Summer on a Shoestring

Keepin Hubbard Brook Weir’d! By Jessica Swindon
August 3, 2015, 3:52 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It all started on an early Tuesday morning in July when I woke up with racing thoughts about the upcoming week, How will Ruth like my presentation? What kind of talks am I going to hear at Hubbard Brook? Who will I meet there? The 2015 shoestring crew loaded up and headed out to meet Ruth at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest to practice the presentations we would be giving the very next day. The long but productive practice session ended with plenty of yummy pizza, thanks to Ruth, and setting up our tents at the Hubbard Brook intern’s house. The next day was the start of the 60th anniversary of the Hubbard Brook Foundation and we were all excited to be a part of it!

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The very next day we would all be presenting our projects to 180 people ranging from interns just like us to phD professors to the creators of the Hubbard Brook conference. The morning came quick and the shoestring crew was on their toes because they always kick off the conference bright and early at 8 am. Once we arrived at the conference the adrenaline started up and the fact that we were going to have to present to a packed room of scientists really started to set in. We all presented one after another and survived without too much scrutiny from our peers. After the talks were over there were a lot of deep breaths and smiles on everyone’s faces. We did it! Now it was time to sit back and listen to an array of projects that were also being conducted at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. The presentations were of a range of topics including ice storm experiments, swimming salamanders, calcium manipulations and many more! After a long day of listening to amazing scientific studies being conducted in the nearby forests it was finally time for a quick swim in mirror lake before heading to dinner and the famous barn dance. After a quick but delicious meal it was finally time to put on our dancing shoes. Choosing the right contradance partner was by far the most difficult task of the day! My advice is to choose someone who is fun and likes to pay attention, it’s easy to get tangled up. After lots of stumbling feet and uncontrollable laughing we headed back to our camping spot and ended the long day with even more great conversation around a bonfire. The following day included more talks from the higher professionals and we ended the day with a BBQ at mirror lake to make it all worth it. The week of the Hubbard Brook conference was a long one but at the end we left as more educated individuals and gained insight into the many different kinds of projects that are being conducted nearby! A special thanks to all the people who helped organize the conference and to everyone who took the time to present their projects!

Survival Guide: The Long and Short of it. A memoir of the guy, by Matt Hayden
August 3, 2015, 3:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The forest and the city are not so different when you look at things through a proper scale. The biggest change here is time. The hustle of the human timescale locks us in to the perception that a week is a long time, and potential events after two weeks time might as well be as defined as prophecy unless explicitly defined. For the forest, a week may be as slight as a second. The forest remains, and it bows to no schedule.

This is an important lesson to learn for the average Shoestring-er. You see, ten weeks can feel like an eternity when you start in June, but now, it is past mid July and the data is just leaking in. You can’t rush results here. That’s exactly where I fall in- I’m the decomposition guy. My  experiment is literally weeks upon weeks of idling, allowing for the forest to progress along that stretched relative timescale and eat away the tea I laid in the soil. I learned very quickly how to be a capable everyman, because when your dedicated project literally involves doing nothing, everyone on the crew has something that needs to be  done. So to be THE GUY, you need a set of resources:

1) Endless wonder. Whether you’re hammering soil cores, running transects, or waiting for the Li- Cor to do whatever it is the Li- Cor does (magic), keeping an open mind for discovery is essential. You’ll go nuts if your mind isn’t active.

2) Undying optimism. You got SOMETHING for results… could be worse, right?

3) Unwavering confidence. Even if you’re not sure if the Ca plot is to the east or the west of the NP, someone needs to make the call. And hey, who can complain about a little extra exercise?

4) Exceptional navigational skills. The reference in #3 may or may not be fictional. Owning a vehicle is a huge plus.

5) Patience. This- and that- and the other, too- shall come to pass.

Really, I could not have asked for a better, more diverse experience. It has been a huge effort on the part of everyone here, and I am glad I got to tag along for the ride(s). Every day surprises me, and it keeps me sharp and on my toes- an invaluable life skill as a scientist in the field that we should all take away from one or another.

“In the forest I return to my faith and reason” – The Earth Speaks


Four Weeks With MELNHE, getting sappy! Tales by Jessie Smith!
August 3, 2015, 3:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My name is Jessie Smith. I was fortunate enough to spend a short 4 weeks as a part of the MELNHE Project summer internship crew. With only my freshman year at ESF behind me and no prior field experience, I was both nervous and excited to travel the 9 hours from New York to New Hampshire for the internship. My nerves soon disappeared once I began meeting the other project interns. Some were grad students, or had just received their degrees, or were at varying levels of undergrad. Even though most of the interns were more experienced or had obtained more knowledge than what I had after one year of college, I realized that we were all in Bartlett for two common reasons: our love for the environment, and our willingness to keep learning, despite the previous knowledge or experience that we may or may not have already had. So with the initial nerves out of the way, all that remained was the excitement to learn.


