Summer on a Shoestring

tree community composition in MELNHE
March 18, 2018, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hi everyone,

If you ever wondered how the trees in each research plot compared to one another (or stand for that matter!) have a look at the graphs below.

The visualization uses a non-metric multi-dimensional scaling approach to view similarity or difference in tree community composition. Simply put- each point is a plot, and the ellipses are stands- points closer together are more similar!

Wishing you well,

-Alex Young

melnhe Tree ordinationmelnhe tree species ord


The Drama of a Data Disaster​
December 22, 2017, 12:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello! My name is Maddy Morley! I know this is my first blog post, but I assure you it’s because I’m a blog post-slacker… not because I’m new around here. I started working on MELNHE as a fresh-faced high school graduate back in 2015. Now as a 1-semester-to-go grubby undergrad senior at SUNY ESF, I write to you a tale of righting-the-wrong in a drama of a disastrous dataset!

After classes had finished for the semester, I was forced to acknowledge the chaotic mess of 2016 leaf litter data! What’s this you ask? Well, during the fall of 2016, we collected leaf litter from the litter baskets four times. This was a way to look at the differences in the timing of leaf fall among the treatments. Sounds all good and dandy right? Ha! All I’m saying is that includes a lot of paper bags to manage (n= ~ 760)… BUT HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO SEE WHAT DIFFERENT SPECIES ARE DOING IN DIFFERENT TREATMENT PLOTS?! Super duper cool! Let’s sort the contents of litter baskets by species! Well that my friends, takes an army of high schoolers and undergrads who are paid in pizza and college credit! It took this army an entire year to oven dry and weigh 6 stands, and sort, dry, and weigh 4 more. The sorting by species generated approximately 2,210 coin envelopes/ paper bags. WOWZA! That is a lot of samples and there are lots of ways for this to go wrong…

Labeling errors caused duplicates. Weighing things inside envelopes when they should have been weighed in a weigh boat lead to incorrect masses. Mistakes in writing or typing the weights were problematic. Samples were misplaced, lost, found, fixed, redried, reweighed, and of course, some were ground for nutrient analysis before we could double check them… *sighhhhhh*

Sounds like a lot of work… hurray that my good friends Griffin (aka the man with an eye for errors), Dan (aka the king of sample sorting) and Ruth (aka our fearless leader and scientific mentor) were there to help! After spending seven straight days in the lab, we’ve finally done it! We have fixed the errors and are confident with our data!

What have we learned from this experience?!

1 – Having a plan is key! When I tried to fix the problems early on, I was frustrated with how chaotic the data was. There was a lot of work to do and I wasn’t sure where to begin, but after the team created an action plan, work was accomplished more efficiently.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 7.21.54 PM.png

The action plan board which was written in purple and covered in hearts!


2 – Communication is everything! By talking among team members, we were able to work through the problems together instead of battling them by ourselves.

3 – By setting goals, you can make realities! Before really delving into this problem, I set the goal to finish by Christmas and we did it three days ahead of schedule! We’ve all worked really long days, but it is done!!! And being done my friends is the best Christmas present of all! 😉

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 7.23.07 PM.png

Ruth’s office was transformed into our headquarters and was covered in samples and boxes!


Now I’m off to analyze the data and finish our manuscript! Oorah!




The Wrap Up
August 15, 2017, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

AllAs the summer comes to an end it is time for the paper (birch) awards! This year we had the interns present the crew leaders with their awards and the grad students presented the interns with theirs. It was a ceremony filled with positive energy and emotions. It brought us all together one last time before we went our separate ways. Here are the awards that were presented:


Alex Y

No Closed Doors Award

This is Alex Young! He is very friendly and social!SO social in fact that he likes to keep all the doors (and cupboards!) open to ensure all are welcome and do not feel left out…or he is just forgetful. We may never know the true reasoning behind it but nonetheless this quality made him the candidate for the No Closed Doors award.



#1 Daddy and Sleeping Beauty Award

This is Dan Hong! As you can see he was presented with two awards. This is because he was THE crew leader and always made sure all tasks were completed. Some would even say he took a father-like role this summer. This is why he is the #1 daddy. However, if you ever needed Dan your best bet was to check the couches. The hardest part of that was which couch would Dan be found on! Dan’s needy sleep schedule granted him the Sleeping Beauty Award!



Smokey’s Greatest Nemesis Award

This is Gretchen Lasser! She likes fireworks…and when I say “like” I actually mean LOVES! However, when you are a forest ecologist, fire is not good. This did not deter Gretchen though! She found a nice spot by the river, outside of the National Forest to display her passion in the sky. Her fondness for these sparkly, shiny, fiery sticks makes Gretchen Smokey’s Greatest Nemesis.


