School’s out…for the summer!!

School is officially out for the summer…just about! I figured I would try to squeeze one more blog in with a few more hours of the semester to go. There is still time to reflect on our class, right? I thought it quite fitting that is was raining this morning while walking across campus to our 7:30 am exam. It was the perfect opportunity to really think about (and see) all of the ecosystem processes I was about to be tested on. 

I really enjoyed our class this semester, although I would agree with most of my peers, it was a lot of work for a 2-credit course (and I am one of the few graduate students in the course). My biggest issue with the workload was getting back into the swing of the school routine (after being out of school for almost 10 years) and attempting to balance my TA responsibilities with coursework. The modeling portion and course content I found very interesting and applicable to my own research right now – I was just in a bit of a personal battle throughout the semester I think with not feeling like I could dedicate as much time as I wanted to all pieces of the class. Such is life. 

I do know that when I walk, bike, drive, etc., I am observing and thinking about our ecosystems and interactions between organisms from a different perspective than I did before. All of the leaves coming out (in just a few days!) this past week made me think about all of the carbon being sequestered through photosynthesis and how the water levels would soon be changing as evapotranspiration rates increased. My Dinamica model for my class project projected standard growth rates for Vermont forests which I am excited to apply to my own research results after I spend the summer collecting data in the Jericho Research and Mansfield State Forests. 

When I first read the description for this course the term “biogeochemical” was quite daunting. I now feel like I have a solid understanding of what that means and associated processes. I even feel fairly confident with Dinamica-EGO, which in the beginning of the semester if you asked me if I ever would figure out this weird Brazilian modeling program I would say NO WAY. Our small class size was great for support and meeting some new people and the help of Professor Galford along the way much appreciated! I am looking forward to her VT Climate Assessment course this fall!

Happy summer, everyone!!

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Check out the bike wheel fence on top of a classic Vermont stone wall- on the way to the Hinesburg Town Forest, a great place to observe ecosystem ecology or go for a ride!

Project Update

I have spent the past few weeks trying to refine my plan for my project and gather data. Originally I had wanted to make a model with Dinamica to determine the amount of carbon stored in above ground biomass in northeastern hardwood forests, focusing on the Forest Ecosystem Management Demonstration Project (FEMDP). My plan was to compare areas logged in the project area to those un logged to see what the differences are in the amount of carbon stored in biomass between differently treated areas. The reason I chose FEMDP is because that is what I am doing my graduate research on. Now that I have been looking through the data from previous years of work on the project and have a better understanding of what is actually needed to determine carbon in biomass, I am realizing I may need to narrow my focus more.

All of my project data is organized with NED-2, a forest ecosystem data management program, which I downloaded from the Forest Service website. Currently, I am familiarizing myself with using NED and am looking through a lot of data (years pre and post treatment for the project). Data collected for FEMDP has included measurements of tree dbh (diameter at breast height), tree crown density, CWD (coarse woody debris), seedling and sapling counts. These are all components above ground biomass – my plan was to apply the growth rate exhibited in the forest over a span of 5-10 years during which the project has been taking place to the amount of biomass in the forest to see how biomass is changing. I had thought the growth rate was a relatively easy (or standard) number to figure out, but it turns out there is not yet an established growth rate for FEMDP. Determining the growth rate for the treatment areas is now going to be more of the main focus of my project therefore, since this is affected by all of the measurements I listed above (tree dbh, CWD, seedling regeneration, etc.). I am reviewing literature right now (a chapter on Fundamentals of Structure, Growth, and Development in Stands and Forests) to figure out the best way to come up with an equation for growth rate with the data I already have, once I have that I will make some initial models for growth rates for each treatment for FEMDP, comparing data I have post-logging in 2010 to pre-logging in 2001. I will also determine the growth rate of the un-treated areas (controls) in FEMDP to compare to the treated areas. Once I have a basic growth rate for the different treatment areas used in FEMDP I can start equating this to amount of carbon stored in the biomass for which I used to calculate growth rate.

