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Research Opportunities

Recruiting Interns, Hubbard Brook and Bartlett Experimental Forests

Check back in February for summer internship opportunities

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

These are related to our field work in New Hampshire (opportunities for summer internships!) in Multiple Element Limitation in Northern Hardwood Ecosystems. We are measuring the response of forests to nutrient limitation, by adding nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium to 13 northern hardwood stands in Bartlett Experimental Forest, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, and Jeffers Brook, all in the White Mountain National Forest.

For research apprenticeships (FOR 298), we can offer a variety of activities in the field and the lab. We will make several weekend trips to New Hampshire to collect leaf litter. Laboratory activities include processing leaf litter, analyzing soil texture, sorting roots from soil, sorting seeds from litter, identifying Neonectria species via microscopy, and entering and managing data. These do not require an independent project and are graded S/U based on hours worked (40 hours/credit).

  1. Roots from the soil pits excavated at Hubbard Brook this year can be used to complete a data set of roots collected from soil pits at Bartlett Experimental Forest. The distribution of root biomass is important to predicting forest productivity and nutrient uptake.
  2. Are trees producing more leaves in response to fertilization? Which limits leaf production, N or P? Is there more of a response in young stands than old stands or in infertile sites compare to more fertile sites? We are sorting leaf litter by species and weighing them. These can be compared to pre-treatment data to analyze change over time due to nutrient additions. An intern on this project will learn to identify leaves by species, dry and weigh them, and organize and report the data.
  3. Soil texture is a master variable that determines water holding capacity and affects nutrient cycling in ecosystems. Some literatures suggest prior to determining soil texture, organic matter must be removed from the soil, but others suggest that it depends on the origin and characteristic of the soil. We have soil samples from all 13 stands, across 3 sites with contrasting parent materials (from granite to amphibolite). We need to determine whether a pre-treatment to remove organic matter (by wet oxidation or dry ashing) is necessary to get accurate results. This project involves soil processing and analysis and data analysis and interpretation.
  4. Beech bark disease invaded North America a century ago but the disease is still not entirely understood. So far we know that this disease complex involves the attack of beech trees by either (or both) of two types of beech scale insect, followed by either (or both) of two types of neonectria fungi. An intern on this project will sort photos of diseased beech trees and quantify aspects of the disease on photos of tree bark using ImageJ, a java-based image processing program.
  5. In the second year of nutrient treatments, we collected quantitative samples of leaf litter arthropods from all 13 of our sites. Using a dissecting microscope, sorting these arthropods to order (or possibly to family) would help to answer questions about the effect of nutrient additions (N, P, Ca) on the brown food web.
  6. Video/photographic documentation of lab procedures: A student interested in environmental interpretation or science communication could help us document many of the lab procedures we find difficult to explain, such as root sorting, leaf sorting, ashing and digestion, ICP, and oxidizing soil organic matter prior to textural determination.
  7. Our pre-treatment foliar data set is incomplete! There are archived samples in need of analysis. A student on this project would learn procedures for analyzing tissue chemistry using microwave digestion and inductively coupled plasma emission spectroscopy. Data analysis could include calculation of foliar nutrient resorption in response to our treatments (pre-treatment concentrations being an important covariate in the analysis).

Contact Mary Hagemann, email: for more information.

Graduate Assistantships in Forest Nutrient Cycling

Ruth Yanai is seeking new graduate students (MS or PhD) to participate in a large collaborative project investigating above and belowground carbon allocation, nutrient cycling, and tradeoffs involved in multiple resource allocation. The Multiple Element Limitation in Northern Hardwood Ecosystems (MELNHE) project has field sites located at Hubbard Brook, Jeffers Brook, and Bartlett Experimental Forests in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Since 2011, thirteen stands have received full-factorial N x P treatments annually in 0.25-ha plots, with six stands treated with Ca. Research in the MELNHE project has included aboveground diameter growth, leaf production by species, foliar nutrient resorption, soil respiration, soil mineralization, beech bark disease, mycorrhizae, and snail and arthropod diversity. Prospective students could follow up on those topic areas or supply ideas for research in new areas in the context of the MELNHE project. More information on the project can be found at

QUERCA (Quantifying Uncertainty Estimates and Risk for Carbon Accounting) is a new project, building on the strengths of QUEST (Quantifying Uncertainty in Ecosystem Studies). The goal of QUERCA is to develop and disseminate peer-reviewed tools and approaches for error propagation for use by carbon accounting technicians and researchers, especially those in tropical countries seeking support from REDD+ to reduce deforestation and forest degradation for climate mitigation. QUERCA will help support students working in the MELNHE project who are interested in contributing to this effort.

We welcome inquiries from prospective students interested in forest ecology, nutrient cycling, and uncertainty analysis. Applicants should be self-motivated, excited to work as part of a multi-investigator project, have laboratory and field experience, and be comfortable living and working in a group setting. A field crew blog from previous years.

Ideally, new students join us at the start of the summer field season at the beginning of June, so as to become familiar with the field sites and our research activities before starting classes in late August.

Funding will consist of a combination of research and teaching assistantships. A stipend, full tuition waiver, health insurance, and a summer position with the field crew in New Hampshire will be provided. Prospective students may apply to the Department of Sustainable Resources Management or the Graduate Program in Environmental Science, both at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

We appreciate communicating with students as part of the application process. Students are encouraged to review MELNHE (and QUEST) data to begin thinking about how they might contribute to the project. Prospective students should begin that conversation by requesting the password for Ruth's project materials from Mary Hagemann at