Summer on a Shoestring

Hubbard Brook Research Presentation — Donna Riner
July 23, 2018, 2:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

After 5 weeks of research and work on our projects, we arrived at Hubbard Brook Research Station and began practicing our presentations. As a crew, we had run through our presentations once before – fine tuning slide organization and fixing mistakes. This time, we practiced with an even finer toothed comb. Tomorrow was the big […]

via Hubbard Brook Research Presentation — Donna Riner


My first adventure in the White Mountains!
July 22, 2018, 4:23 pm
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Hello Shoestring blog! My name is Donna Riner and I am an intern with MELNHE this summer. I am writing a write a blog post about one of the first hikes I did while staying in Bartlett with one of my field crew leaders, Alex Rice!

One of the awesome things about staying in the White House is that there is never a shortage of adventure. After a work day in the field, Alex Rice and I drove a few miles down the road and went to the Arethusa Falls trail head for a short hike.

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WP 4

Alex Rice (left) and me (right). 

The hike was short, but it was super steep at times! This was my first hike in the White Mountains and I think it was a great warm up hike for some of the steeper grade trails. I really enjoyed hiking with Alex because she instilled in me her field crew leader wisdom. She told me about her time researching in Alaska and her time as a graduate student as well as what she hopes her career in science will be. I found that time talking with her valuable because I hope to be like her someday. Us female scientists gotta stick together!

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Arethusa Falls 

We reached the falls and the view took my breath away. The water fell delicately over the rock — its been a dry summer — and made wispy trails all the way to a deep pool at the bottom. Alex found the basin irresistible and she quickly took off her hiking boots for a dip in the cool water.

We found a great place to sit, watch the falls and have a snack. I brought a navel orange (one of our favorite snacks) and we split it. After taking a necessary snack break, we climbed up another steep trail next to the falls. The trail was so steep at times that we had to get on all fours and crawl. We found it most effective to grab roots protruding from the Earth and pull ourselves up. When we finally reached the top, the views were stunning!

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View from on top of the falls!

We sat and talked on top of the falls for a great while before we noticed it getting late. We had to get back for dinner. Every night, the MELNHE field crew prepares and eats dinner together, we couldn’t miss that!

The hike up Arethusa falls was one of the first adventures I had in the White Mountains. Sitting at the top of the falls, I had no idea what amazing adventures were in store.


Diary of an Introverted Scorpion
July 22, 2018, 3:38 pm
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Dear Diary,

Hi my name is Scorpy and I’m a scorpion.  I live in a pretty hectic place–there’s always science happening here.  And also lots of noisy fun.  Which is nice if that’s your thing, but honestly I just want to be left alone.  I keep hiding.  I crawl into dark places, I hide really well, and then someone comes along and finds me, pulls me out, and says “I’ve been Scorpy’d!” and then I have to hide all over again.  It’s really fun for them I guess, but for me it’s just a lot of work you know?


Dear Diary,

Today I hid in the refrigerator.  It was so cold, but also quiet and dark, which was nice.  I was nestled on top of the eggs, about to fall asleep, when out of no where, someone opens the door.  It seems like Alex was planning on making a delicious frittata for everyone, so I was rudely awaken.  I crawled into the bread drawer.  Hopefully I will be safe here.


Dear Diary,

It seems that the kitchen is not a safe space for me.  I was found in the bread drawer almost immediately.  Then in the microwave.  Then in the vegetable drawer.  I tried hiding in the jar by Marissa’s bed.  And then in Alex’s drawer.  Found.  And disturbed each time.  Is there no hope for peace and quiet in this house?  I’ll try hiding in the shower.


Dear Diary,

The shower was a bad idea.


Dear Diary,

I went on a scary field trip today.  I hid in Kate’s bag, thinking it was the kind of bag that is only used for school, you know?  But no, she brought it into the field with her.  To do germinant surveys.  I don’t care about germinants.  Or science.  Or the outdoors.  I just want to be left alone.


Dear Diary,

I’ve hidden in Donna’s ukulele case.  It was kind of a tight fit, but I thought surely no one will find me here? But of course fate was against me yet again.  I’ve began to wonder: am I cursed?  The crew had a campfire tonight and of course Donna wanted to play some music for everyone.  I hate music.  And also fun.  Why is this happening to me?


Dear Diary,

Wow it’s been the best week.  I’ve been inside one of the field clipboards and the crew has been working on presentations for the Hubbard Brook Conference.  Maybe no one will find me now! The thought brings me so much peace.


Dear Diary,

Chase saw me through the clipboard.  It’s not as opaque as I thought.  It’s a dark day for me.  This may be my last entry.


Dear Diary,

I’m all cozy now, hiding (Sh! I can’t tell you where!).  I just went on the wildest field trip.  All I wanted was to hide (as usual) so I crawled into Donna’s tent bag, thinking it was the perfect place to hide.  Next thing I know, I’m out in the lawn at Hubbard Brook and Donna’s waving me around yelling “I’ve been Scorpy’d!” and laughing.  Is this fun for you Donna?  How would you like it if someone waved you around like that?

Apparently the crew was digging soil pits all week so I was out in the open and far from home.  I spent most of the week hiding under Donna’s pillow, and then I made a break for it, crawling into Alex Rice’s sweatshirt.  She pulled me out and said “who did this??” What did she mean by that? I did this? I just want to be left alone.  How is that not clear by now?


Dear Diary,

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me now: I am cursed.  Doomed to be involved in the fun of the White House in Bartlett.  Is it not possible to have some peace and quiet here?  Why must they make everything exciting and fun?  I don’t like excitement or fun.

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
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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.

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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! 😉

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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
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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!