My revised model will look something like this, focusing more on calculating growth rate and later incorporating C estimates off the growth rate calculations:

Model Update

Amazon Attack

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I was planning on updating my project plan for my blog this week, but after attending Michael Coe’s Gund Tea earlier I feel as though it was more than blog-worthy.  Dr. Coe is senior scientist at Wood’s Hole, and his talk on the multitude of effects of deforestation in Brazil was a great culmination to our semester in Ecosystem Ecology learning about biogeochemical cycles. He presented about the overall deforestation occurring in the Amazon and also his research on quantifying the difference in the water and energy balance between forested and non-forested areas. 

Dr. Coe started his presentation with a map of the United States over-layed on top of the Amazon area of Brazil. This was an extremely effective way to demonstrate just how large the Amazon is, almost as big as the entire center portion of our country – I had no idea! He followed this with pictures of the ‘mosaic landscape’ in parts of the Amazon being deforested for soy, rubber plantations, and farming. Before this I had never even considered the term ‘landscape mosaic’ as related to soy, rubber, and farmland. Interesting and weird. Next, Dr. Coe showed us a video of trees literally being mowed down to make way for…soy. To get the trees out of the way and clear the land in the fastest way possibly, they simply burn them he informed us. Yikes. 

Dr. Coe’s research in the Amazon focused on a 200,000 acre area testing many different effects of deforestation. Through a series of different measurements of the study area (soil water content, evapotranspiration, discharge rates, etc.) Dr. Coe was able to conclude with his research that with an increase in deforestation there is an increase in discharge (runoff, excess water not being taken up by vegetation, etc.). He used Dinamica-EGO (I am pretty sure) to test this correlation for the remainder of the Amazon (outside of his study area).

According to Dr. Coe, the discharge increase is seasonally dependent on climate and related to decreased evapotranspiration, LAI, and rooting depth all from loss of vegetation. Interestingly enough, when Coe used models to project into the future to see if discharge rates would continue to increase as deforestation increased, there was a point at which discharge actually started to decrease in the future. This brought up a very valid point that although there may be more water readily available initially as a result of less vegetation, this will not be constant into the future or even from season to season.

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The first map depicts one future prediction for deforestation of the Amazon in a BAU (Business as Usual) scenario from Nature, and the second one shows land use in the Amazon as of 2005, taken from the Nasa website. According to the first map, over half of the Amazon will be deforested by 2050 at our current rate or in a BAU situation. If this were quantified with the energy and water climate balances Dr. Coe dicussed today, I would imagine this would have the potential to quite significantly alter our Earth’s natural cycles and therefore climate. Scary!

Dr. Coe’s Gund Tea concluded with a discussion of how much of the land in the Amazon is already owned or being bought by just a few investment companies (like banks) to broker for use for soy, farming, etc. Also very scary. I doubt these companies care much about how their decisions for land use are affecting the energy and water balance and longterm global climate implications, even though they will be directly affected! 

Gund Teas

Carbon Storage in Vermont’s Forests

Forest management effects on above ground carbon storage in Vermont’s forest ecosystems

Forests play an important role in carbon storage, with those in the United States currently sequestering 10% of our annual CO2 emissions (Birdsey et al., 2006). There is a direct link between carbon storage and sequestration in above ground forest biomass (live trees, dead standing trees, downed wood, etc.). Vermont’s hardwood forests offer multiple opportunities for ecologic and economic resources through a variety of silvicultural practices, including carbon sequestration and storage. The Vermont Forest Ecosystem Management Demonstration Project (FEMDP), initiated in 2001, has been testing the effects of disturbance-based forestry practices on the multitude of functions provided by our northeastern hardwood forests. These include biodiversity and ecological functions, carbon storage, and timber harvest (Keeton 2006). FEMDP has been testing hypotheses on the effects of a variety of silvicultural practices in plots located in the Jericho Research and Mount Mansfield Research Forests.