I was a part of the sap flow project along with Brigid (grad student) and Isaac (undergrad) and together we had the responsibility of constructing sensors and implementing them into all nutrient plots in a given stand. There was a learning curve that took place on almost every new aspect of the project. I learned how to write a research proposal, how to efficiently build sensors, how to choose the best trees and how to tap them for the sensors, and how to connect everything together into a functioning unit. I learned why it is important to monitor sap flow, and how our sensors were able to monitor it. I speak for Brigid and Isaac as well when I say that I learned how challenging it can be to conduct research under a low budget, especially when it is a new topic. We worked through the obstacles as a team (go team wolfpas!). It is unfortunate that I had to leave early and miss the completion of setting up C6 and the data collection that came with it. I know Brigid and Isaac (and now Nick) will continue to overcome any new obstacles and successfully finish the project. I wish you guys luck!

Aside from the great working experience I had, everything off the job was just as rewarding. It was so nice becoming friends with ten new people. We had a lot of fun times together. I wish I could have been around to participate in the Secret Santa Christmas and every Friday night holiday after that. Those four weeks would have been completely different if the people I shared it with weren’t so great. Being in the White Mountains was amazing. Every weekend was a new peak to climb, or a new part of the river to explore. I will definitely be returning to that area of New Hampshire. I truly value my time as being a part of the MELNHE crew, not only for the field experience I gained, but for the new people I met and the opportunity to explore a new beautiful part of the country.

2014 Shoestring Crew Summer Awards
August 14, 2014, 12:24 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 By: Adam Wild – Crew Leader

      As the summer came to an end for the Shoestring crew it was my responsibility and honor as crew leader to hand out the 2014 Shoestring crew awards. The awards this year were chosen by a panel of experts well known for choosing slightly ridiculous awards. Panelist had tough decisions to make as there were many outstanding participants competing for each category. The awards were presented at the first annual Shoestring Ball held at the White House (of course). Black tie attire was required for the grand event. Those in attendance came dressed in their finest evening gowns and could be seen walking down the blue linoleum tile in the laundry room as they entered the grand ball room of the White House which was decorated with 1960’s wood paneling. Ladies in attendance came dressed in elegant gowns made of garbage bags, twister mats, or bath towels. The men were seen in oak leaf ties, bow-ties, and even a bolo-tie made from tree flagging and a beer cap.  There was also a surprise appearance by Gunny, Lisa’s not-so-excited dog who slept through the awards ceremony.


Shoestring Scientific Achievement Awards 2014:

For being the best one pan chef: Justin T. Turlip – Justin has a cook book called “Two Dudes, One Pan”

For being the most midwesterner – Hannah Babel – Ways of the northeast were very unique for Hannah’s midwestern roots 

For being technical supports best friend: Jerome C. Barner – Jerome spent countless hours talking with LI-COR technical support

As the best finger piercer: Sophie L. Harrison – Sophie managed to put a sapflow sensor through one finger and into another finger on the opposite hand- and showed no pain  

For being the best boat-in-a-bottle builder: Stephanie Suttenberg – Inspired by a large jug of wine Stephanie spent her off hours whittling a boat from a native Bartlett tree to build a boat in a bottle – she will finish it and send a picture to us all  

Listening to the most jazz music: Raymond Lee – Ray loved listening to smooth jazz as he worked on the SAStop in the White House 

For packing the best bear lunch:  Dominic Forlini – Dom had his lunch stolen from a bear (see earlier post)

For being patient zero: Eli Egan-Anderson – Eli was the first to get the plague (a 24 hour stomach bug) which quickly spread through the rest of the camp and wiped out all but a couple tough field crew members  

For being the soil pH queen: Lisa Carper – Lisa, our local high school student, tirelessly measured soil pH of soil samples from our Ca addition plots and was our youngest member to ever present at the Hubbard Brook meeting     

The crew with their awards after the ceremony

The crew with their awards after the ceremony

Thanks to all  who participated in the award ceremony and a huge thanks to everyone on the Shoestring crew this summer. They did a great job and had a lot of fun along the way. It was sad to leave at the end of the summer. 

