Documenting the fun in Ecology (EES-152) during the 2015 fall semester…
General ecology students installed two camera traps in the Lehigh University Experimental Forest. The image tally after recording for about six weeks: one fox, one raccoon, one chipmunk, 2 domestic cats, 18 squirrels, and 38 deer. Some highlights…
Students in general ecology (EES-152) resurveyed a portion of the Lehigh Experimental Forest, to assess changes in tree growth, mortality, and recruitment since 2013. No new trees greater than 1.4 m high were documented, and both growth and mortality varied considerably among species. Over 500 trees were measured, and the plot above shows data for the dominant trees (those with >15 individuals included in the survey).
We will use these data as a springboard for discussion of processes controlling forest dynamics, and will examine some of these issues in greater depth during our discussions and future lab activities.
For now, students should answer the following questions:
1. The dbh measurements were converted into estimates of area, assuming that each tree was a perfect circle in cross-section. Why do you think basal area was used to compare growth among the different species? Why was this expressed as the average change in basal area per tree, as opposed to the total change in basal area for all individuals of the species? What factors might have caused the observed differences in radial growth among species?
2. What does the pattern of mortality and recruitment suggest about the future of the Lehigh Experimental Forest? What factors might have caused the differences in mortality among species during these two years? What factors might be contributing to the lack of new tree recruitment in the forest?
3. Which species had both very high mortality and very low growth during this time period? Do some research on current threats to this particular species, and summarize your research in a short paragraph.
The Pymatuning wetlanders demonstrated their knowledge of wetland ecosystems this morning on the final exam.
The end of this course is always a bit bittersweet for me. Teaching a field course like this is intense, high-energy, all-consuming, and by the end…. exhausting. However, without a doubt the experience has once again been the highlight of my professional activities for the year. Each time I teach this class, I get to learn something new about wetland ecosystems and sharpen my natural history and plant identification skills. I have the opportunity to get to know a bunch of interesting students, much better than I would in a typical classroom setting. And it is extremely satisfying to share my knowledge and passion for natural ecosystems with a group of interested students. The Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology is an ideal place to do this.
Field courses are transformative experiences. For me, it was a fantastic course in field botany nearly 20 years ago. We were in the field every day, collecting plants and learning about their biology, evolution, distribution, and natural history. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge of the professor, and his passion for plants was contagious. I knew that I wanted to do science before that course, but after it I knew that I wanted to be an ecologist. Sadly, while teaching here at Pymatuning this year I found out that the instructor of that field botany course passed away in late May. Professor Don Drapalik, RIP. He was on my mind a lot during the past few weeks, particularly as I watched the students build their wetland plant collections. I still have my plant collection from Don Drapalik’s field botany course, and I am pleased that a large percentage of students this year want to keep their collections.
I sincerely wish the best for this great group of “wetlanders.” It was a really fun-loving group, and there was lots of good-natured humor along with the learning. I wish them all good luck with wherever life takes them from here.
Keep in touch….and stay peaty. #PLEwetlands
The Pymatuning Wetlanders visited Presque Isle today, where we observed coastal processes and successional change. After a stop at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, explored the peninsula to observe coastal wetlands and processes. This included a hike out to Gull point, located at the tip of the peninsula, to observe the youngest landscape and wetlands. We did some wading in Lake Erie to cool off, had lunch on the beach, on our way home we stopped for the long-promised ice cream. A fun day before tomorrow’s final exam.