One hypothesis tested and proved by FEMDP is related to an experimental and new silvicultural practice, “Structural Complexity Enhancement” (SCE), designed to promote old-growth late-successional stand development in northeastern hardwood forests (Keeton 2006). The FMDEP hypothesized that by promoting conditions similar to a natural disturbance in the forest ecosystem through the SCE treatment method (creating gaps in the forest canopy, leaving downed wood, creating tip-up mounds) while still removing some harvestable timber, this would have the greatest effect on forest biomass and horizontal and vertical forest stand structure, promoting old-growth forest characteristics. There are multiple benefits to habitat and stand structure provided by old-growth forests. Prior to the 19th century, Lorimer and White (2003) estimate 70-89% of the forests in the northeast were old-growth (Keeton 2006). 

For my project I intend to use Dinamica-EGO to compare the effects of the different types of silvicultural treatments on Carbon storage in above ground forest biomass utilized in the Vermont Forest Ecosystem Management Demonstration Project (FEMDP). The treatments I will be comparing are conventional tree removal (single-tree and group selection), SCE (Structural Complexity Enhancement), and a control (no treatment or tree removal). It is necessary to span one full harvest cycle to be able to quantify mean C sequestration under a certain forest management scenario (Nunery, J.S. 2010). I will therefore use Dinamica to simulate a harvest for each independent silvicultural treatment to determine C storage in above ground biomass for each treatment and then compare the three. I will do this independently for the Jericho and Mount Mansfield Research Forests and then combine and compare these results as well. 

Below is a sample diagram of my rough idea for my Dinamica model. I plan to use forest inventory data from the most recent years available for FEMDP to determine above ground carbon storage in biomass for each treatment. The goal of comparing the amount of carbon stored in biomass in the different treatment areas is to help guide management decisions for carbon storage, ecological functions, and silviculture practices for northern hardwood forests. 

Rough Dinamica-EGO Model Outlines – Jericho/Mount Mansfield Research Forests

 

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*These are very preliminary ideas for my models, subject to change!

References

Birdsey, R.A., Jenkins, J.C., Johnston, M., Huber-Sannwald, E., Amero, B., Jong, B.d., Barra,         J.D.E., French, N., Garcia-Oliva, F., Harmon, M., Heath, L.S., Jaramillo, V.J., Johnsen, K.,      Law, B.E., Marı ́n-Spiotta, E., Masera, O., Neilson, R., Pan, Y., Pregitzer, K.S., 2007. North      American forests. In: King, A.W., Dilling, L., Zimmerman, G.P., Fairman, D.M., Houghton, R.A., Marland, G., Rose, A.Z., Wilbanks, T.J. (Eds.), The First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR): The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle. The First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR): The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research Asheville, NC, USA, pp. 117–126. 

Keeton, W.S. 2006. Managing for late-successional/old-growth characteristics in northern hardwood- conifer forests.  Forest Ecology and Management 235. 129-142. 

Lorimer, C.G., White, A.S., 2003. Scale and frequency of natural disturbances in the northeastern U.S., implications fore early-successional forest habitats and regional age distributions. For. Ecol. Manage. 185, 41–64. 

Nunery, J. S. and Keeton, W.S. 2010. Forest carbon storage in northeastern United States: Net effects of harvesting frequency, post-harvest retention, and wood products.  Forest Ecology and Management 259. 1363-1375.

 

 

 

 

 

From Spring to Winter in the Sierra

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California is a vast state with an array of climates and ecosystems. I was reminded of this over my spring break spent in the Sierra foothills and Lake Tahoe. I arrived in Sacramento to 70 degrees, clear skies, and brilliant sunshine. I spent the weekend in a tee shirt and flip flops at my brother’s house in Grass Valley (1 hour from Sacramento), watching deer browse and lusting over the apple blossoms off his porch. At the end of the weekend I traveled hardly two hours down the road (up over 3,000 feet in elevation) to South Lake Tahoe, where it was still quite spring like for Tahoe in the middle of winter (50 degrees and sunny) with the ski season in full swing. The very next day, I was snowboarding in not much more than a tee shirt, relishing in California sunshine.

