge of UMass Amherst on employing the fourth iteration of the Conservation Awareness Index (CAI 4.0). CAI is used to measure the knowledge of landowners on conservation and land management programs, such as conservation restrictions or timber harvesting. In previous studies, CAI has been sent out as a survey to landowners across the commonwealth. This time around, we’re using it in an interview format in order to gain more insight into the decision making process of landowners and their family units. 

So, while most of our colleagues are out in the field, catching butterflies, counting carbon atoms, and getting bitten by mosquitoes and ticks, we work on the second floor of Shaler Hall in the Social Science Laboratory. We send letters, call potential interviewees, play phone tag, and eventually sit down and talk with them about their land. Our exploratory study is not only the first time that CAI is being used as an interview, but also the first time we’re reaching out to the adult children of landowners who will be inheriting their parents’ land in the future.

Through these interviews, we’re looking for generational differences in knowledge that will help us predict how forest management will change with the coming generations. Are the parental landowners the ones who really care about conservation and know how to make it happen? Or are the young, future landowners the ones in the family who care about preserving the land they grew up on? We’re just in the beginning stages of our interviews, but we’re already learning a lot about landowners, their families, and their future plans for their forests.

With Emma Schnur
Though our exploration into CAI 4.0 has been an exciting whirlwind, it was not something we were able to jump right into. While awaiting approval from the infamous Internal Review Board (IRB) for human subjects research, we have had another fantastic project to work to work on: CAI 3.0 (or more formally known as “Shifting Land Use and Forest Conservation: Understanding the Coupling of Social and Ecological Processes Along Urban-to-Rural Gradients”)!
This third iteration of CAI involves collaboration with Boston University’s human-environment geographer Anne Short and ecosystem scientist Lucy Hutyra, David Foster, and our mentor Dave Kittredge. Not only did this project win one of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) prestigious Urban Long-Term Research Area exploratory awards in 2009, just a few weeks ago it was awarded a very competitive Coupled Natural and Human Systems research grant from the NSF.

Our focus is how conservation awareness changes along two urban-to-rural gradients. These gradients are essentially two straight lines drawn across the state of Massachusetts, one extending from Boston to Petersham, and the other from Boston through Worcester to Palmer.

In April, our colleagues/friends at BU sent out the Conservation Awareness Index to residents that own 10 or more acres of land in the 21 towns that touch our two magical lines, or transect towns. The CAI survey instrument asks respondents about their involvement in the Massachusetts’ Chapter 61 current use forest tax program. Since this program requires that landowners own at least 10 acres, we limited our potential respondents to those that could qualify for Chapter 61.

We have spent most of our summer inputting and analyzing the results of the 450+ surveys that have been filled out and returned. Through our detailed coding method, we are able to assign a CAI Score, on a scale of 0 to 64, to each survey that comes back to us.  Respondents are rewarded points based on their knowledge of land management programs, their experience with these programs, their ability to name professionals involved with these programs, and their answers to true/false questions.

New questions about CAI 3.0 pop up everyday: Are the landowners living in homes surrounded by hundreds of acres of undeveloped land more likely to have high conservation awareness? Or, because there are so few people left that own 10 acres or more in increasingly parcelized towns bordering Boston, do they experience higher conservation awareness because they find it important to hold onto this land? All of the questions we ask ultimately help us work towards understanding the future of forestland in Massachusetts.

We are so thankful to have been given the opportunity to work on this exciting project and we can’t wait to share our results!

Monday, July 9, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: Forest and Atmosphere Dynamics

By Alexander Kappel and Paul Quackenbush 

Long-term scientific research estimates that northern mid-latitude forests, like the Harvard Forest, store nearly a quarter of the billions of tons of CO2 added to the atmosphere annually by fossil fuel burning ( These forests provide an invaluable resource in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and slowing climate change. However, the mechanisms behind carbon sequestration in these forests require more investigation in order to begin to predict how these forests might continue to take in carbon over the coming years with increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. This summer, we, Alex Kappel, a rising senior studying Environmental Science at Clark University, and Paul Quackenbush, a rising junior studying Geography and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, are working as a team to investigate these mechanisms by researching the post-disturbance dynamics of carbon, water, and energy fluxes between the forest and atmosphere. 

