Originally posted on From inside the shell:
Contributed by Matt Amesbury
The use of testate amoebae as a proxy for past changes in the hydrological status of peatlands has become ever more popular over the past two decades. Studies have been carried out over an increasing geographical range covering most major areas of northern hemisphere peatlands as well as in Patagonia and New Zealand amongst other places south of the equator. Despite this pushing of “amoebal” boundaries, there is one place you might certainly expect to be able to rule out moss-based testate studies: Antarctica.
Only a tiny 0.3% of the Antarctic continent is ice free, yet in parts of this seemingly minute slither, the climate is…
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Opening the Pandora box of community ecology – The value of long-term data sets and collaborative research
Originally posted on From inside the shell:
Community ecologists study how communities of plants, animals and other organisms vary in space and time, how they interact and what controls these patterns. To do this they usually either observe (more or less) natural communities or conduct experimental manipulation in the field (in situ experiments) or in controlled conditions (mesocosms, microcosms). Observational studies of natural communities have the longest history and have contributed to major (and often controversial) theories in ecology such as the intermediate disturbance hypothesis (IDH). Starting with the more easily studies taxonomic groups such as vascular plants observational studies of natural communities have expanded to covering numerous taxonomic groups, including microbes and of course testate amoebae.
In order to describe the ecological preferences of species numerous plots need to be studied, typically in the range of 50-100 or more if possible. And even so, most studies end up with a fair number of rare species, which…
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For me anyway.
One of the highlights of being an ecologist is spending time in the field making observations, thinking about patterns, asking questions, and collecting data to answer those questions. In fact, it is hard to believe that we call this stuff “field work,” because as anyone that spends time in the natural world knows, simply getting out there can be a tremendous source of inspiration and rejuvenation. One of the ways that I reconnect to the splendor of “field work” is to paint. Now that the fall semester is over, I’m looking forward to spending a little time painting with my daughter. In the spirit of the holiday, below I share a few field-site and field-related paintings that have special meaning to me….
October at Fallison Bog. Fallison Bog Pond is a small peatland pond in northern Wisconsin, near the Trout Lake Limnological Research Station. The place is particularly significant for me – for both personal and professional reasons. We have been monitoring testate amoeba communities and hydrology of the bog, and other bogs in the region, every few years since 2003 (see here for more on testate amoebae). Also, we are currently investigating processes controlling peatland development, and Fallison Bog is a critical site in this effort.
The bog was also one of the first field sites that I dragged my future wife into, in a memorable trip in April of 2004. She learned the hard way that sometimes bog mats are pretty thin along the lake edge. Wisconsin water is very cold in April.
Erythrina herbacea. St. Catherine’s Island is a barrier island along the coast of Georgia in the southeastern United States. I was fortunate to spend time on the island in 1996-1998 as part of my masters thesis research on the vegetation history of the area. At the time, I was really immersed in field botany; in fact, most of the time that I wasn’t spending on my thesis research was spent collecting and identifying plants. This specimen of Erythrina herbacea caught my attention, something about the subtle beauty of the red flowers rising from the chaos of the downed tree, all against the backdrop of the quiet sound behind the island. I gave this painting to my masters thesis advisor – a truly fantastic person and one of the most genuine people I have ever met.
Henderson Peatlands. Peatlands are not particularly common in the central and southern Rocky Mountains, but where they do occur, they offer unique habitat and striking visual contrasts with the surrounding landscape. I fondly recall the field work for a project in 2002 that required sampling testate amoebae and vegetation in numerous peatlands in Colorado and Wyoming. I was particularly impressed by this vista from near Josephine Lake (3535 m elevation) in Colorado. From the ridge above the lake, two peatlands could be seen to the south nestled in the surrounding deep-green forest. Informally named the Henderson peatlands, after the nearby Henderson Park Trail, these peatlands contained three species of Sphagnum (S. russowii, S. platyphyllum, and S. warnstorfii) and a diverse association of testate amoebae.
Evening on Au Train Lake. A portion of summer 2000 was spent in Upper Michigan working with a team of researchers on a project focused on understanding the past water-level fluctuations of Lake Superior, and the impacts of climate changes on coastal wetlands. The peat coring was exhausting, fraught with equipment difficulties and woody peats, and the deer flies were thick. But it didn’t matter….this was Upper Michigan. I have pleasant memories of sitting in front of the cabin, keying out wetland Carex species, and talking ecology and geology with good friends and colleagues. The cabin was only a couple miles inland from Lake Superior, and almost walking distance from our field sites.