While enjoying my first day back riding in Tahoe, I hiked to the top of my favorite peak, Monument Peak (from where I took the above photo), with an amazing view of the entire Lake Tahoe Basin and Carson Valley below it. I couldn’t believe how brown the valley was! It looked as though it was dry arid summer out west, not the middle of winter when usually at lower elevations (like Carson), there is some green. It hadn’t rained or snowed in Tahoe for nearly two months, the longest dry period I can remember since I moved west 10 years ago. Frightening. The brown valley below was an obvious sign of the lack of precipitation that winter.

Amazingly enough, less than two days later a massive storm moved into the Tahoe Basin bringing feet of snow. Really, I couldn’t have timed my break any better. After an extended dry spell I was fortunate enough to return to Tahoe for the best ski week of the year. Although winter was now back in full swing I was still curious about the overall snowpack in the Sierra. Was the lack of precipitation this year a sign of climate change? How does this year’s snowpack compare to those prior? I found a graph from the Tahoe Weather Discussion Website with snowpack measurements from Donner Summit (coming into the Tahoe Basin from the North) with snowpack measurements dating back to 1879.

a_2011-Snowfall-Chart

This graph of historical data (not including 2011-2013), shows quite a variety of snowfall amounts and snowpacks and overall, a lower snowpack year like this year doesn’t appear too bad when looking at previous years. The snow water content data I found on the CA Department of Water Resources website tells a different story. According to Central Sierra snow water content measurements, this year and last year are quite close to the minimum year (1976-1977) for snow water content amounts. According to the CA Department of Water Resources, the Central Sierra is currently at 61% of its average snow water content amount and 63% of its normal. Their measurements do not go back prior to 1976, however.

Whether a lessening of precipitation in the California Sierra and elsewhere is due to climate change or not, one thing is for sure – in my close to ten years spent in Tahoe, winter definitely seems to be getting shorter, warmer, and drier on average and summers becoming hotter. Water is only becoming more of a limited resource throughout this.

Check out this fun new kids’ game on climate change – MELTDOWN!

Winter returns to Tahoe.

Winter returns to Tahoe.

Halfway There – Midterm Questions

1) Where is most of the Carbon in the ocean recycled? 
a – In the marine litter because it is labile.
b – Via upwelling and the transfer back into the atmosphere.
c – In the euphotic zone through the microbrial loop. 80-95% of C and other nutrients are recycled here before moving down through the ecosystem. 

ANSWER: c

2) How do landforms effect climate? Give an example of a location you are familiar with who’s climate is effected by a particular landform.

ANSWER: Landforms such as mountains and water bodies have multiple effects on climate. Oceans and land areas warm and cool at different rates causing land and sea breezes. When land areas heat up during the day, this warm air rises, pulling in cool air off the ocean. This results in the warm air to shift toward the ocean, similar to a Hadley Cell (just on a smaller scale). This cell reverses at night when the ocean is warmer than the land. Winds carry cool air off the ocean up adjacent mountain ranges where it condenses and precipitates through orographic lifting. Therefore the side of a mountain that is on the windward side of the ocean is cold and wet, or in the rain shadow, and the opposite side is the dry side (after the air has condensed and precipitated it expands and warms traveling down the leeward side of the mountain). The Big Island of Hawaii is a great example of this with the volcano, Kilauea, dividing the island in half creating a very significant ‘dry side’ (Kona side) and ‘wet side’ (Hilo side) of the island. 

3)  What does RuBisCo stand for and what are some of its functions?

ANSWER: RuBisCo is the main photosynthetic enzyme. It is the enzyme ribulose-biphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase, which catalzyes the initial attachment of CO2 to a carbon skeleton during photosynthesis. Rubisco accounts for 25% of the N in photosynthetic cells.