Alex R

The Longest Fuse Award

Now don’t get this award confused with Gretchen’s because they both have to do with fire! This is Alex Rice. She took on the daunting task of studying sap flow this summer. With all the construction and wiring of parts, something was bound to go wrong. And they did…over …and over…and over again. However, this did not dampen Alex’s persistence to get useable data this summer. For this persistence, she was presented the Longest Fuse Award.




Titration King

This is Paul Ojo! He was a very determined member of our crew. Paul worked night and day on his titrations all summer long. Paul never let a mistake, or unexplainable hiccup get in his way of finishing his titration. His persistence, determination and positive outlook granted him the Titration King Award.



The Interns

ClaudiaThe Master Gatherer

This is Claudia Victoroff! Her summer research involved collecting mushrooms that popped up in our plots and identifying them. This was not the only reason why she was granted this award however. Claudia is a very outgoing person and brought the crew together.  Some would say she’s a real fun-gal She even gathered up members of the other research institutions present in the area. For this Claudia was awarded the Master Gatherer award.




The Bushwacker Award

This is Grace Haynes! Being super self driven on the GIS stem mapping project and taking on such a difficult task and finding her way through the rough granted Grace this award. She is the most likely to find her way home and proved clarity during times of confusion and haze which is what a bushwacker does when they clear the path for others.



Terra Firma Award

This is Griffin Walsh! He was an asset to this year’s crew because of how stable he was. His dependability, determination, and knowledge granted him the Terra Firma Award. Terra=ground and Firma= firm which is why this award was right for Griffin. Like the ground, he has layers, however, many only see the surface but those that take the time to look appreciate all the talents (layers) that Griffin possesses.



The Kestrel Award

This is Maddy Morely! She is fierce, stealthy, small, and mighty…just like a Kestrel! She is very reliable when it comes to work and friendship! She has an internal compass of a goddess that allows her to navigate the field, and life with ease. She occasionally eats small mammals.. For these qualities and for her love of birds, Maddy was presented the Kestrel Award.




The Cheese Baller

This is Milda Kristupaitis! She was the uplifting spirit of the crew. Wherever she was people were laughing, not at her but with her. She brought people together with her humor and lightened stressful situations. She coined catch phrases like deer tears, who pecked that, and cheese(balls) and wine. For her love of cheeseballs and her outgoing personality she was presented the Cheese Baller Award.


The Angel Award

This is Trey Turnblacer! He is most likely to be confused with and to outwork an lumberjack in the woods due to his steady determination to help others with field work. However, not a day in the field went by that Trey did not wipe out on a log or just over air it seemed. Some would say that he fell from heaven because he keeps falling here on earth and for that he was granted the Angel Award.

There were several crew members that left early, Shiyi Li, Shan Shan, Catilyn Buccheim, and Syd Wesney so we were unable to present them with awards, however each of them brought a new perspective and atmosphere to the group that was greatly missed.

-Alex R


Rating Beech Bark Disease
August 4, 2017, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Coming into the summer, I was assigned the task of rating the severity of Beech Bark Disease in all of the MELNHE stands. Beech Bark Disease is characterized by scale insects and followed by a fungal agent that eventually weakens the tree. Since I had no experience with the disease before, Dan and I were paired up for the project.


Cankers from Fungus

We used a rating system developed by some of the leading professionals on the disease. Each one of the trees we rated was categorized into a three-part system. The trees were rated based on scale infestation, fungal infection, and canopy health. At the end of the project, Dan and I had rated over 1000 mature beech trees. We were also able to rate over 1000 beech saplings within all of our stands


Scale Insect Colonies

The coolest part of the project was that I was able to have results by the time of the Annual Hubbard Brook meeting. After looking through my data, I noticed that I had significant results in terms of stand age. There was also some significance between our treatment plots, which is a big deal for the MELNHE project. At the conference, I was able to give a five-minute presentation to a room filled with over 100 scientists to explain my project and show my findings.IMG_2764

Being a shoe stringer was one of the most valuable experience that I have ever encountered. It exposed me to a variety of different projects and helped me with improving my understanding of forest ecology. Bartlett New Hampshire is totally awesome!



My summer has been just beechy-keen

Grad student Gretchen here! This was my first summer up here in Bartlett, although I did come up last year in July to attend the Hubbard Brook Cooperators meeting. It was cool being back at that meeting this year but being one of the people giving a talk instead of just listening!

