Summer on a Shoestring

Middle School on a Shoestring
November 9, 2012, 2:24 am
Filed under: Litter Sorting

ImageWhile the summer has now passed us by it is important to remember that life (and senescence) goes on out in the stands.  Researchers and graduate students may not be out daily but there is still a bustle of activity even now as fall seems to be rapidly closing. I have twice seen other researchers out in the woods and twice just missed others by a day or hours.

Right now there are two major projects centered around litterfall occurring in the Shoestring stands.  Since one of them is mine I would like to tell you a little about what we are doing and who is really doing it.

ImagePicture if you will a lab space, aptly named “The Leaf Lab”.  Now add shelves and fill these with leaf litter filled brown bags.  Now add 100 7th and 8th grade students spread throughout the day and you begin to get the idea.

I am a middle school science teacher at  A. Crosby Kennett Middle School.  This past summer I had the opportunity to join the shoestring crew in Bartlett as an RET.  My goal was to design and conduct a publishable study while involving my students.  That project is now underway with about 100 middle school lab techs. Their goal: to learn how scientists conduct research, and to understand what factors may control nutrient cycling in the forests of their surrounding valley.  We will meet these goals by conducting a leaf litter decomposition experiment in some of the MELNHE plots.  You can check later posts for more detailed information on the experiment as I hope to get some students writing here soon.




Leaf Litter
July 2, 2012, 2:02 am
Filed under: Foliage, Litter Sorting


Photo of dried leaf litter being weighed.

Leaves, the driving force of transpiration in trees, fall off each year so that trees can live through winter.   There is a larger leaf loss in the fall but some leaves are still lost in summer.  The shoestring crew placed leaf litter baskets in designated areas to collect the fallen leaves in the seasons of fall as well as summer.  Baskets are placed in four sub plots within a stand: the control plot, a plot treated with phosphorus, a plot treated with nitrogen, and a plot that contains both phosphorus and nitrogen. The leaves are collected once in the spring, summer and fall then dried in an oven at 60 degrees celsius for roughly 24 hours.  After weighing, non leaf matter is removed and the weight of the leaf litter is recorded.  The dried weight can be compared to data from previous years to see if the mass of the leaf harvest has changed.  The differentiation between plots will perhaps show the affect that the nitrogen, phosphorus or nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization has on trees.

~Kelsey Pangman

Happy Summer Solstice! June 21 through June 25
June 28, 2010, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Litter Sorting, Trenching

On the summer solstice Kikang measured soil respiration pre-trenching in the trenching locations. What a way to celebrate summer!

Early in the week conference calls were had,

The crew listened to some tunes and sorted litter in the lab.

We trenched in C6, and there was lots of chatter,

about the depth of soil samples and abundant organic matter.

We trenched in C7, through the rain and finished trenches, thrice.

We made Southeast Asian style mac and cheese, but with no mac just rice!

The week ended sad and sort of abrupt.

Both South Korea and the USA lost in the World Cup.

Check out the Bartlett webcam and see how we are faring in the rain!

Here are some more trenching pics.


Trenches Dug: 24 Left to Dig: 4

Minirhizotrons Installed: 100 Left to Install: 40

Stands Inventoried for Seedlings/Herbs: 9 Stands Left: 1

2009 Basket Litter Sorted: 47 Left to Sort: 153

Soil pits dug: 0 Left to Dig: 6

Isopod catch count: 0

June 14th to June 18th

Early this week Corrie, JiYoung, and Cole roughed it out in C1, doing the seedling/herb inventory in transects and permanent plots (pictured below). Kikang trained Gavin on how to measure soil respiration at the same time.

We have found some some “bear-tivity” in our stands. At C7, they were most interested in our beer cans that top the minirhizotrons. Minirhizotrons are clear tubes we place into the ground to look at roots. Nat Cleavitt, Tim Fahey and others have used them in another study to look at root injury associated with soil freezing in the Hubbard Brook (click here to see their paper published in 2008). The minirhizotrons work in such a way that you insert a camera down the length of the tube to view the roots that come into contact with the side of the tubes. They can viewed over time to see changes underground, or in our case hopefully see new root growth as a response to fertilization treatments. We use soda and beer cans (washed and with the tops are cut off) taped to the top of the tubes so they keep light and water out. So who knew bears preferred Pabst Blue Ribbon? Luckily the tubes are not disturbed more than the cans and foam being ripped out (we put foam insulation inside them to help dissipate heat). Btw, at C1 we also had one laundry basket (used to collect leaf litter) casualty. It was upturned, with some good sized teeth marks. This is why we have replicates within plots! Well not the only reason, but anywho…