Envisioning Breaking the Division

UVM is en route to ‘Envisioning Environment‘, a campaign that will both locally and nationally recognize the University’s commitment to the environment at multiple levels and break the environmental divide around campus. Although a very good and needed undertaking, it also seems like quite the task. This past fall, a working group was formed comprised of faculty from a variety of schools within UVM to host forums throughout the fall which generated ideas for UVM’s Envisioning Environment Campaign. Out of this, the group has produced a report summarizing input from the fall forums with next steps and ideas for how to best envision environment at UVM. The group identified current strengths and weaknesses within the University (including student body size, course offerings, and campus infrastructure), and set a main goal of creating a hub for environmental integration of resources and ideas on campus across multiple disciplines. Along with this, a chair or provost Envisioning Environment position will be created.

I agree that our university is in need of environmental uniformity across campus. With the ‘Greening of Aiken’ now complete the Rubenstein School has been set apart in both good and bad ways from the rest of UVM (even more so than it was before). A coalition or working group representative of as many levels of UVM as possible in my opinion, would be a good first approach to this. The current working group for UVM’s Envisioning Environment is only representative of certain faculty at UVM. A key element that is missing is the student body, both undergraduate and graduate. With a goal to break the environmental divide or bring together environmental resources across UVM from the bottom up, this cannot happen without student involvement in the planning. The UVM student body is buzzing with talk of everything from assignments to research to course requirements to differences between programs. This is the student environment, a voice critical to envisioning UVM’s environment.

Some of the main challenges identified in the Working Group report have to do with the rapid growth at UVM in student population and curriculum and the inability of university infrastructure to keep up. Although the Envisioning Environment campaign is a great endeavor and will elevate the status and appeal of UVM at certain levels, it seems like UVM needs to work on catching up a bit first. Invest in hiring more faculty to accommodate the number of students. Work on internal university communication between programs and curriculum. Instead of considering building another new building to ‘bring together’ people, resources, etc. to focus on the environment, consider using a space we already have, like the amazing and brand new Davis Center. I am in the Davis Center daily and it is overflowing with students, most of whom seem to be undergraduates in the common areas. This I don’t mind, but why not establish more reasons to bring more of our UVM community into this wonderful space? Working on existing challenges first will make the Envisioning Environment campaign move forward more smoothly and in a more unified fashion.

Envision breaking the division…

The new Aiken (RSENR) building at UVM - green and great - but how is it setting RSENR apart from the rest of UVM??

The new Aiken (RSENR) building at UVM – green and great – but how is it setting RSENR apart from the rest of UVM??

Dirt Matters.

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The expansive, sun baked playa of the Black Rock Desert. Cracks form from the clay surface swelling when wet, then shrinking when dry.

Dirt matters. I first heard this phrase during a presentation about the dust bowl a few years ago in Lake Tahoe, and it has stuck with me since. Dirt (or soil) does matter, more than most recognize. Our food, materials, processes, nutrient cycles, biodiversity all stem from the soil.  Without healthy soils we cannot sustain any of the above, yet we continue to deplete our soils. 

I have always had a passion for the dirt since I was a small child, playing in my sandbox in my yard or simply digging holes to see what was down there. For the past decade I have been living out west, exploring northern California soils for both my work and enjoyment. Lake Tahoe, my former home, has some of the fastest draining soils in the country, up to 14 inches per hour. Tahoe’s soils are extremely sandy, retaining very little water. Most of Tahoe’s soils formed when the Tahoe Basin was carved out by glaciers.

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Burning man art pieces on the Black Rock Playa.

Just down the road, is the Black Rock Desert, about 3 hours to the northeast, with soils very different to those of Tahoe. Black Rock is fascinating due to its environment, geology, and natural history. I have been going there every August-September for the past six years for Burning Man, a gathering of now more than 50,000 people into what is labeled as an event of radical self expression, art, music, and culture. The Black Rock Desert (and Burning Man) is not for the fair-weathered. It is a challenging but incredible environment and worth exploring if you think you can handle it!

