Summer on a Shoestring

The weekend was LIT!
June 11, 2017, 10:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Howdy y’all! Dan here again.

After days of rain and hours of working on proposals and peer reviews, this year’s Shoestringers were finally welcomed by Mother Nature with a beautiful weather, somewhere in the 90’s, on our very first official weekend here in Bartlett! And so it didn’t come as a surprise when we were woken up by the balmy beams of late morning sunshine, rather than the screeching sounds of our alarms (thanks Trey for not forgetting to turn off your siren-like alarm). One by one, as the crew got out of bed and made our way downstairs to the coffee smelling kitchen, it was clear to me that I had been making them work too much with no break in between. But thanks to Pope Gregory XIII and his Gregorian calendar, the weekend could not have come at a more quintessential time.

Rubbing our eyes and trying to brush off the morning drowsiness, the crew realized that they had a difficult situation to go through the first thing in the morning. Syd was leaving. After each and every crew member exchanged warm and lasting hugs with Syd, we decided to capture this moment by taking a group picture. It is sad that Syd was leaving but apparently her family hasn’t seen her much lately since she was studying abroad in Costa Rica over J-term and so she hadn’t been home since she started school back in fall. Melany was leaving too but she’ll be back. Plus she’s been sort of a nuisance (just kidding Melany!). And good luck to Eddie (Melany’s son) on his college tours on their drive back to Ohio. He visited Cornell, Tufts, Northeastern, and will be visiting Amherst on their way back.


After the tough goodbyes, everyone was sort of on their own to spend their very first Saturday in Bartlett. Some of us took it easy and stayed home while others were off to Pine Mountain for more hiking! A rare species named Dan was spotted in his natural habitat, disguised in an umbrella hat, a cup of coffee and a book. I had no idea this picture was being taken as Alex Y creepily observed and recorded my every move. But I’m reading a book called Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I just started it so I can’t write much about it but it is a narrative story of trees, science and the memoir of Hope Jahren, a female American geochemist, geobiologist, and a professor. I will do another blog post that will be a review of the book later on.

As I mentioned earlier, the average temperature for the day was 90 degrees F and the high was 96 degrees F. And so I decided to make some Pina colada smoothie for everyone who were around at the house. The recipe is super easy and quick. All you gotta do is blend ice with pineapple juice and cream of coconut. If you’d like, you could add a little bit of rum but I decided to forego that step. The sourness of pineapple and the sweetness of coconut cream, coupled with crushed ice, a sip of this heavenly virgin cocktail took me to a distant and isolated island in Puerto Rico. I will be definitely making more soon!

Trillda was back in action with their exploration and Travel Guide. Milda, Trey, Shiyi and Alex R left the house with some sort of determination and resolve and they drove away to hike the Pine Mountain. They got back from the hike around 6 and the crew went to North Conway to get Thai food for dinner. Needless to say, it was delicious and will probably go back just to befriend the owner. He is from Thailand and he was hilarious. When we got back to the White House, Maddy and Shiyi took the crew to their favorite spot at the river and while they were doing that, the campfire was getting lit. Like really LIT. I made friends with some people from other groups that are staying in Bartlett over the summer and soon the river crew joined the rest of us. It was my first fire of the season and had forgotten how nice it was to sit around the fire and stay away from mosquitos. Although a late first fire of the season, this will go on and will be many more. So stay tuned!


Dan out.


Travel Guide Trillda: Crawford Notch Trail (more fun if said with an English accent)
June 10, 2017, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello Hello Hello! This summer, I will be your travel guide of not only the White Mountain region, but hopefully a little bit of Maine and Vermont as well! As I love to explore and find new hot spots to hangout in, I will keep all of you updated on the hottest nature venues of the New England region (mostly just the White Mountain area tbh.)

