In 2016 and 2017, blogger and photographer Erika Zambello launched a road trip to visit as many LTER sites as possible. Follow her travels through the LTER Road Trip StoryMap or peruse the stories below.

See more of Erika’s work at E. Zambello Writing and Photography.

LTER Road Trip: Zebra Mussels Arrive in Lake Mendota

Dane holds two mussel-encrusted concrete pieces.

In 2015, a group of undergraduates from the University of Wisconsin, Madison launched boats into Lake Mendota at the edge of campus, ready to put lessons from the classrooms to the test in hands-on field research activities. As they moved through research protocols, a student brought a metal pole from the soft bottom to the… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Vegetation Surveys Under the Waves

Collecting and recording vegetation samples.

The North Temperate Lakes LTER vegetation survey team leapt out of their research boat, wetsuits and dive gear ready to go. The survey site bordered the opposite side of Trout Lake, a straight shot from the research facility and student dorms. Two bald eagles, native to this part of Northern Wisconsin, appeared disgruntled at our… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Returning Fish Diversity to Crystal Lake

Hundreds of people rimmed Crystal Lake in Northern Wisconsin on a hot afternoon. I stood along the shoreline with Noah Lottig from the North Temperate Lakes (NTL) LTER, watching the flocking gulls surround swimmers wading in and out of the sandy edge. The lake looked beautiful, clear and surrounded by dark green trees and patches… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Busy Bees at Kellogg Biological Station

A Kellogg bee box.

In a grassy clearing between crop hectares at the Kellogg Biological Station LTER, Dr. Nick Haddad, Principle Investigator, stares into the dark recesses of a bee box, set a few feet off the ground. The research team places the bees here while they’re still in cocoons. When they hatch, the bees gather fluorescent yellow, powdered… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: How Soil Crusts Impact the Landscape

Dr. Rudgers examines a sample of soil crust.

Blue grama grass, golden stems meeting dead undergrowth beneath, completely surrounded Dr. Jen Rudgers in the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The meadow stretched as far as the eye could see, eventually meeting a dense slope of creosote shrubland, surrounded by bronze mountains in central New Mexico. The cool of early morning had already given… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Finding Pika Poo

Looking for signs of pika among the rocks.

My second morning at the Niwot Ridge LTER dawned warm but windier than the day before, and I zipped up a red jacket over my long sleeves and jeans. Ashley Whipple, a graduate student, met me at the office building, and we trundled into one of the two SUVs shuttling up to the field site… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Fluxes on Top of the World

On top of the world at Niwot Ridge.

My rental car clock read 7:30 a.m., but the parking lot at Niwot Ridge Long Term Experimental Research Site (LTER) was already buzzing with activity. Young people slammed rear car doors and packed backpacks, filled water bottles, and slathered on sunscreen. Inside the main building, a new cohort of young ecologists listened to a safety… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Plight of the Lady Beetles

Dr. Landis looks for aphids in the soybean field plot.

Dr. Doug Landis waded into a soybean field in Michigan’s Kellogg Biological Station LTER Site. Bending down in the September heat, he carefully turned over leaf after leaf. After a few seconds he stopped, “Here they are!” I crouched down to my heels, bringing my face close to the rough underside of the leaf. Dr…. Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Conservation, Agriculture, and Michigan Farmers

Rows of corn.

Puffy clouds skirt the late summer sky, occasionally dumping a shower on our heads while Dr. Doug Landis and I walked between the crop rows at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) in Michigan. Breezes ruffled the soybean leaves like waves, but few insects or birds zipped through the sky above the crops. Near the corn… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: The MegaMe Monsoon Experiment

Researchers walk across the Sevilleta grassland.

Across the world, shrubs are encroaching on landscapes. In Virginia, they take over coastal islands; in Colorado, they move across mountain tundra. In New Mexico, creosote outcompetes native grasses, drastically changing the drylands ecology in the Sevilleta LTER and Wildlife Refuge. Surrounded by remaining grasslands and the mountains in the distance, I stood beneath one… Read more »