To get to Black Rock from Tahoe, you pass by Pyramid Lake, the emerald blue lake into which Lake Tahoe drains, on a Paiute Indian Reservation. Pyramid Lake is a sulfurous lake with a wealth of history of its own and is where Lake Tahoe drains to via the Lower Truckee River. Right past Pyramid Lake you start to approach the Black Rock Desert. The Black Rock area was once occupied by the prehistoric lake, Lake Lahontan, dating back to the Pleistocene era 13,000 years ago. At its fullest, Lake Lahontan covered 8,655 square miles of Northern Nevada and through different glacial periods of recession formed the Sierra Nevadas. Lahontan eventually receded to leave Pyramid Lake, Walker Lake, and the Carson Sink (Burning Man Earth Guardians, 2013).

The Black Rock Desert covers approximately 300 square miles, the second largest flat area in the northern hemisphere. The flattest part, the playa, is almost like a sandy beach bottom. The soil here is actually alkaline or clay, being what was once an ephemeral lake bed (the bottom of Lake Lahontan). The surface holds standing water over the winter (if it is a wet enough year), and as the water dries out, the clay bottom shrinks, causing cracks in the surface. Loose sand and silt particles form a dusty layer on the surface along with salt that precipitates out of the mineral crust. In that there is not much vegetation, if any, winds are severe and can cause dust storms with no visibility. Speaking from experience, a dust storm on the playa can be one of the most exciting experiences of your life!

The area surrounding the Black Rock Desert contains alluvial slopes, terraces, foothills and mountains. There are also numerous hot springs, a big draw for visitors to the area, also a great way to end seven dusty days of your Burning Man Experience. The source of these hot springs is debatable, but according to Friends of Black Rock, they are fed by geothermic activity from traces of a fault line in the area. At one of the hot springs, what now is a bathing pool exists because emigrants during the 19th century dug a trough here to allow water to cool for livestock to drink. Some of the springs reach temperatures of 133 degrees (Blackrockdesert.org). In addition to the drinking troughs, ruts from the Oregon Trail and fossils from the largest wooly mammoth every discovered have been found on the playa. 

The Black Rock Desert may appear like a stark, barren landscape upon first arrival but it obviously has much more to it. Just imagine this area thousands of of years ago with giant mammoth, camels, and saber-toothed tigers roaming around! Although Burning Man is a great reason to visit the area, it is worth checking out year round. Simply driving out on the playa, up in the surrounding mountains, or sitting in a hot spring will not disappoint you. One thing is for sure – dirt matters here. 

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Black Rock Hot Spring

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Black Rock Playa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources (and good reading material):

Burning Man Earth Guardians

Burning Man Website

Friends of Black Rock/High Rock

 

 

 

Climate, Carbon, and Northeastern Forests…Where to Begin?

Camel's Hump's spruce forest, near the summit.

Camel’s Hump’s spruce forest, near the summit.

As we continue to alter our ecosystems and our environment, the debate over climate change and therefore carbon sequestration is only intensifying. How can we sustain our population growth and needs, yet reduce our impact ? What does ‘reduce our impact’ really mean and over what timeframe and in what context? It is definitely getting more difficult to define the term ‘green’ when forced to deal with footprints, offsetting, and varied management approaches. In my graduate work at UVM, I will attempt to find answers to some of the above questions, at least those surrounding forest management, carbon, and sustainability. Currently, I am at just the tip of the iceberg.

How is climate change affecting Vermont’s Forests? According to The Vermont Division of Forestry, warmer temperatures caused by climate change could lengthen Vermont’s growing seasons and increase growth rate (allowing for more carbon sequestration and also a greater amount of carbon sinks). This would be a positive effect, yet warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons could increase invasions by pests in the ecosystem, however, which would obviously be negative (Climate Change and Forests, Vermont Division of Forestry). Backing up a for a second, what is the difference between a carbon sink and carbon sequestration? Carbon sinks absorb and store carbon for any period of time, such as wood, soils, and leaves. Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon is removed from the atmosphere via carbon sinks.

