Summer on a Shoestring

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.


Beech Bark Disease by Tony
July 22, 2012, 4:45 am
Filed under: Forest Health | Tags:


(Fig. 1)  Diseased Beech Tree

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) is one of the three dominant tree species in Northern hardwood forest. Beech bark disease is a disease complex which has been found in North America around 1890. Now the disease has been spread around the Northeastern part of this country (Fig 2.).Obviously, our experimental sites in New Hampshire are the victims of this disaster. The initial inventory data which we collected in 2005 and 2011 has indicated that the mean disease severity is much higher in old stands. And the latest inventory data from 2011 showed that the disease is much more serious than before. However, there are still no effective ways to control this disease complex. Many trials carried out by various researchers have resulted into failures.

So, the first step of our whole research plan on beech bark disease is to figure out how the disease progress in specific trees. Because the methodology we used in the past was just very qualitative and could just provide a general understandings about how the disease develop from a stand or plot viewpoint. We do not yet know how the disease like scales or fungus occupy and get the whole tree infected and dead. And subjection caused by different investigators using a vague scale would also affect the final result. Thus, a new rating system or technique is really needed.

Fortunately we have Jon Cale, a PhD student from ESF who is an expert on BBD, joined our crew this summer. He introduced the image analysis method to us which I think could better describe and quantify how the scales and fungus develop without subjection. We will take pictures in each selected tree from four cardinal directions at three height levels (0m, 1m, 2m). Then analyzing these pictures by a program called ImageJ.

Another thing we could expect is to see how the fertilization influences the disease. We have divided each site into 4-5 plots with different fertilization treatments (N, N+P, P, Ca) which began in spring 2011. It is reported by some researchers that the reason young beech trees are less infected than old trees is because of the low nitrogen content in young beech trees. So our inventory is also intended to discover whether these nutrient additives would ease or facilitate the disease.

Surely this kind of inventory would be very interesting and you would definitely get the feeling of saving the earth planet by doing this! Welcome to join us!



Fig 1. Distribution of BBD around North America (Provided by USDAForest Service, 2005)