LTER Road Trip: Gaining a New Perspective

Sarah of the Pacific Tree Climbers.

Even on quiet days, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site is usually bustling with activity. The busiest field season was still a few weeks away, but researchers and scientists peppered the forest, collecting data, giving tours, and checking in on their projects. During my visit to the LTER I was not… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Searching for Skunks

A skunk outfitted with a transmitter.

Marie Tosa pulled into the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest parking lot with a white, mud splattered truck. Arranging dozens of metal cages for cleaning on the damp grass, she readied her gear to take me on a unique search: for skunks. Tosa grew up in Boston, receiving her Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology and Environmental… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Entering the World of HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

The Andrews Discovery Trail trail entrance.

Past the Blue River Reservoir I drove, stopping to admire the reflection of Oregon puffy clouds in the calm water, rimmed by deep emerald mountains and home to a small family of Canada geese, an osprey, a common merganser, and a busy spotted sandpiper complete with a rapidly bobbing tail. Just up the hill from… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: X Marks the Spot in the Jornada Desert

A ConMod sits between grass clumps.

In the center of the grassland and shrubland of the Jornada LTER, I gaze across short mesh nets, arranged in an X and stretching approximately one foot across in each direction, sitting unobtrusively on the ground between mesquite, bushes, and snakeweed bunches. Spherical cottontail rabbit pellets congregated in the low places, and Josh Anderson, Reserve… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Lessons Near and Far from Jornada

What plant communities can tell us about rodents Dr. Debra Peters has spent over 20 years studying changes across 15 study sites in the Jornada Basin, which take an immense amount of effort to monitor three times a year. Field technicians fan out across the landscape, measuring the volume of plant line and estimating new… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Understanding Change in a New Mexico Desert

The land that now encompasses the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research site has been impacted by people for centuries. Native Americans once camped here between the mountain ranges during the summer months, gathering grasses and burning mesquite for fuel. In the 19th century, cattle ranchers moved in from the east, drawn by the same… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Restoring Seagrass in Virginia’s Estuaries

View from a VCR LTER research boat cruising along estuaries where seagrass restoration projects are underway.

Exploring the Estuary The waters lapping against the shoreline marshes reflected bright blue sky above. I sat in the front of the Virginia Coast Reserve Long Term Ecological Research (VCR LTER) site’s boat, exploring the estuary with VCR LTER’s dedicated staff. The tall Spartina alternifora grasses waved in the breeze a foot or two above… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: A Shrubby Invasion

PhD researcher Joe Brown looking out over a barrier island in the Virginia Coast Reserve.

Islands on the Move I stood on a windy barrier island, hair whipping around my face as my boots crunched across beach seashells. The waves crashed into the sand, here and there stirring up food for one of the many gulls seeking rest or prey on this island. Before me stretched the Atlantic Ocean, as… Read more »

LTER Road trip: A Changing Landscape along Virginia’s Eastern Shore

PhD student Victoria Long displaying one of the plant species at her study site along Virginia's Eastern Shore, where salt marsh is starting to expand into agricultural fields.

A Long Legacy Victoria Long has a deep connection to the land here in Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Her family has farmed this land for generations—since 1652 to be exact. She grew up a few miles from the Virginia Coast Reserve Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, attended the local high school and began to work… Read more »

The fate of milkweed in a changing prairie system

Grazers on the Konza Prairie.

There is a surprising connection between the loss of prairie habitat in the Great Plains and the fate of Monarch butterflies. They may not be iconic in the American West, but Monarchs are important pollinators and prey for other species – and their populations in the United States are in steep decline. This is due… Read more »