~Their Glorious Leader



Summer Memories
August 13, 2014, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By: Eli Egan-Anderson – REU, Cornell 

         It’s the last day of the field season (at least for us REUs) and I’m sitting in the white house dining room watching Adam pack up his bags for (probably) the last time he’ll be living and working here, so it’s pretty easy to be nostalgic about what had to be one of the greatest summers of my life. It’s funny what reminds you of something fun, in fact as I was shoving shelves on shelves of leaf litter into bags I was already reminiscing about collecting from the stands and the sad feeling that I won’t ever go eat lunch on the big rock in C8 or visit the spot where I chased a bear away from Dom’s lunch (though I was too late) in C7. Admittedly I won’t miss it all: the hike to C3 with 50 lbs of fertilizer in a frame backpack or the horrifying sounds of my cars axle complaining about the drive over to Jeffers brook, but the days without great memories are few and far between.

Paradise Swimming Hole

Paradise Swimming Hole

                That being said what I’ll remember most about the summer is not the great field work opportunities (how many people get to shoot branches off trees with a shotgun….for science?) or even the wise life lessons we heard every day from Our Glorious Leader (“Who needs coffee when we have each other!?”) but it’s the people who made up this amazing crew who make the summer unforgettable. Our permanent allstar REU lineup included Justin Turlip (aka J Baby, twopan, our glorious chef) the soil moisture guy who at one point was under the impression he could actually get me in shape if he could only get us to run more (I showed him!); Sophie Harrison (more often Soapy or the big ole sausage) the sappy sap flow leader who managed to not only make a million sensors, but also stick one through her finger; Stephanie Suttenberg (exclusively called  Stephy-baby) who knew more about snails than anyone despite hardly ever actually seeing them; Hannah Babel (herbal) who could be convinced of anything, including but not limited to Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose and/or a velociraptor; and Dom Forlini who I’m still fairly convinced is actually an Italian chef masquerading as an REU student. We can’t forget the older folk (Bearome, Dawny, and Ray Ray), BU Crew (Danny Boy, Riot, Princess and Troll), the other residents of the compound (Bird God, Bird Scout, Small Mammals, Michelle, Joe and the rest), the Ohio crew (Ginny, Shan, Mike, Chelsea, and Owen), the local teachers who managed to make middle school somehow seem appealing (Sean and Rick), the occasional volunteers (Lisa, Griffin, Abbey, and Nora) and last but not least Our Glorious Leader who taught us everything we know and love about New Hampshire and the White Mountains.


                With a crew like this it’s impossible for anything not to be a great time. Everything we’ve done has been great, from the big things from our near death climb of Huntington’s, floating the Saco in a tube through ‘class 5’ rapids, playing stump on the Fourth of July, hitting up the clubs, countless trips to Bart’s for sandwiches and Cabin Fever for pie, to even the little things like every day work and jumping off the rocks in Paradise were some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Thanks to the shoecrew for the memories and the best summer I’ve ever had!

Jerome Really Enjoying a Hike

Jerome Really Enjoying a Hike

~ Eli 

Root Identification – It’s Messy!
August 13, 2014, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Roots

By: Michael Grentzer – REU Miami University, Oxford OH

White Ash Roots

White Ash Roots

    So you want to know how to identify roots do ya?  It’s a messy business.  No, literally!  Prepare to get your hand caked in soil and to strain your eyes squinting at root cross-sections.  Identifying the roots out here in NH is not an easy task.  There are around seven species of trees and gob loads of herbaceous plants.  For the scientists out there, it only makes it more interesting and painstaking.  The roots come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, tastes, and smells.  You might be asking yourself about the last two adjectives, and you read that right.  Some the plants out here are distinguished best by their smell or taste.  This involves sinking you teeth deep into the root or scratching and sniffing the surface of the root.  You are rewarded with a sweet wintergreen taste/smell, a bitter smell/taste of bad medicine, or just plain ole’ nothing.  The tree and herb roots, while virtually the same and insignificant to the average person, are a treasure trove of information about the forest.  At the moment we are trying to distinguish the differences between the soil just millimeters away from the root, what we call rhizosphere, and the rest of the soil.  We’re testing for differences in microbial activity, nitrogen mineralization or the transformation of the nitrogen in the air to soluble compounds used for many life functions, and not but least moisture content. 

Red Maple Roots

Red Maple Roots

     Before we could do all this though, we needed to identify what root belonged to which species and this involved looking at the tips of the itty bity fine roots, the root’s curviness, the cross-section, color, smell, and taste.  Maple roots were predominantly loaded with these small beaded fine root tips.  Pin cherries tended to give off a sour smell and medicine-like taste.  The birch roots smelled and sometimes tasted like wintergreen, and the beech roots looked wiry and had a white star-shaped cross-section.  Sadly, determining the exact species could be done in areas that had only one species of a genus.  The roots tended to look too similar in most cases within a genus and made it nearly impossible to determine species without molecular data.  It’s tough and time-consuming, but in the end, we were able to accomplish this tough task. 