Salt marsh and hammock. Another one from St. Catherine’s Island; the location of this scene was very close to where I collected one of the sediment cores used in my masters thesis. One species of grass, Spartina alterniflora, dominates most of the salt marsh on the east coast of North America. Although there is low botanical diversity in much of the extensive lower portion of these salt marshes, they are highly productive ecosystems with some very unusual biogeochemical processes. I can almost smell the hydrogen sulfide when I look at this one.
Tahquamenon Falls. Another one from Upper Michigan. The Tahquamenon River drains extensive areas of cedar swamp and peatland, making the water dark and humic-stained. During several years of field work in Upper Michigan, this was a nice late afternoon or evening destination when a break was needed. The area is a common tourist attraction, and apparently the location of Henry Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.” A nice hike to the waterfalls (there are actually two of them) through hemlock, yellow birch, and white pine forest can be followed by a good beer at the Tahquamenon Brewery.
Canoeing with Clea. This one is not really a field site but I’ll end with it because it brings back particularly strong positive feelings. It captures a moment spent with my daughter exploring the riparian wetland adjacent to a small creek connected to Promised Land Lake in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. This was her first time on water, and it was a truly spectacular day enjoying nature.
Happy holidays. Recharge and seek inspiration. Spend some time with family doing what you love.
Nice article Michelle. Too bad the paper didn’t publish it. The site has historical significance and is a great outdoor laboratory for students.
Originally posted on In the Forgotten Forest:
Although I submitted this article to Lehigh’s student newspaper a few months ago, The Brown and White, it never got published (in the paper or online) for unbeknownst reasons. It refers to the upcoming plans to renovate Williams Hall, and my concerns for the future fascinating and historical forest directly adjacent to the building.
The recently drafted Campus Master Plan lays out the administrative vision for future improvements to Lehigh’s Campus. (Check out the whole plan at https://www.lehigh.edu/~inspig/lu_cmp_book_10-4-12.pdf). I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend a graduate student senate meeting focused on aspects of this plan, and was very troubled by the idea to re-landscape the area behind Williams Hall (the building behind Linderman Library that housed Earth and Environmental Sciences before STEPS was built) to allow more pedestrian access. Although plans have not been implemented yet, I worry that the ecological, historical, and educational significance…
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A 2-minute video advertising a course in wetland ecology offered this June!
Information about the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology for Lehigh University students
The wetland ecology course, featured in the video above, and the other courses offered at the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology (PLE) represent a fantastic opportunity to gain knowledge in field ecology this summer. These courses are fun, full-immersion experiences that cover a diverse array of ecological topics. Each course lasts for three weeks, is worth three credits, and covers the material in a semester-long course. All of them are field-based and satisfy the BS field requirement for Lehigh University EES students. The courses are distributed across four, 3-week sessions, and although you can take multiple courses during the summer, you can only take one course per session (each course meets all day). Courses offered this summer include:
Conservation Biology (12 May – 30 May)
Forest Ecology (12 May – 30 May)
Ecology of Fungi (12 May – 30 May)
Field Botany (2 Jun – 20 Jun)
Wetland Ecology (2 Jun – 20Jun)
Ecology of Birds (2 Jun – 20 Jun)
Ecology of Amphibians and Reptiles (2 Jun – 20 Jun)
Disease Ecology (23 Jun – 11 Jul)
Ecology of Fish (23 Jun – 11 Jul)
Field Techniques in Ecology and Conservation (14 Jul – 1 Aug)
Wildlife Management (14 Jul – 1 Aug)
For additional information on these courses see: http://www.biology.pitt.edu/facilities/pymatuning/courses/course-schedule
I teach the wetland ecology course and if you are interested in taking this class or one of the courses offered during the same session (2 Jun – 20 Jun), transportation to and from the field station will be provided from Lehigh University. To see more details about the wetland ecology course go here: https://sites.google.com/site/wetlandecologymanagement/syllabus To see more of the kind of FUN we have in this course go here: http://amongthestatelytrees.wordpress.com/category/wetland-ecology-management-ple/
For a Lehigh University student to take one of these classes, you will need to register for EES 395: Field courses at Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. The sections of the course will correspond to the list of classes above, so that you can sign up for the particular course of interest to you. Email me (email@example.com) if you have questions.