Well since we have been so busy fertilizing and writing proposals and such, I hadn’t had much time to get out and hike around here. However, we luckily ended up getting the day off this past Thursday, which happened to be the most beautiful day recorded in New Hampshire’s history. So Grace, Trey, and I decided to Carpe Diem AF and go on our first hike in the White Mountain National Forest. Using the iPhone or Android app, All Trails (TM), we found a particular trail called Crawford Notch, only a 4.3 mile hike and located only 15 minutes from our house!!!!!!!!! Immediately at the trail head, you are tucked between rolling, green mountains and are surrounded by lush, verdant trees if various species; I am alive. We begin our ascent up Mount Crawford where we tread parallel to a meandering creek and we enter the Presidential Range – Dry River Wilderness Area. The first 15 minutes of the hike seem harmless, a hill grade of maybe 1% at which time we are more consumed by the diversity and beauty of flora surrounding us. However, about half a mile in, we are exposed to our stairway into heaven. We begin trudging upward passing by massive rocks embedded in the trail and moss-covered rocks adjacent to the trail. We all have unwavering confidence at the beginning of this ascent (at least I did), but that was soon shattered by our fatigue, sweat, puffing lungs, and tears (disclaimer: no actual tears were shed during this endeavor.) Because of this, stops were frequent and water-chugs were not uncommon as we continued hiking under the thick canopy of forest. However, after about an hour of body torture, we are exposed to the light. We finally reached (what we thought was the summit) of Mount Crawford where we were surrounded by an expansive panorama of mountains blanketed in green. The landscape seemed textured as cloud shadows blockaded the sun. The cumulus clouds peppered in the sky made the view appear almost animated and artificial, but oh baby was it real. We sat there in awe of the view with the sun beating down on us for quite some time until we realized that we had not truly reached the summit of the mountain. We decide to continue onward and find the final view of this hike. Walking up, we were surrounded by a bit more plant cover, until we hit another incredible view which marked the end of the hike. This view was more exposed and provided us sight to the Presidential Peaks far into the horizon. Let me tell you, this vista put us all in a trance. We sat there for 20 minutes in silence just looking out and crying. However, after getting eaten alive by black flies, we decided it was time for us to descend the stairway to heaven. Coming down was a breeze and took us literally half the time it took us to hike up. At the bottom of the trail, we were greeted by a snake which was neat. Moral of this story is, if you’re up for a challenge and the view of your lifetime, this hike is a 10/10 would recommend. The End!

Road Trip to Portland
June 9, 2017, 6:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Greetings subscribers!

Since we had a day off yesterday and this is my last week working in New Hampshire, Caitlin, Griffin, and I decided to take a 2 hour trip to Portland, Maine.

We were able to find free parking on the road by the Gulf of Maine Research Center, which is a short walk away from Old Port. Old Port is an area of cobblestone walkways where you can shop and eat!

We ate at the Veranda Noodle House, which was delicious! There’s a large variety of food for anyone’s taste.

We walked around the shops for a few hours and then headed to East Promenade to see the ocean. There are plenty of beaches and lighthouses near Portland.

There’s plenty to see and do in Portland and we barely scratched the surface since we were short on time. It’s definitely a must see city! The nice part of where we’re stationed in Bartlett is that there are plenty of places to road trip to.

My time here at Bartlett is coming to an end, and although it was short, I’ve made some memories and learned things I’ll never forget. I’ve met some amazing people as well. It’s a wonderful experience that I’d recommend to anyone.

A big thank you to the shoestring crew for everything.


Bags to Re-use for Next year
June 8, 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Fertilization, Uncategorized

“When you throw something away-  Where is away?”

After fertilizing all stands in four days we flattened and stored zip-lock baggies to use again next year. Look at all those baggies we don’t have to buy again- AND aren’t going into a landfill!

Shoestring Summer 2017 officially begins…
June 6, 2017, 1:17 am
Filed under: Fertilization, Uncategorized

Greetings to respected subscribers from Bartlett, 


Shoestring Summer 2017 has officially kicked off as of last Thursday (6/1)! Grad students, interns, PIs and friends of the project drove and flew in from various places like Syracuse, Ithaca, Little Falls, and Red Hook (NY), Oxford and Cleveland (OH), Baltimore (MD), Pittsburgh (PA), Sacramento (CA) and Minneapolis (MN) between Monday and Thursday.

Normally the crew eases into the field season by weighing fertilizers and doing site maintenance. However, due to a severe weather forecast for the following week, we decided to start fertilizing right away on Thursday and continue throughout the weekend in order to finish fertilizing before it started raining. While four people stayed back in the lab to weigh fertilizers, the rest of the crew set out to do something that was never done before.


Trey walking to a stand

We finished fertilizing in four days! That’s right, let me say that again. We finished fertilizing in FOUR DAYS! According to Melany, this was a record timing! That is three to four stands a day and it’s all thanks to our awesome and hardworking crew who had agreed to work on even Saturday and Sunday. On our last day of fertilization, we stopped at the Woodstock Inn on our way from Jeffers Brook and Hubbard Brook to Bartlett to grab a bite and celebrate our accomplishment! The celebration didn’t stop after dinner and resumed once we got back to the White House. We sat around in a circle and sang along to Griffin and Alex Y. playing the guitar.

