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ESF 296 Research Experience in Forest Ecology

The Forest Ecology Lab at SUNY ESF is conducting research for the Multiple Element Limitation in Northern Hardwood Forests (MELNHE) project led by Ruth Yanai, SUNY ESF, Syracuse, NY; Melany Fisk, Miami University of Ohio, Oxford, OH; and Tim Fahey, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

ESF 296 is a “Research Experience” course designed to give students hands-on experience with data collection and work in a lab, while contributing to an ongoing research project. Activities include learning how to identify and sort leaf litter by species, sorting roots by size class, soil texture analysis, and sap flow measurements.

Students who work in lab for 45 hours will earn 1 credit, and they can continue accumulating hours to earn up to 3 credits (45 hours/credit). Those who do not plan to complete 45 hours still need to register to be allowed to participate; their registration will be dropped at the end of the session.

Pizza: The lab supplies pizza, so you won’t have to bring a lunch!

Course Requirements

This is a free course offered through ESF in the High School. In order to participate in the course, students must be register online for ESF in the High School. Contact Mary at with any questions.

Students who join the lab are not obligated to complete the credit. While you must be registered for ESF in the High School, you may volunteer for fewer than 45 hours. (Note: in this case, you will not receive a credit, but it is a good resume booster!)

Course Objectives

Skills gained by research experience in the Forest Ecology Lab include:

  • Learning how to identify leaves of common tree species in northern hardwood forests
  • Data processing and data management (entering data, graphing, etc.)
  • Collaboration and teamwork during group activities
  • Students with more experience will have the opportunity to help teach newcomers and reinforce their own knowledge about the projects and procedures.


  1. Sign up using the link provided in the weekly email.
  2. Participate fully in all lab activities.
  3. Log hours in the “Volunteer Sign-in” binder
  4. Be attentive about details in lab. Mislabeling samples or making errors when entering data can lead to a lot of confusion later on!
  5. Be respectful of others in lab and cooperate with one another.
  6. Communicate with us about any questions and concerns.
  7. Answer emails!

Course Correspondence, Updates, and Materials

During the school year, lab hours are generally offered on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) for 4-hour sessions. During the summer, times will be offered on both weekdays and weekends.

Weekly updates are sent via email detailing the following week’s hours.

Course Grades

Course grades will be determined using the rubric below.

  A C D F Weight
Work ethic Takes initiative to start the next task when one is completed Stays on task without reminders. Attention drifts unless reminded. Requires constant reminders to stay on task. Spends lab time on irrelevant activities, such as watching moves on the internet. 20
Group dynamics Takes initiative to welcome new people to the group. Raises scientific topics for discussion. Interacts with all students, helps newcomers, answers their questions. Friendly among friends, but not with other students. Disrespectful of other students or of their abilities. Antagonistic to other students. 20


Communications about attendance Signs up ahead of time via the weekly lab signup sheet, shows up on time (or tells us when to expect them), and accurately logs hours. Points for % compliance 20
Technical Skill The lab practical will be administered to assess technical skill, for example in identifying leaves by species. Points for % correct answers 40


Lab Schedule

Lab dates are available online, via the link sent weekly for sign-ups.