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…
We have completed two weeks of wetland ecology at Pymatuning Lab of Ecology… only one more week to go. The Pymatuning wetlands spent the morning discussing freshwater marshes, swamps, and riparian wetlands. We examined vegetation dynamics, food web structure, and biogeochemistry of each of these wetland types, paying particular attention to similarities and differences. Our discussion of the vegetation dynamics of freshwater marshes highlighted the importance of seed banks, climate variability, and herbivores like muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) in controlling interannual-to-multidecadal scale ecological changes in these systems. The topic turned out to be quite appropriate for today, given the results from our camera traps in the afternoon. We then went over the midterm exam, spending a considerable amount of time working through the details of how nitrogen cycling occurs in the context of the aerobic and anaerobic layers of wetlands. The students all promised that they would study the details of the nitrogen cycle, and other biogeochemical cycles in wetlands, if these will reappear on the final exam. I won’t disappoint.
We then went to Pymatuning Creek Marsh to collect the shallow wells that we installed last week to record water-level fluctuations within different vegetation zones. We also collected the camera traps. Clearly white-tailed deer occasionally use the marsh, but the students were particularly pleased that they captured video of a muskrat. There was clear evidence of them in the marsh, as there often is marsh environments; however, they tend to be active at night or around dusk so they are not often seen.
The video is embedded below.
And a raccoon….
A few students have started using twitter to share photos from our fieldwork using the hashtag #PLEwetlands. These will also be retweeted through @LehighEcology and some will be embedded into these daily summaries.
Morning lecture was focused on formal wetland classification systems, with a focus on those used in North America. Admittedly, formal wetland classification schemes are not that exciting, but everyone must have had enough coffee, or ate enough of made-to-order eggs at breakfast, to make it through. After an overview of Cowardin et al. classification system (used by the Fish and Wildlife Service), we took a much-needed walk to some wetlands right outside the classroom. There the students applied their knowledge by fully classifying two wetland areas. We were lucky enough to observe some red-winged blackbird chicks (Agelaius phoeniceus), although mom and dad were not at all pleased that we were nearby.
After a overview of wetland hydrology, we got our waders from the PLE stockroom and headed to Morgan Swamp in Ohio. There, Karen Adair gave us an overview of the preserve and the mission of the Nature Conservancy, and also provided some advice for students interested in conservation and environmental science careers. We then took a hike through a really spectacular mosaic of swamp and mesic forest, dominated by American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). I had never done this hike before and it was very much worth it; a few of the beech trees were as large as some of the old growth trees I have seen. We also observed a large eastern ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) along the trail.
We then put on waders and entered the preserve from another location, where we examined a 14-year old mitigation wetland, a series of vernal pools, and a large marsh and shrub-swamp. Crossing the mitigation wetland proved to be challenging, and 7 out of 8 of us went deeper than our waders were designed for. Nothing says wetland ecology like a student hollering, “I’m taking on water!” while other students snap pictures. We observed a number of wetland plants, and added a few to the “must-know” list including Sphagnum, reed-canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), moneywort or creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), common spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris) and three-way sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum).
I’m looking forward to installing a few wells and camera traps tomorrow at Pymatuning Creek Marsh, and beginning our plant collections.
“A few short weeks of complete immersion in the study of ecology at PLE changed the course of my life.”
– Dr. Alex Ireland
(Alex took general ecology at PLE in summer 2005 and went on to earn his PhD from Lehigh University in 2012)
The Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology (PLE) is a field station in western Pennsylvania that is operated by the University of Pittsburgh. Each summer the station offers approximately a dozen field-intensive ecology courses, spanning much of the breadth of the ecological sciences, to students from participating schools throughout the region. Lehigh University joined the PLE educational consortium in 2014, and four Lehigh students enrolled in five of the field station’s classes this past summer. I asked these students to share some thoughts on their experience for the benefit of other Lehigh students, and with permission I summarize their comments below.
Bob Mason took the forest ecology course, taught by Dr. Walter Carson of the University of Pittsburgh. Almost all class time was spent in the field for hands-on lectures where the class learned about forest ecosystems and the major threats to forest biodiversity. Field trips to old-growth stands, camping overnight in the Allegheny National Forest, and guest lectures on related ecological topics such as riparian zone restoration and migratory birds were some of the highlights. In Bob’s own words:
The workload appeared heavy from the syllabus (two “full-blown” scientific papers and a final exam), and I did find the course to be challenging. However, it was absolutely worth the effort and I gained real-world insight into data collection, statistics, and scientific writing. This course was truly writing intensive! However, I still found myself with ample down time to enjoy with other students, and it was fun to meet students from a diverse group of universities. I strongly recommend the course to anyone interested in ecological research.
