Summer on a Shoestring

Groundtruthing the MELNHE Inventory Plots
July 28, 2018, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hi. My name is Charlie Mann. I’m currently a rising senior at Manlius Pebble Hill School in Dewitt, New York. I began working in the ESF lab at the beginning of the summer and it has very quickly become a priority in my weekly schedule. I’ve sorted leaves, seeds, sifted a couple stands of soil, reorganized the freezers, and combed through years of data. This week, however, I grabbed my rain pants and hiking boots and left the lab to work with the MELNHE field crew in New Hampshire. Yesterday, I helped ground truth one of the plots.

We started the day with a brief hike up to C5 to check all the stem maps. We could tell something was off since there were not supposed to be any trees in the C5-4-A1 subplot, so we skipped that subplot for now. At the next subplot, none of the trees on the plot existed on the map of the subplot, but they did exist in a different subplot. How’d that happen? We still don’t quite know for sure, but each plot was not where it was supposed to be. We were able to properly reorganize and understand the errors since each subplot had been shifted on the map, but that was not the case for the next plot. We hoped that this plot didn’t have the same tragic mistake as the previous plot, and it didn’t! Entire plots were not in the wrong location. No. Now each individual tree was shuffled. Needless to say, we skipped this entire plot. The last two plots, C5-2 and C5-1, went much faster and we were able to check the species, location, and ID code of each tree with a greater efficiency. It could be because these last two plots didn’t have major errors like the others, but we had also began enjoying the problem solving. Working through the problems and color coding the stem maps was really enjoyable. We decided to come back tomorrow and finish the plots we skipped.

Although hiking through the weeds and the brush is not exciting to me, we are going back today to finish the C5-3 plot. And that excites me.

The next day:

We finished remapping the C5-3 plot and it turned out great. The location of each tree in each subplot of C5-3 has been successfully completed in which seemed to take less time than the last two plots we did yesterday. Although it was labor intensive, the weather held up today and we have a piece of work ready to be mapped in ArcGIS!

Completed Stem-map

Wave and Charlie after remapping C5-3


Going with the flow
July 27, 2018, 1:13 pm
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Hi there!! My name is Ari Libenson and this is my blog post about my summer research project measuring sap flow and some of the tribulations that I have faced.

When my crew-mates and I aren’t off adventuring in the White Mountains or playing hide-and-seek with our house pet/Beanie Baby, named Scorpie (see below: “Diary of an Introverted Scorpion”), we are nose-deep in our research projects. By using the phrase “nose-deep,” I mean this literally as well as figuratively as some of our projects (i.e. digging soil pits) require us to get down and dirty. My project, however, is a relatively clean one considering the fact that I am basically studying the movement of water. More specifically, I am measuring the movement of xylem sap within trees in order to determine whether nutrient additions (nitrogen, phosphorus, or calcium) impact this process.

To measure sap flow, I use the Granier Method to quantify the flux of sap through a tree. This method works by measuring the temperature difference between two probes (together they make a sensor) inserted into the tree one above the other. The bottom probe is the reference and above it is the heated probe, which receives a constant amount of heat. As sap flows through the xylem, it cools the heated probe. The temperature difference between the heated and reference probe can then be converted into sap flux using a computer software called BaseLiner.


Granier method set-up (Lu et al., 2004).


One of the sensors installed into a tree!

While my project may not be quite as dirty as digging massive holes in the ground, it has not all been smooth sailing. One of my greatest struggles coming into this project was learning how to build the sap flow sensors, which also required learning how to wire. In order to make the sensors, I first had to build the probes.


The probes connected together to make a sensor.

This process entailed cutting off the pointy end of a hypodermic needle and inserting a pair of wires, called a thermocouple, all the way through the needle shaft. Having had no previous wiring experience of any kind, the only thing I could compare this to was sewing. If you’ve ever sewed before, you likely know the frustration of trying to thread a needle. Now imagine that on steroids. That’s what it was like trying to gently force those feebly thin strands of wire through the needles. And I thought I was out of the woods once I finally achieved that feat. How naïve I was. I quickly came to realize that even though I may have successfully threaded the needle, that wasn’t a guarantee that the probes would actually function. After all that effort, I had to throw away several probes that either had a faulty connection or a lack of connection between the wires. Such is the world of science: it is tedious and at times, quite monotonous, but occasionally it comes together in the end. Currently, my sensors are all up and running in the field after two full days of instrumenting trees at one of our Hubbard Brook stands.


All of the interns about to carry 50 lb. batteries into the field!


Alex Rice hard at work connecting sensors to the data-loggers.


I even roped my brother, Jonathan, into helping install sensors.

Looking back at all of the work that was put into this project, including all of the invaluable help from my fellow crew-mates and crew-leaders, I am so happy with how far it has come. I finally have sap flow data to analyze!!!


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

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.  I think I gave Donna quite a scare but then she laughed, so I guess it’s all in good fun.


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.

-Written by Kate Bazany