Our study site is a former spruce plantation that was harvested in 2008 and is now an exciting, dynamic setting for plant growth and competition as new vegetation battles for control of resources. Working under the guidance and support of our mentor Chris Williams and his lab group at Clark University, we are gaining many insights regarding science and the natural world, field and lab techniques, and the professional world. 

In order to conduct our research, we have been given the opportunity to learn how to use really impressive equipment. Our most heavily used instrument, the LI-6400XT Portable Photosynthesis System, uses Infra-Red Gas Analyzer (IRGA) technology to measure photosynthesis rates by controlling light, temperature, and carbon dioxide levels in a chamber that we clamp over live leaves. By monitoring the photosynthetic capacity of various species throughout the summer, we can acquire an understanding of how the forest is growing back and how these plants respond to different seasonal and climactic variables. When paired with measurements from a carbon flux tower located on our site, these measurements help us to understand how and why our clear-cut site is transitioning from a net source of carbon to a net carbon sink. 

In addition, we are also using a LI-6200 to measure soil respiration, and a LI-3100 Surface Area Meter which we use to measure the surface area of leaves we collect. By separately measuring many components of the forest that are exchanging carbon with the atmosphere, including leaf photosynthesis and respiration, stem respiration, and soil respiration, we can determine who contributes what to the total CO2 flux between the forest and the atmosphere, as measured by the carbon flux tower. Not many undergraduates are given the opportunity and responsibility to be trained and work with such high caliber, expensive equipment!

While we are putting in a lot of hard work wading through the ripping and snagging clutches of chest-deep blackberry bushes under the summer sun, we both consider this is one of the best and most rewarding summer experiences of our lives. Between our daily off-roading adventure through the woods to get to our study site and the consistent opportunity to observe such a beautiful setting, this summer is one of learning and appreciation when it comes to the outdoors.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: Global Climate Change with Ants and Slugs

Ants with Matt Combs

Melting wax, digging through sand, and orchestrating the spectacular deaths of entire colonies of ants - seems more fitting for a preschooler than an undergraduate student, working a full-time job. Yet somehow, fate has landed this college senior his dream job: spending the summer in a professional scientific setting while doing things even a little kid would find cool.

I represent one-half of the Warm Ants team this summer, which is a long-term research project working to determine the effects of rising air temperatures on ant ecology. We take measurements every month from 15 different chambers, of varying heat levels. Our day-to-day agenda is always changing as we help with the workload of many different projects related to Warm Ants. Luckily, we have also been encouraged to create our own independent projects. With the support of my two mentors, Shannon Pelini and Israel del Toro, and my ever-helpful REU counterpart, Katie Davis, I have set out this summer to investigate the nest architecture of the ant Formica subsericea.

I want to discover the general shapes of these ants' nests, which has never been formally investigated with this species! I want to understand how the population size is related to the volume of the entire nest and the individual chambers. I also want to determine how the eggs, called the brood, are organized beneath the surface. The social hierarchy of a colony is decided by the way the brood is maintained during development. If we want to understand the way the colonies social structure is regulated we must start to dig deeper, literally, by observing the organization of the colony beneath the soil. We will compare our observations with the temperature gradient at different depths of the soil to see any possible relationships between nest/colony architecture and temperature.

In order to understand the shape of the nest beneath the surface and also document the abundance and placement of both ants and brood within the nest, we use wax casts. We pour molten wax down the entrances of the nests, let them harden into a solid form, then dig them out–very carefully. We reassemble them in the lab to inspect the layout of the nest, then break them down piece by piece, remelting and counting the ants and eggs left in the wax. 

We also take temperature readings at different levels and at different times of the day using a thermometer probe. By pouring the wax casts at different times of the day, we are essentially freezing the nests in time, and can begin to understand how the ants change the way they organize themselves and the brood throughout the day. When paired with our temperature data, this should tell us something about the way the ants react to temperature shifts. 

The creative and analytical sides of this project come together in the documentation of the final nest architecture. We must be careful to record the exact position of each chunk of ant nest we pull out if we are to reassemble it accurately. In the lab I put them back together like a wild 3-D puzzle and photograph them. Even now I am still working to find the best way to document the final structure of the nest, a creative endeavor that I am excited to work through. 