We are staying in “the white house” which is US Forest Service housing that is located 5-15 minutes from 9 of the experimental forest stands that we do work in. The property itself is comprised of 2 separate buildings that act to house cool researchers like ourselves, as well as a building that contains lab space, a conference room, and a supplies garage. We’re not the only folks on the property, there are also forest service and university-affiliated field workers, like the small mammals crew that tracks voles and catches field mice and moles – – they let me hold a dead star-nosed mole!! Ok, that may have been more exciting for me than it sounds to you.

The project that I’m wrapping up is photographing trees to quantify beech bark disease. BBD has been around for 100 years and we still don’t know everything about it which is scary because the mature forest up here is mostly beech and sugar maple – – imagine a bunch of diseased trees falling down. Eek. Anyway, I’ve been painting trees with 10x5cm “L”s so that I can use an imaging program to quantify insects and fungus on the bark and see if and how the nutrient manipulation that is the MELNHE project has any effect. It takes me the better part of a day to complete 20-25 trees, so this effort took a week. Each day I generate 750-1000 photographs so I’ll have a lot of work still to do when classes start up again.

Field work is a bit more laborious than the work I’m used to doing during the school year so I’ve made sure to play just as hard as I’ve been working! I love fishing up here in NH and there are a few great ponds within 45 minutes of us. My all-time favorite fishing was down on Squam Lake, which is by Lake Winnipesaukee but with much less traffic. I have a little rubber rowboat raft that suits 2 people and since I brought 3 rods up I’ve been able to take some of my compadres out with me! While fishing isn’t new to me I made it my mission to work on cleaning and cooking my catches this summer and I had great success! I’ve been intimidated by the idea of filleting but practice has made perfect and everyone here (well, not the vegetarians) has enjoyed tasting my efforts. After filleting I let the fish sit in brine water for 1-2 days (bass can be one of the fishier tasting fish) and then I coated them with bread crumbs and baked them, if you’re wondering.

Soil, Sapflow, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Lab
July 24, 2017, 2:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For most projects, a synergy between the field and the lab is necessary; we previously delved deep within the intricacies of field work, so here’s an introduction into our current lab processes. 0719171206

Our first stop is our leaf litter scraping, one step in the long process of prepping our spring leaf litter samples for dry mass acquisition. After sorting by beech and other, old and green, and then nonleaf, we dry then scrape the samples to get off all the excess nonleaf that was previously stuck to the leaves. After this step, we can finally dry and weigh the samples, resulting in our final mass data. That’s Maddy by the way.

Second, here’s Paul, performing some wild science, which involves microbial respiration. I unfortunately can’t tell you much about this project, but seek out Paul if you’d like to know more. It does look cool, with that pristine buret setup and that mysterious purple solution.


What I’ve been doing lately has been base cation extractions on soil collected from our plots. Another intricate and complex process, bottles filled with soil and ammonium nitrate are shaken for half an hour each, some other waiting and shaking is thrown on top of that, and then you filter the solution into a new bottle. Very complex indeed. I’ve gotten caught up on all my soaps while I shake, and on top of that I’m starting to get pretty swole as well, so that’s something.

There’s so much to say about what goes into sapflow, but there’s only so many hours in the day and time is precious, don’t waste it. Here we have Alex Rice, a crew member who enjoys sticking things in trees, soldering some wires together for some reason. I wouldn’t read into it too much. The wires connect the probe to the data logger, which is then rigged up to three car batteries. For those who don’t frequent car battery conventions that’s a lot of juice right there. Despite her demeanor, Alex is in a state of maximum bliss, high off the joys of making progress on her time-engulfing project (and possibly solder fumes).

Well, that’s all folks, tune in next week for a riveting discussion on some as-of-yet undetermined topic, you don’t want to miss it. Losar out.

-Griffin Walsh

Life in the plots and in the white house
July 10, 2017, 2:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello and Thank you for checking out our most recent updates on the shoestring blog.

The field season is in full swing with various projects going on- you’ll get to see glimpses of some! Be on the lookout for more to come soon.

Can you spot the field researcher?   On the right both Alex Rice and Young carrying equipment into the field!

We just finished our intensive soil week- Soil cores, soil respiration, and resin strips!

Alex Young launches a line over a Sugar maple limb-  Vertical foliage collection!

Installing stem-flow sensors!

Ectomycorrhizal mushrooms in the plots!

Making and eating stuffed shells-  White house top left!


Thanks for stopping by!  We’ll be at Hubbard Brook next week for a summer collaborative meeting-   We’ll swing back into field work after for the last month of the 2017 season

— Alex Young