The effect of climate change on Vermont so far is bringing earlier springs, which is driving earlier ecosystem production and ecosystem processes. Deciduous trees on Camel’s Hump are now growing at higher elevations as a result of overall warmer temperatures (Climate Change and Forests, 2001). If warmer temperatures are resulting in longer growing seasons, then this will result in more energy inputs necessary to go into the system to balance the energy outputs. A longer growing season will enable more production and carbon sequestration, yet demand more resources. More growth can also mean more biomass accumulation in Vermont forest ecosystems which is good for Carbon sinks, but the change in climate may ultimately alter our forest ecosystems as we know them. Our maple-beech-birch forests could transition to oak-hickory or oak-pine forests as a result of warmer temperatures and pest invasions.

The question of forest management, climate, and carbon is ongoing – I chose to look at one perspective in this post and review a very small amount of information. Some level of management of our forest ecosystems seems to be mandatory at this point in order to preserve and protect their resources and allow us to coexist. One thing is for sure – there is not one simple solution, and as we do more research our answers are continually changing.

For a holistic view on climate changes impacts on ecosystems, check out the EPA article, Ecosystems Impacts and Adaptations.

Work Cited

Climate Change and Forests, Forestry Centennial, Vermont Division of Forestry, 2001.

A Fresh Start

 

Lake Tahoe - one of the most pristine ecosystems in our country, my former home.

Lake Tahoe – one of the most pristine ecosystems in our country, my former home.

I used to walked around UVM as an undergraduate feeling like I was a part of the campus ecosystem, the thousands of students, faculty, and staff passing each other every day, some choosing to stick out others choosing to camouflage themselves. Now, after returning to UVM after almost 10 years, I feel as though I don’t camouflage or stick out, instead I feel I as though I am living in a dream. Campus is the same yet different with the Davis Center, a brand new Aiken building, many of the same faculty I left behind who still are quite confused when they see me walk past (if they even recognize me)…it has been a fun week.

For the past 7 years I have been working at the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, doing conservation education and outreach work focused around protecting Lake Tahoe’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Lake Tahoe’s ecosystems are some of the most pristine and isolated in the country, and have been fascinating to become familiar with and compare to the Vermont ecosystems I left behind. I would have to say that Tahoe is one of the most heavily environmentally researched and funded areas in the country yet one of the slowest to produce results, in my experience at least. Throughout the course of our Ecosystems Ecology class (for which I have created this Blog), I am excited to learn more about how ecosystems work to be able better utilize our research capabilities to produce more significant results. My passion for the environment and how ecosystems work stems from growing up in rural Vermont. I have always been fascinated by all ecosystems, whether they are tropical, marine, or arctic.

I arrived for the start of my graduate career at approximately 3am Monday morning this week, only a short few hours before my first class, after driving from Lake Tahoe, California in just a few days to attempt to make it here on time. My drive across the country was a great start to observing the great variety of ecosystems we have in our own country – from the 10 foot snowpack I left behind in Lake Tahoe to the high plains in Wyoming and Nebraska to the cornfields of Iowa. On the last day of my drive from Lake Tahoe to Vermont, I found out that a very good friend of mine lost his house and everything he owned in a fire. His incredibly humble yet noble perspective: an opportunity for a fresh start, a clean slate. I have been thinking about this statement, routinely, throughout the week, while starting a completely new life and routine as a graduate student. My fresh start is allowing me to take a new approach to my education, to work, to my life, and to my return home to Vermont. This can and should be applied to how we study our ecosystems, as our ecosystems are constantly evolving amongst our human impacts. Change is always difficult yet good. The rate at which change is being forced upon our environment and our ecosystems is only increasing the more we alter them. I am excited to gain a more in depth knowledge of ecosystem functions, processes, and services in Ecosystems Ecology to apply to my research, my work, and my life.

Food for thought…

Is it possible to model global ecosystems?

How is a small community in Haiti working to help restore their local ecosystem?

Rustik, an eco lodge in Furcy, Haiti made of recycled materials and working with the local community and partners to restore the ecosystem in the area.

Rustik, an eco lodge in Furcy, Haiti made of recycled materials and working with the local community and partners to restore the ecosystem in the area.