American Beech Roots

American Beech Roots

Pin Cherry Roots

Pin Cherry Roots

White Birch Roots

White Birch Roots

~ Michael 

August 2, 2014, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Cooking in the white house, Recreation

By: Hannah Babel, Miami University

Since the summer is coming to a close and my family is visiting this upcoming weekend, the past weekend was my last with the shoestring crew. This summer here has been an amazing one, filled with simply splendid people and spectacular sights. And to start to wrap things up, I could not have asked for a better week/weekend.

After a very long couple of weeks in the field and lab sampling and processing our soil samples, the hustle and bustle finally slowed down just in time for our science night to learn all about the up and coming NEON project in Bartlett. NEON stands for the National Ecological Observatory Network. The corporation is still in the construction phase, but we had two speakers (including a former shoestringer) that are part of the Bartlett Experimental Forest site come to share with us what they are all about.

The following morning we all woke ourselves up at the crack of dawn so we could leave Bartlett by 6:45 and head to Hubbard Brook for a tour that the one and only Don Buso was going to give us on the experimental watersheds. It was a wonderful day to hike around Hubbard Brook, but despite seeing all there was there, the most exciting part of the day was having Don share a bit of his knowledge with us. That man captured us all with his stories of history and science and most of all his enthusiasm about the work that has been done there and what we are learning.

Don Buso

      The man himself, Don Buso.

The weekend finally rolled around and Friday night everyone seemed a bit tired so we all took naps. Some of us were out for the night, but then some of us woke back up and played some board games. Shinjini and Adam had their hand at Uno while Eli and I picked up some ice cream, played Pirateers with Donny, and took a stroll down the tracks to the Saco. If I had known what was going to be in store for me for the next day, I would not have gotten back up and slept through the night; but then again, sometimes you have to sacrifice a little sleep to make the most of every minute in a place like this. (So I guess it was worth it).

Saturday morning I woke up with a text from Soph asking if I was up for hiking Washington that day (they were planning on hiking it Sunday since Eli hadn’t summited it yet). I said “Let’s do it!” And off we were. Since Justin and I had hiked up Tuckerman’s earlier in the summer, a different path up the mountain sounded more exciting to us. Soph suggested Huntington’s Ravine since it seemed to be just a little steeper and we heard it had spectacular views. Immediately the trail was much more fun, and a quite a bit steeper. Crossing and following the rivers up to the ravine was stunning and an adventure. We reached the ravine, stopped for lunch, and up the steep part we went. This was no hike, this was rock climbing. My slight fear of heights was tested to the maximum, and Soph and Justin took the courageous spots of safely guiding me and Eli up the dodgy path (if you can call yellow arrows painted on rock faces a path).


Huntington Ravine

      Terrifying, yet so incredibly thrilling.

The views were worth it. This time climbing Washington I could see out and I was breathless, possibly both by fear and the beauty of the view each time we reached a flat spot or that I would glance over my shoulder. It wasn’t until I got home and did some quick reading that I found out what I had done that day was the steepest, most challenging, and most dangerous hike in all of the White Mountains. I am awfully proud of myself, but owe a lot of that to the amazing climbing buddies I had to get me through it.

Mt. Washington View

      (photo cred to Justin for this one, as well as the previous two.)

After we climbed down the mountain and got back to the White House, we realized how hungry we were, but lacked much energy to do any cooking and we jumped in the car. We headed for Moat mountain (a townie bar it seemed). And found the family style BBQ on the menu. All you can eat BBQ. It was too good, we all ate past the point of being full and Justin ate abou 3 times his weight in brisket.


     With a good amount of reorganization, we were able to fit all the plates on our table.


Sunday morning: Soph and Justin must’ve gotten up early because when I reached the White House they had already stared cooking up a perfect mountain breakfast. As if we didn’t eat enough the night before, we had a lovely assortment of berry and banana pancakes, eggs, toast, bacon, and fresh berries.


       Breakfast of champions (the Huntington’s Ravine champions that is)

Later on, we went out berry picking for eating or jam making. The day had started out rainy, but we were happy to see it clear up since the little time we have left here should not be spent cooped up indoors. We went along the tracks until we got just past the slab and closed our weekend with a swim in the Saco and some swings off the rope. I am not ready for this summer to end and this Midwestern girl is not ready to say goodbye to these magnificent mountains.


RR Tracks

It’s going to be a very hard goodbye



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