LTER Road Trip: A Steep Transect at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab

Leaf litter basket at transect #327, used to measure rates of leaf fall.

Slip-sliding through the decades I paused at the top of Coweeta Hydrologic Lab’s transect #327, peering down, down, down at the slope beneath me. Katie Bower, a research technician at Coweeta, and two summer interns had already started down the narrow pathway, accustomed to its slippery leaf layer and sharp contours. Taking a deep breath,… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Coweeta Listening Project

Jason Meador of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee talks to ICON students in Cat Creek.

I flip open my copy of The Franklin Press while sipping coffee at a field station, and there, in a bi-monthly column, is an article by Coweeta Hydrologic Lab staff, answering the scientific questions of local citizens. The column is just one part of the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP), an initiative of the Coweeta LTER.

LTER Road Trip: Real Time Evolution

A red legged salamander from Coweeta LTER site.

Salamanders are very sensitive to changes in both precipitation and temperature, and scientists at the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab have discovered that they represent a hotbed of evolutionary activity. That’s right – evolution is happening before our eyes, in real time.

LTER Road Trip: A Hot Time in the Forest

To evaluate the effects of soil warming, scientists have measured soil gases including methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide as well as nitrogen fluxes every month since 1991, comparing the heated plots to control plots nearby. One of the most interesting results they have documented comes from the forest’s tiniest organisms – the microbes that digest downed leaves and branches (also known as the ecosystem’s detritus). At first, the microbes worked overtime in the heated plots, releasing more carbon dioxide through their respiration.

LTER Road Trip: Hemlock Hospice

The hemlock is a native tree species that was once common from northern Alabama to Nova Scotia. Stretching tall with thick needles, the hemlock creates an entire ecosystem beneath its large branches. In the Smoky Mountains, its shade used to cool streams just enough to allow the eastern brook trout to thrive. Unfortunately, these hemlocks are in dramatic decline.

LTER Road trip: Wildlife-Equipment Interactions in the Jungle

The boat whizzed past the mangrove trees in Everglades National Park, creating a blur of blue water and green leaves. Rafael Travieso, our captain and lead technician for Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) LTER, expertly guided us through Shark Slough to a partially hidden wooden dock. Slowing down, we glided forward until the tip of the boat barely tapped the wooden structure, which created a platform for a solar panel and what looks like a barrel.

LTER Road Trip: How Tiny Algae Could Predict Changes in the Everglades

Coastal mangroves in Everglades National park

Viviana Mazzei studies organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. When I toured the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER research sites in Everglades National Park, my eyes were drawn to the mangrove trees, the dolphins, the birds. But when Mazzei, a Ph.D. student at Florida International University, wades through these ecosystems, she is on the look-out for something much smaller: diatoms, a type of single-cell algae, that thrive in this aquatic environment.

LTER Road Trip: Slip-Sliding through the Decades

A tagged tree on transect #327 in Coweeta Experimental Forest.

I paused at the top of Coweeta Hydrologic Lab’s transect #327, peering down, down, down at the slope beneath me. Katie Bower, a research technician at Coweeta, and two summer interns had already started down the narrow pathway, accustomed to its slippery leaf layer and sharp contours.

LTER Road Trip: The Georgia Coastal Ecosystem Schoolyard Program

Research Technician Tim Montgomery records water quality data with a teacher during the GCE schoolyard summer workshop.

During their week out at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, teachers divide their time between assisting with research in outdoor settings alongside GCE scientists and graduate students and discussing the implementation of the information and experiences into their own teaching settings.

LTER Road Trip: Exploring the Everglades

When most people think of the Florida Everglades, they picture alligators hiding amongst labyrinths of marsh grass, the famous boardwalks of the Anhinga Trail, or the tightly clustered mangrove trees that border both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, few are aware that Everglades National Park also hosts critically important ecological research sites, where scientists from the Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) station learn about the inner workings of this incredible ecosystem, as well as how it’s responding to human activities.