This week we also had a stellar leaf litter sorting training sesh with Cindy Wood. She hails from Bethlehem, NH and traveled all the way to Bartlett to teach us how to identify leaf litter that has been sitting in laundry baskets for a field season (it’s much more difficult than fresh litter right off the tree!). We learned that the littler hairs on the back of a yellow birch and white birch can be used to distinguish the two from each other (yellow birch hairs go parallel to the main vein, where white birch they are perpendicular, talk about tedious work). We also learned that the two species can hybridize a lot so if you can tell the species from the shape of the leaf that is the quickest way to ID them. Thanks to her excellent examples, the crew has been sorting up a storm! We are making our way through our litter sorting duties for the summer.

Thursday and Friday the crew spent working at Hubbard Brook, and Jeffers Brook (in Woodsville, NH). We had an ambitious plan to complete the trenching, soil sampling, and seedling/herb inventory at these stands, so of course it rained hard!

This afforded us the chance to spend some time with Nat Cleavitt and the veg crew over in Hubbard Brook sorting litter samples. They even helped us identify our unknown species from our Jeffers Brook veg surveys, those girls know their plants!

Luckily we have a dedicated crew and still finished most of the tasks on our list. Gavin and I finished the last trench at JB. It was interesting that 2 of the 8 trenches at JB we found earthworms (in plots 3 and 4). Plot 3 had the most abundant number of them. Over a dozen in one trench, if I remember right. We find this interesting as ecologists doing a nutrient cycling study because earthworms can greatly influence the physical and chemical soil environment. (Check out this paper by Bohlen and others that describes earthworm impacts on C and N storage in forest soils or  this one by Li and others that describes their impact upon microbes in the forest soil). We also heard some loons and bull frogs calling as we finished our last trench, something we don’t hear often at our stands.

After a long week in the field, on my way back to Bartlett that Friday night I came upon a bad motorcycle accident on the hairpin turn on the Kank. It was bike week in Laconia, so there were lots of bikers out enjoying the beautiful (but sometimes dangerous) seasonal by-ways we have here in NH. Unfortunately with no helmet law, bad accidents can be worse. Thanks to Ruth sending her first aid kits along to the field crew, I had one in the back of my car and was able to help out some of the hurt cyclists. The crew and I talked about safe-driving on these long and winding roads, and we all hope that the injured parties are on their way to a good recovery.

On a lighter note…

Menu Items from the White House

This week we are happy to share with you two recipes that Gavin’s mom was delighted to share with the crew! (In her words, “I can’t believe I’m swapping recipes with Gavin!”. We thank her, because they produced some delicious meals!

Minestrone Soup

Brown 1 lb sausage or hamburger(look for lean), drain and then add two
chopped onions and 2 cloves garlic finely chopped.  Save time and only
brown the meat and add the onions and garlic later.

Add 8 c water, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, 3 tsp beef bouillon, 1 tsp
Italian seasoning, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 2 medium carrots sliced and
pared, 2 stalks celery chopped, 2 potatoes chopped.   Bring to a boil
and then reduce heat and cook till veggies are tender.  (15 minutes or
so) Add 15 oz can garbanzo beans(or sometimes called chick peas) 9 oz
can green beans, 1 small can kidney beans, and 4 oz pasta( optional)
and cook till pasta is cooked.

Strawberry Shortcake

6 servings, 4 for dinner servings

2 quarts Strawberries
1/3 to 1/2 c sugar   depending on how sweet you want it.
1/2 pint whipping cream

2 c flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 c shortening(white crisco)
2/3 to 3/4 c milk

An hour or more before eating, wash berries and shake gently dry.
Remove caps and slice add sugar and stir every once and a while to
bring the juice.   Put in the refrigerator.

Whip cream with electric mixer hand held or stand, and add 1 tsp
vanilla and 1/2 c sugar.  Beat till whipped cream.  The cream should
hold a peak if the beater is removed.   Put in refrigerator.

Mix all dry ingredients, cut in shortening with fork or pastry blender
Mix in milk.  Either put into 8 or 9 inch cake pan, or use 8 inch
square pan.  OR you can roll them out.   Bake at 450 for 12-15
minutes.   You do not want these too brown or raw.  Make these up
fresh just before serving.

To serve cut in 4 pieces, split each piece and fill with strawberries
and cream  OR split whole cake in half horizontally and fill with
cream and strawberries and then put top on and repeat.   I do not do
it this way, because it is not as good soggy as leftovers!