Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Backyard Ecology

Worldwide, populations have been moving from farms and rural areas to cities and suburbs. The shopping malls, Starbucks and parking lots that people build in these urban and suburban areas all create impermeable surfaces that alter how water drains from the land. Combined with pollution from fertilizers, human waste and fossil fuel combustion, urbanization often has direct impacts on surrounding ecosystems, which can be transferred to downstream ecosystems by the flow of rivers.
Figure 1. Plum Island Ecosystems LTER located on the suburban North Shore of Boston.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The temps are low, but the research is on FIRE!

Greetings from the Dry Valleys of Antarctica! The McMurdo (MCM) Long-Term Ecological Research site is located in the middle of an extreme polar desert, and is regarded as the end-member of the LTER program. The Dry Valleys are representative of the 2% of Antarctica that is ice-free, and are also considered one of the harshest environments on the planet because of low temperatures, scarce precipitation, and 24-hour darkness over the winter months. However, the terrain is not completely barren, and for the past 20 years the MCM LTER has been monitoring lake levels, streamflow, soil transects, and glacial melt in order to better understand this harsh environment.