Monday, January 20, 2014

Why and how do we share our research (space) with our neighbors?

-contributed by: Charlotte Riggs, Graduate Student Researcher, Cedar Creek LTER

Every year Cedar Creek LTER opens its gates and invites its neighbors to tour the research sites during an open house/field day.  The theme and approach varies: last year, Cedar Creek partnered with the University-affiliated natural history museum to co-host a 24-hour BioBlitz, while this year the event coincided with the local town’s annual Booster days celebration. The day started with a Cedar Creek float in the town’s morning parade and continued with an afternoon event featuring dragonfly catching, GeoCaching walks, and casual conversation about Cedar Creek’s organisms (including the scientists). Importantly, we tell our neighbors about a piece of Cedar Creek property that is co-managed by the city and open year-round to visitors for walks and cross-country skiing.

Cedar Creek researchers, staff, and volunteers pose in front of their float. The morning of this year’s Open House began with the East Bethel Booster day parade.  Photo credit: Ami Thompson

Some visitors have a connection with the place already -- they know a neighbor or relative who worked at Cedar Creek. Or have a connection with ecology; one recent participant is also an aquatic invasive species monitor. And sometimes they are leading (or, more likely, following) a curious, insect-spotting youngster.

Cedar Creek Open House visitors and volunteers ponder over their next move while GeoCaching.  After the parade, neighbors were invited to tour the experiments at Cedar Creek, go on GeoCaching walks, and sweep for insects, among other activities. Photo credit: Mary Spivey

Participants comment: “I always wondered what was happening here.” or “I remember when this land was owned locally” or, my favorite, “So, what do you do as a graduate student?”

No matter the shape our open house takes, the mission remains the same year after year: can we share our research findings and inspiration with the neighbors we share fences with?

Across the LTER, our research intersects, relies upon, and is dependent upon our neighbors to varying degrees. In fact, your research might be about your neighbors and their (and your) land management practices and perspectives. How do other sites share their research (space) with the neighbors?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reservoir Rundown

Downstream of HJ Andrews Experimental Forest LTER: Blue River reservoir as a reference for management changes

contributed by: Christina Murphy (, HJ AndrewsLTER Grad Rep and PhD student at Oregon State University

After more than 3 years abroad, it was exciting to roll out of a plane and into the HJ Andrews.  More than anything, I had missed the dark evergreen color of the Pacific Northwest forests.  I started out working as part of phenology studies already underway at the site.  As an aquatic ecologist, developing my PhD project has slowly taken me downstream into the Blue River Reservoir (also known as Blue River Lake).
 (Blue River Reservoir)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Birds of forgotten lands: Avian communities in Baltimore’s vacant lots

By Christine Rega (BES)

Greetings from one of the two urban LTER’s in Baltimore, Maryland!  This summer we are hosting a variety of projects in “Charm City” across disciplines and institutions to understand how urban ecosystems function and change over time.  I thought I’d talk a bit about my dissertation research, which falls within Baltimore Ecosystem Study’s Biodiversity project, the goal of which to determine the relationship between “forest patch origin, size class, and adjacent land use type on species composition and abundance”. 

The overarching goal of my research is to understand the role of vacant lots within the network of urban greenspaces, specifically if they are sustainable habitat sources for bird communities, within a metacommunity framework.  Baltimore has been experiencing a 4.6% population decline over the past ten years, resulting in over 17,000 parcels of vacant land.  This summer is my first field season out to these very interesting lots, which range greatly in their composition and structure (below).  My goals this season are to assess bird communities in these lots, in addition to monitoring nests, determining body condition values for American robins, and resighting color bands to determine any movement between these sites.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A windy winter workshop at the Sevilleta

Amber Churchill is a PhD student working at the Niwot Ridge LTER in Colorado. During her master’s work she conducted research at Bonanza Creek LTER, and her introduction to ecology was through an REU position at Harvard Forest. Having seen these northern LTER sites, she was most excited to experience a desert/grassland system at the Sevilleta LTER for the WEWoG meeting.

Winter ecology working group (WEWoG) meeting at Sevilleta LTER
Day 1: Arrival and introductions
Participants of the winter ecology working group, organized at the All-Scientist Meeting in September 2012 and funded to meet again via a synthesis grant from the LTER Network Office,, gathered in March for the first of two meetings in preparation for a cross site comparison looking at the ecological effects of winter at LTER sites across the US. Our group came from diverse backgrounds, ranging from statisticians to plant ecologists, and included one post doc and nine graduate students. Things started off quickly with a fabulous dinner, and then sharing background information about our respective LTER sites in the context of a paper on winter ecology that inspired our thinking on the subject (Kreyling, 2010). As the wind whistled around us (and the sand storms made for a hazy sunset) we started our schedule for the weekend.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fostering cross-site interaction and collaboration.

CCE-MCR-SBC LTER Graduate Symposium held in at La Jolla, CA
by: Daniel K. Okamoto, Santa Barbara Coastal LTER

Socio-emotive interactions can yield high-powered collaborations in ecology [1].  Specifically, organic formation of collaboration or sharing of ideas between scientists often takes place over a casual meal or a drink that can fertilize unrealized and potentially powerful growth of shared ideas. 

For graduate students yet to make a name for themselves, initiation of such networking requires a forum and the provision of time and space for social and scientific interaction.    To provide a forum for imbibing interaction and the sharing of research, the CCE LTER hosted the SBC and MCR graduate students for a full day graduate symposium on marine LTER research at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA.  Participants included nearly all affiliated graduate students from three universities on March 16, 2013.   Geographic coverage of research included Antarctica, Moorea (French Polynesia), and Southern California marine ecosystems and universities represented included UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and CSU Northridge. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The importance of "thinking bigger"


by Laura Ladwig (SEV)

My first summer conducting dissertation research at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge I was determined to figure out the germination patterns of the dominant shrub, Larrea tridentata (creosote bush). It currently invades some grasslands at the Sevilleta, while it remains completely absent from others and I wanted to know why. Part of the investigation involved planting L. tridentata seeds in a variety of grass- and shrubland sites, then watering and monitoring them throughout the season to understand where L. tridentata could germinate.

Going into the project, I knew my freshly planted seeds would have a formidable opponent. Rodents. Abundant and diverse throughout my sites, rodents are known to eat both seeds and seedlings of L. tridentata. Always keeping these furry little critters in mind, I designed specialized seed collars to keep the rodents away from my seeds and hopeful seedlings.