Saturday, January 13, 2018


Today is probably the biggest day of the trip.  Today, students carried out their independent research projects.  At San Gerardo, Tim, Deb, Mark, and I guided the students in developing questions.  Then each designed a study to address his or her question.  Today, they're collecting data, analyzing it, and later they'll give a short presentation on what they found out.  All of the research is comparing the young forest (about 10 years old) with an older forest (about 25 years old) at La Calandria.  I thought it would be cool if each described their own research, so the students are guest blogging. 

 Like all days at the field station, we started by drinking strong coffee and tea.  Some students might have "accidently" brought a "few" chamomile tea bags from another field station, but I didn't notice that.  After breakfast and last minute details from Tim, we headed out and got to work.

Tim:  I found the woody debris in the reforested area and secondary area. Then found the volume of each area and compared them to see which forest had higher woody debris. The finding showed the secondary (older forest) had more woody debris. <<This is  pic of Tim using the DBH tape, which is specially marked to measure tree diameter.  You'll see a lot of students using this>>

Nick: This totally not staged picture is of me measuring the circumference of that tree. My project's goal was to compare the percent coverage of lichens and mosses on trees in the new reforested area and the secondary forest.  

Kate: I studied the amount of palms in the reforested area as compared to the secondary forest. These palms are important to understory growth because they create wildlife habitat as well as a food source. My results found that there were no palms within the reforested location and 31 palms within the secondary forest, this could be because of many different reasons.

Josh: I studied the diversity of insects in the leaf litter of two different forest types. The diversity of insects is important for a healthy forest because it provides a diverse food source for all insect eating species. The results of the study showed that a reforested forest has more diversity compared to a secondary forest.  

Chloe: Leaf litter is a part of the forest often overlooked, but is actually beneficial to the health of a forest. Decomposing leaves on the forest floor provide habitat for insects and a few species of frogs. Birds and frogs also feed on the insects that reside here. As these leaves are decomposing, they are also depositing nutrients in to the soil of which vegetation is dependent on.

Bekah: I compared the amount and size of snags (dead, but still vertical trees) in the reforested and secondary forest. Each time I found a snag, I measured the DBH, or diameter at breast height (as shown above). Snags are cool because they can have cavities to house a variety of birds and bats.

Heather: I performed a count on vines and lianas (woody vines) in the regrown forest and secondary forest and compared numbers between the groups. Vines and lianas are an important part of tropical forest ecology and provide a source of food for many different insects and herbivores so comparing their numbers could provide valuable data that helps us better understand forest integrity.

Macklen:  I used several different tools on this project. I used a thermometer, soil moisture meter, penetrometer, and a simple shovel and tape measure. These were used to measure soil temperature, the moisture within the soil, compactness of the soil, and the width of the O, (Or organic), horizon. These were all different tests used to find the overall quality of the new growth and old growth forests.  

Chris: Today I calculated the amount of carbon  stored in trees. I calculated this by measuring the DBH (diameter at breast height) and the height of the trees.

Bridget: Today I compared the amount of sunlight that came through the canopy of the reforested forest and the secondary forest. I was able to do this through using the densiometer (pictured above in my hand). You hold it at elbow height and then look at the sunlight recorded on the mirror looking circle. After recording the sunlight that came through between each canopy, I would look at the percent of herbivorous plants located a meter around me.   

Sam: My experiment was sampling leaf damage in 10 meter by 10 meter plots. My hypothesis was that the reforested area would have less damage because the secondary forest would have more organisms to affect it. I scaled the damage from 0 to 4. My hypothesis was supported by this experiment. 

John: I examined a species of leaf-cutter ants.  These fascinating creatures have their own social hierarchy.  The minima, minors, mediae, and majors are what comprises this hierarchy.  The majors are also known as soldier ants, and will patrol the foraging lines. I studied the response time of these soldier ants after I disrupted their lines.  

Paige: For my project I compared leaf damage done by leafcutter ants in a reforested area and a secondary forest. I estimated leaf damage on a 1-10 scale with 1 being slight damage and 10 being all leaves damaged. I found that there is more damage closer to the colony in the reforested area while more damage exists further away from the colony in the secondary forest, but am not sure if this is consistent with all colonies. 

Charlie: I collected data to compare the amount of buttressing (when the base of the tree is wider to provide more stability and strength) between a reforest and a secondary forest. To collect this data I measured the DBH as well as the diameter at 10cm off the ground.

Coltin: For my project I counted the number of both herbaceous and woody plants in 3X3 meter plots. I then took the averages numbers for each type of plant in both secondary forests and reforested areas and compared the ratio between the two.

Here, Debra is mentoring Macklen and teaching him to use a soil penetrometer.

This looks like Tim is telling Nick he should just quit the course and walk away, but actually they're comparing the forest they are in to the one that is...that'a way.

Here's Tim carefully staying away from the ginormous leaf cutter mound.

No comments:

Post a Comment