Have you ever wondered what the day-to-day of scientists looks like? Certainly, daily activities will vary greatly depending on what kind of scientist you are, what time of year it is, and where you work. For community ecologists in the Stuble Lab at the Holden Arboretum, the summer months means it’s time to get out into the natural area at Holden to collect data.
One of the biggest projects in the Stuble Community Ecology lab takes place in Holden’s Working Woods, a 67-acre forest restoration experiment and demonstration site exploring best practices in forest management. Working Woods is a post-agricultural forest (meaning it regrew after being cleared for agriculture). Many of Ohio’s forests are similarly recovering after agricultural use, and these forests are often dominated by small, close growing trees and rampant invasive species. Through management, such as removing invasive species and thinning trees to free up resources, we can accelerate young forests’ trajectories toward a more biodiverse and productive forest composition.
Researchers in the Stuble lab work in Working Woods to quantify how these management techniques impact the forest community to inform best practices. We do so by doing surveys of the forest understory, measuring tree growth, and tracking interactions between species. To give you a better picture of what we do, below we walk through what a typical morning looks like in Working Woods.
8:30am: Our day in Working Woods begins. Today, we have some new high school interns starting. Kiera, Loyalty, and Clark are interns with Holden’s Green Corps program, which places teens in different departments at Holden Forest and Gardens to give them hands-on work experience in green-industry jobs. They will join today’s crew of me (the Stuble lab’s lead technician), 4 undergraduate interns, and 2 high school volunteers. Fieldwork is best done with a team!
We always start the day with our morning stretches. Fieldwork in Working Woods means a lot of walking, so it is important to limber up!
8:40: Head in to Working Woods.
8:45: Split into small groups. This morning, I am working with Loyalty.
8:50-11:30: Start our surveys. This morning, we are surveying permanent 1m2 plots that we’ve established throughout the 9-hectare research area of Working Woods. Today, we are identifying all the different plant species we find in these plots, to get a sense for how forest management is impacting biodiversity. The composition of our plots can be very different…
Sometimes they look like this…
While other times they look like this! Unpacking why biodiversity may vary from plot to plot is important to understanding the impacts of management. To do this, we identify each unique plant we see, and then assign it a “cover class,” the percentage of the 1m2 plot we think are covered by each species.
We’ll use these data to quantify the impacts forest management are having on biodiversity and productivity in the forest understory.
11:30: After a morning of hard work, it’s time to head in for lunch. We meet up with the other groups and leave Working Woods.
Another successful morning of fieldwork!
Emma Dawson- Glass
At the Holden Arboretum, I work under Dr. Katie Stuble as a research technician, assisting with research on community assembly, species dynamics, and ecosystem function. I work primarily with field data collection, greenhouse experiments, and data management for the lab. My research interests include the spatial dynamics of plant and insect diversity, community assembly, pollination ecology, and species interactions (specifically mutualisms and plant-insect interactions).