Shoestring2017 1st blog pic

Crew celebrating the completion of fertilization

I have a good feeling about this year’s crew. Everyone is motivated, hardworking, and friendly. Look for more to come soon!


Dan out.

Research part II & III: Imaging & Grinding
March 23, 2017, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Foliage, Graduate Projects, Uncategorized

So we last left off with green leaf collection efforts out in the field. Since our experimental research plots are in New Hampshire all of our leaves were frozen for transport! They arrived back in Syracuse and were taken out for our next steps! Because we’re looking at how leaves change over time we focus on dry weights and leaf area for this step.

The best way to get consistent weights on leaves is to dry them. So our frozen leaves, after being removed from the freezer, were weighed, photographed (more on this later), and then placed in our oven for drying at 60 degrees Celsius. Depending on the level of moisture in a sample 24-48 hours of drying is generally sufficient. These dried leaves were then weighed and set aside for grinding.

Did you catch that – we took pictures of leaves! One of ways to measure leaves isn’t just by mass, its by area. Specifically, specific leaf area, or SLA, which is defined as the ratio of leaf area to dry mass. The easiest way to get the area is to photograph the leaf, designate a scale for measurement and then count the pixels in regard to that scale. We used a program called ImageJ for this fancy pixel work, and it was not as hard as it sounds.


Once the pictures were taken they looked like this:


and then when they were analyzed for area it looked something like this:


I am focusing on Beech and Pin Cherry leaves and have less than 100 samples but it still took some time. The pictures above are pin cherry leaves that came from tree #1066 (Which I don’t remember shooting but it’s cool to think that when I go back into the plots I might remember some of the tree leaves that I got from that individual tree!)

Alas, all things come to an end, and this was the end of the road for a leaf to remain whole. After coming out of the drying ovens the bags of leaves were crunched up by hand and were then ground up into fine particles for the next step in our process.

We used a small Wiley Mill for grinding, mostly because our samples were less than 5 grams per sample. Whenever we have larger samples they get processed in a much bigger grinder. Ground samples were fed into a funnel in the machine and collected into glass vials that were labelled:

Here’s Dan looking SO excited that I was taking pictures of him.

It took approximately 5-7 minutes per sample with larger samples taking longer both because of their size but also because static electricity becomes your #1 enemy when trying to get little leaf particles off of things. Dan had this fancy tactic of vigorously hitting the wooden pestle (used for feeding leaf pieces into the mill) against the sides of the metal funnel and it made a bell sound. My experience was not as musical!

Once all of our samples had been ground we were ready for the ashing and digesting steps!


See you next time!


Research- Part I: Green Leaf Collection
March 11, 2017, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Foliage, Graduate Projects

Hi all! So I started my first semester of graduate school working with the MELNHE project (If you need a refresher poke around on here, the bottom line is that we’re doing nutrient manipulations in a forest). Primarily I’m working with Pin Cherry and Beech leaves to analyze them for leaf area and nutrient composition.  The journey started in August when I went up to our New Hampshire experimental forest in the White Mountains. We were using a shot gun to shoot down tree leaves from the canopy. We wanted sun exposed leaves to collect during the growing season so we could compare them to leaves we collect during the fall. Despite standing still trees can be hard to shoot!

This is Dan (first photo in the grey long sleeves), he’s a graduate student who is ahead of me one semester. He’s looking at the same thing I am but with different tree species, White and Yellow Birch. The second Photo is Adam, a previous graduate student and general mastermind for the melnhe project. Ok, mastermind might be a strong word. But he knows all the forest plots and has more knowledge than a newbie! The last picture is me in green. After shooting down some leaves/branches we would select 10-20 leaves that were healthy (in color and size) and lacked holes from shot or herbivory. Then these leaves would be stacked on top of eachother and packaged in a Ziploc bag that was labelled with what tree they came from. The bags will be frozen and were going to be analyzed so we wore gloves to prevent contamination to the leaves.

Overall we collected over 300 samples! It was a lot of fun if you like being outside and staring upwards, which I do, and I’m really good at it because I’m a birder.

It took a long weekend to finish what we came there for. The cool thing about being in the White Mountains is the ability to tent camp and look at other wild life. I don’t just like leaves and birds, I also like moths and bugs!

Waved Sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa, 7787) and a male forked fungus beetle.

Stay tuned! Next time I will answer the question that is keeping you on the edge of your seat – “what did you do with the bags of frozen fresh green leaves??”