Applied Learning: Ecology Field Study 🌳


So the project in the ecology lab has
the students doing field work, working on permanent plots. These plots have been
here for the past five years and every fall that we have the ecology class they
get grouped in teams of four, and each one of them gets assigned a plot and they come here and they have to sort of like monitor the plots every
year. And what we look for is, number one, they have to reset the plot
from the winter and then for every tree that is part of the plot they have to
inventory every tree and indicate what the species name is, what is the diameter
at breast height, what the height of the tree is, and then they use
that to extrapolate a value of biomass and carbon value for that particular
tree so that at the end of the day they get an idea of how much carbon does this
absorb on any given year. So we started with having assigned plots,
twenty by twenty meter plots. And then we’re doing a lot of demographic information on it, so the trees, where they’re located, how dispersed they are,
what their identification is, and now we’re doing soil to find out how much
water goes in what type of soil we have and if it
relates to the region that we live in. At the end of the semester they have to do an oral presentation on their project. The
project is unique. They choose the topic they want to pursue. Some students
want to understand how a forest like this compares to a similar forest that is
located in Pennsylvania, which is a slightly different micro-climate. So they
can ask all kinds of questions and my job is to
effectively mentor them through the process to arrive to a place where they
can present the data and tell the story of their project. Obviously all this is
connected to a global issue, and so we talk about climate change, we
talk about how climatic conditions are changing, how does that affect biome geographical distribution, how does it affect species composition,
ability of a forest to handle the kind of co2 that is in the atmosphere, are
there really effective sinks on earth that are sort of like compensating for
some of the anthropogenic effects of co2
accumulation, so I try to kind of cover what are the more
contextualized topics that hopefully make them a more conscious citizen, not
just knowledgeable in ecology in general but knowledgeable about the importance
of the environment, conservation, and preservation of this very old and
beautiful forest that we have in this region of the country

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