Ecology of Fungi
Charlotte Malmborg took the ecology of fungi course, which was a new offering taught by Dr. Shannon Nix of Clarion University. The students were in the field everyday, identifying fungi and learning about fungal biology, taxonomy, and ecology. Samples were returned to the lab, and the students learned microscopy techniques that enabled them to better identify and examine adaptations of fungi. The class collectively undertook a research project comparing the amount and diversity of mycorrhizae between old-growth and secondary-growth hemlock forests. Charlotte clearly had a fantastic experience (assuming her twitter feed from May is representative! e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and learned a tremendous amount about a topic that is not taught at Lehigh University.
Wetland Ecology and Management
Charlotte Malmborg also took the wetland ecology course. I teach this course, so I told her that she didn’t have to share her thoughts on it, but she chose to anyway. Here is an excerpt from her:
If you’re ready to get down and dirty this class is for you. From floating bogs to marshes to swamps, you’ll get to visit and learn about the biota and ecological processes in these unique systems, as well as the ecosystem services that they provide. You’ll learn more about mud than you ever thought possible, and you’ll be happy about it!
Chandler Navara took the disease ecology course, a new course taught by Dr. Thomas Simmons from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In Chandler’s words:
The disease ecology class explored wildlife and plant diseases and their connection to human populations. Some of the diseases included Lyme disease, malaria, and rabies. From parasites, to vectors, to hosts, the ecological context of these diseases were examined, with a focus on how knowledge of ecology can be used to help control these diseases. We developed expertise in different field techniques used to sample disease vectors. The class was definitely worth every minute, and I made some lifelong friends at PLE!
Kris Abens took the Wildlife Management course, which was taught by Morty Ortega of the University of Connecticut during the last session of the summer. Some of Kris’s comments about the class:
The professor was great and a really nice guy. It was an amazing experience and I learned SO much, and amazingly, virtually none of the learning took place inside a classroom! We worked hard in this class, but it was very much worth it. I would definitely recommend the class to other students.
Interested in taking a PLE field course this summer?
PLE courses are fun, full-immersion experiences. 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 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 for Lehigh credit in summer 2015 include:
- Conservation Biology (11 May – 29 May)
- Forest Ecology (11 May – 29 May)
- Field Botany (11 May– 29 May)
- Behavioral Ecology (1 Jun – 19 Jun)
- Wetland Ecology (1 Jun – 19 Jun)
- Ecology of Birds (1 Jun – 19 Jun)
- Ecology of Amphibians and Reptiles (1 Jun – 19 Jun)
- Disease Ecology (22 Jun – 10 Jul)
- Limnology (22 Jun – 10 Jul)
- Field Techniques in Ecology and Conservation (13 Jul – 31 Jul)
- Wildlife Management (13 Jul – 31 Jul)
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 (1 Jun – 19 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: https://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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions.
More data from the Lehigh Experimental Forest camera traps. Our complete list of “trapped” species since October now includes:
- Buteo jamaicensis (Red-tailed hawk)
- Canis lupus familiaris (Domestic dog)
- Felis catus (Domestic cat)
- Homo sapiens (Human)
- Marmota monax (groundhog)
- Meleagris gallopavo (wild turkey)
- Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed deer)
- Procyon lotor (Raccoon)
- Sciurus carolinensis (Gray squirrel)
- Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern cottontail)
- Tamias striatus (Eastern chipmunk)
- Turdus migratorius (American Robin)
- Vulpes vulpes (Red fox)
A few highlights from the two video cameras (wild turkey at the end!):
Today we continued discussing wetland hydrology, with a particular focus on ways that biota influence the hydrology of wetlands. This led to an examination of peatland hydrology, where the characteristics of the peat (e.g., botanical composition, degree of decomposition) have large effects on the hydrology of the ecosystem. We spent the afternoon at Pymatuning Creek Marsh in nearby Ohio, where we installed a few surface wells along a vegetation gradient in the marsh and the students began learning some common wetland plants and starting their plant collections. The running “must-know” plant list has begun!
Some student pictures:
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: https://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. Go here to sign up: https://cf.lehigh.edu/summer/?page=summer&year=2014. Email me (email@example.com) if you have questions.
More data from the Lehigh Experimental Forest camera traps have arrived. Our complete list of “trapped” species since October 2013 now includes:
Buteo jamaicensis (Red-tailed hawk)
Canis lupus familiaris (Domestic dog)
Felis catus (Domestic cat)
Homo sapiens (Human)
Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed deer)
Procyon lotor (Raccoon)
Sciurus carolinensis (Gray squirrel)
Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern cottontail)
Tamias striatus (Eastern chipmunk)
Turdus migratorius (American Robin)
Vulpes vulpes (Red fox)