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: 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 »

LTER Road Trip: Baltimore’s Waterways are Getting Salty

Dan Dillon, Ben Glass-Siegel, Nate Vandiver, and I stood at the edge of a Baltimore road. Cars whizzed by overhead as Glass-Siegel and Vandiver picked their way through dense grass to the river running swiftly beneath the bridge, the blades swishing against their long pants as they blazed a path to the rocky shoreline.

LTER Road Trip: Using Tree Rings to Solve Climate Mysteries

I like to think of Dr. Neil Pederson as a detective. We met in his office at the Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research site (HFR-LTER), on the second floor of one of their many beautiful buildings in what feels like a college campus. Multiple sections of tree trunks sit here and there, polished so that the tree rings are clearly visible. Post-it notes and circular stickers mark years of particular interest.

LTER Road Trip: Getting hands-on experience with invasive species removal

Students gathered at a saltmarsh site in Massachusetts, taking a break from their regular school day routine to remove invasive perennial pepperweed plants from among the bushes and marsh grasses. Part of a suite of programs and teacher workshops aimed at educating local students and adults about marsh ecosystems, this field trip pairs ecological research with real restoration projects.

LTER Road Trip: Tracking Change in a Tidal Marsh

We stopped at the edge of the river, and Kelsey hopped out with a water quality data sensor to take readings of salinity, temperature, oxygen. Brown water churned around him as he walked slowly across the muddy bottom, silt billowing in the creek channel like clouds of smoke. The data logger is part of a network of such sensors, each taking readings from different parts of the marsh ecosystem.

LTER Road Trip: Exploring the Eddy Flux Towers

Kelsey piloted the boat up a smaller creek, stopping in front of a wooden-plank boardwalk leading to a tall eddy covariance flux tower. The tower comprises a series of instruments that take regular measurements that provide a comprehensive picture of carbon dioxide exchange, evaporation, and energy exchange in the coastal marsh. Put simply, the flux towers record the very breathing of the marsh ecosystem.

LTER Road Trip: Within the SALTEx Marsh

Parking under a bridge, I walked down a short dirt road to the cutgrass (Zizaniopsis miliacea) marsh. The bright green stalks waved overhead, completely immersing me as I stepped onto a narrow boardwalk that provides access to the gridded plots. The air was hot and humid, t-shirts and shorts sticking to arms and legs as students and researchers moved amid the marsh.

LTER Road Trip: Science and Education on the Water

Every month, Field Technician Tim Montgomery loads his equipment onto a center console motorboat and heads off into the marshes surrounding Sapelo Island, Georgia. Over the course of several hours, he stops at multiple sites to check on the Georgia Coastal Ecosystem LTER network of data loggers continually collecting water quality parameters as they gently bob in the water. On one particular morning, I had the opportunity to go with him.