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

LTER Road Trip: Looking into the New Mexico Future

A switch controls the screens.

At night, 10 m x 10 m sliding screens come alive in New Mexico’s Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Across the refuge’s grass and shrubland regions, the screens roll across metal rectangles, trapping heat from the day and raising the temperature of the ground. Back at computers in Albuquerque, Sevilleta LTER researchers monitor their equipment,… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Answering Biodiversity Questions with Big Bio

A diverse plot in Big Bio.

In my basic college ecology class, we spent an entire chapter discussing biodiversity. In the environmental field, there are a few bedrock principles we often take for granted: one, more diversity is good; two, biodiversity leads to more resilient ecosystems; and three, biodiversity should be a goal for land managers. But how do we actually… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Restoring the Minnesota Bison

Bison and a bison exclosure in the background.

Dr. Chad Zirbel, a postdoc at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CDR), and his intern stood in the hot Minnesota summer sun, intent on gathering data from the vegetative plot in front of them. Grasses swished across their feet in a field broken only by a few oak trees in this – now rare –… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Daily Discoveries at Cedar Creek

Mystery solved! It's a wasp.

Dr. Caitlin Potter bent down on the sandy road, squatting on her heels to point out teeny-tiny footprints. “These are beetle tracks,” she explained, halting a few yards later to observe another set, “They’re everywhere!” We walked on the road-trail through a small grassland, en route to Cedar Bog Lake at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem… Read more »

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 John Anderson, Research… 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 »