Monday, May 30, 2011

Welcome, REU 2011!

32 students arrived this week for the Harvard Forest summer research program in ecology. Students have come from colleges and universities all over the United States to participate in on-going ecology-based research for eleven weeks. These students will work on a wide diversity of projects, focusing on plant physiology, invasive species, insect ecology, land-use history, phenology, and climate change. Students also get to participate in seminars, discussions on ethics in science, and career-building opportunities. The program will culminate with a full-day symposium where each student presents his or her research and experiences from the summer.

In their first week, students participated in orientation where they learned important safety protocols for their lab and fieldwork. Students also learn orienteering skills using a map and compass in the forest and were educated on how to prevent tick bites throughout the summer. The orientation concluded with a walk through Harvard Forest led by researchers who introduced the students to the large variety of ongoing experiments located throughout the property.

Starting Tuesday morning, students began meeting with their research mentors, learning how to identify plants and vegetation, collecting samples in the forest for analysis, setting up experimental structures and teaching each other how to use statistical programs that they will need for their projects.

Rachel Brooks, a senior at the University of Vermont, with the guidance of her mentor, scientist Aaron Ellison, used pipettes to gather the inner contents of insectivorous pitcher plants in Harvard Forest’s Tom swamp, in order to study the larvae utilizing this unique habitat.

Collette Yee and Katie Eisen (College of San Mateo and Amherst College respectively), and their mentor, scientist Audrey Barker-Plotkin, study the long-term importance of dominant oaks and subordinate red maples in the Lyford grid of Harvard Forest in terms of carbon storage, forest habitat and timber value.

The Lyford grid is a 3 hectare permanent plot first mapped in 1969, and every 10 years since for over 40 years, allowing detailed analysis of population-level change over time.

With over 10 different research projects being conducted simultaneously, along with fun trips, special programming and seminars, this summer promises to be exciting!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alumni profile

Cassandra Rivas
REU '08

Hometown: Edinburgh, TX
College and major: University of Texas-Pan American, class of 2008, Biology/Music

What you miss most about the REU program:
I miss the east coast forests, the fire tower (great for meditation & an easy get-away), afternoon thunderstorms, and all the wonderful people I met that summer.

What you miss least about the REU program:
The humidity and mosquitoes.

What about the REU program has stuck with you:
The field experience (botany/forestry) I gained that summer . It definitely got my foot in the door for other field jobs with agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and most recently, the U.S. Forest Service.

Have you stayed in touch with other REU students?
Yes, through Facebook and recently, I met up a few REU buddies in the west coast for some more outdoor adventures!

Did your REU experience support or change your school/career plans?
Most definitely. Prior to my REU experience I was doing research in a lab and for the most part, hated it. After that summer, I realized I wanted to work outside as much as possible, but not necessarily doing research. That summer, I also decided to take time off before grad school - and couldn't be happier with that decision.

What are you up to now?
Since my summer at the Harvard Forest and graduating college, I have held many biological science tech positions with various government agencies focusing on conservation & restoration efforts throughout the Sierra Nevada (CA). Recently, I applied to a few master's programs in Natural Resource management, as well as the Field Naturalist program at UVM. This fall (2011) I will be moving to the east coast for my top choice - UVM!

Want to see more alumni profiles? Check out our Harvard Forest REU alumni blog.