The nests which I dig up do not follow an obvious template. They twist and turn, rise and dip, connect and end for no obvious reason. Their designs are utterly chaotic, and can seem illogical from a distance. But of course, the architecture of F. subsericea nests allows the function of the colony as a whole, and the entire process has become a sophisticated and effective system honed by evolutionary forces. The chaos hides a pattern of productivity. The only way to fully understand these insects and their architectural products is to also embrace the less logical thought processes and creative techniques not usually required when setting up a scientific experiment. In other words, I must think like an ant. 

Slugs with Katie Davis
Slugs don’t exactly have a stellar reputation. They’re slimy, and they love to eat plants that people grow in their gardens. But slugs aren’t all bad—they play important roles in ecosystems like Harvard Forest. They help to break down leaves and other material on the forest floor, making nutrients available to plants. There’s also some evidence that slugs eat and disperse plant seeds. And they’re pretty cute, especially when they have their eyestalks out! 

We don’t know how slugs, and the ecosystem processes that they contribute to, will be affected by the changing climate. Because slugs dry out easily and only come out to eat when it’s cool enough (usually at night or on cloudy days), it seems likely that they will have an adverse response to warming.

This summer, with the help of my mentors, Shannon Pelini and Israel Del Toro, and my fellow student researcher Matt, I’m exploring the effect of warming on slugs and their role in decomposition of leaf litter. I collected slugs using peanut butter as bait and divided them into eight small terrariums. 

Each of these will be placed in one of eight warming chambers in the forest. These are areas fenced with plastic sheeting that are heated by hot water that warms the air within the chamber. Each group of slugs will be exposed to temperatures ranging from 2-6˚ Celsius above the ambient temperature in the forest, and one group will be placed in a control chamber in which the temperature is not manipulated.

Throughout the summer, I will be monitoring how much the slugs eat and how much weight they gain or lose in order to assess how well they do in different temperatures. I will also measure the rate of decomposition in the terrariums with slugs as well as in identical terrariums without slugs to quantify the slugs’ contribution to decomposition. Finally, I will compare the rate of decomposition across the temperature gradient to see how the slugs’ role in decomposition changes with temperature. Together, all of these components will shed a bit more light on how slugs, and the ecosystem processes they contribute to, may respond to a global temperature increase.

Monday, July 2, 2012

RESEARCH PROFILE: Soil Microbial Respiration in a Warming World

By Lauren Alteio

This summer, I am working with Jerry Melillo, Lindsay Scott, and members of the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory to analyze the activity of soil microbes in response to soil warming. We study the extremely dynamic microenvironments within the soil to understand how the health of forest ecosystems can be affected by global climate change

Soil plots at Prospect Hill have been heated for twenty-one years, meaning the project is older than me! Initially in the project, scientists saw that the amount of carbon dioxide released through microbial respiration was greater in the heated plots than in the control plots. After about ten years, the difference in the amount of carbon dioxide began to decrease. Now, the difference in carbon dioxide is increasing again and scientists are stumped as to why this is happening. My role is to determine if the microbial community’s ability to metabolize carbon compounds has shifted from simpler, more labile carbon compounds to the more complex, or recalcitrant compounds within the soil based on the enzymes they are producing.

I spend my time collecting soil samples, homogenizing and plating soil slurries (soil smoothies, anyone?), and reading the fluorescence of the enzyme activity using a microplate reader.

The methodology that I am using in my enzyme assays hasn’t been completely perfected yet, so in addition to answering questions about the soil microbial population, I am also involved in refining the methods that will be used. This is sometimes a bit frustrating, as the data we get is a little rough to interpret. The work that I am doing this summer will become a part of the ongoing data set of this experiment. Hopefully, it will help scientists to get closer to answering questions about the microbial populations in forest soils.

As a rising junior student, I am still surprised that I have been given this amazing opportunity! It has taught me the importance of networking with scientists, as well as improving my laboratory skills. I am learning something new every day about what it is truly like to work in the field of science. I look forward to more interesting results, as well as intense ultimate Frisbee games, and weekend excursions to mountain summits. I am excited for what the future holds, and I hope that this summer continues to be the best one of my life so far!