A Teacher’s Experience at Hubbard Brook

One Teacher’s Experience at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest

By Sarah Thorne, 2010 participant in NSF’s Research Experience for Teachers

Have you ever noticed a two-month old sugar maple seedling, too young to have grown its distinctive lobes? Have you ever contemplated the fungi, soils, and neighbors that affect seedling survival? Have you ever tickled the roots of an American Beech, all in the interest of determining their respiration rate? Last summer, I had the opportunity to do all these things and more with the scientists who work at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

pereson examining leaves in forest

The author at Hubbard Brook

How did I get here from my classroom at Prospect Mt. High School (serving Barnstead and Alton, NH)? As a result of my participation in the Project Learning Tree (PLT)’s Forest for Every Classroom training program during 2009-2010, I was invited to apply for this summer position by the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation (HBRF) who secured funding from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Teachers program.

I was like a kid in a candy shop, soaking in the knowledge of scientists from all over the country who converge on the 7800-acre watershed each summer. Hubbard Brook is famed for pioneering the use of small watersheds in ecosystem science and has the longest running data set in the nation. Scientists who have studied atmospheric deposition, hydrology, nutrient cycling, biomass production, and wildlife populations here over the past five decades are helping us understand the ecosystem impacts of acid rain, and climate change, and other human and natural perturbations.

My principal project was to gather data for Dr. Natalie Cleavitt and her forest community ecology team. We measured sugar maple seedling regeneration and condition in plots in various watersheds. The project is still underway and Dr. Cleavitt will analyze the relationships between site characteristics, soils, proximity to neighbors, disease, and seedling survival.

I’m developing lessons based on the findings of Hubbard Brook scientists, from bird abundance to seedling survival. This winter I’ll be piloting the lessons, and others developed by HBRF in my high school field ecology classes. If all goes well, the lessons will appear on the HBRF website for broader use within the next year. Check out www.supporthubbardbrook.org for more information.

Thank you PLT for opening this opportunity for me and my students!

Reprinted with permission from the NH Fish and Game’s Project WEB newsletter (January 2011) which also features the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Read the entire Project Wet newsletter. More teachers’ resources can be found at http://www.wildnh.com/Education/for_teachers.htm

Follow this link to HBRF’s Education web site.