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: 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.

LTER Road Trip: Kelp Forests link land and sea

Close up of kelp fronds

The path to the beach was steep, partially eroded by the wind and rain on this Pacific Ocean-facing cliff in Santa Barbara. Carefully holding my camera, I scampered down as gracefully as I could after Kyle Emery and Nick Schooler, two PhD students at the University of Santa Barbara. From the top of the cliff,… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Beach Hoppers Illustrate Coastal Resilience in Santa Barbara

Closeup of a beach hopper (aka sand flea)

Two undergraduate students bent over shiny metal trays loaded with wrack from the nearby beaches at the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research site (SBC LTER). Bright lights lit up their tweezers as they sifted through vegetation and detritus, searching for specific creatures: beach hoppers, beetles, flies, and isopods, as well as different species… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Decomposing Cactus in the Arizona Desert

decomposition plot with a piece of cactus.

Flowers bloomed in the mountain desert outside of Phoenix, Arizona, and I leapt out of the car near the Central-Arizona Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) site’s research plots. At first, it was the saguaro cacti that completely arrested my attention. Tall and thick, the giant cacti reached to the sky like hands; the… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: A Hidden Carbon-Storing Oasis in Phoenix

Chris Sanchez shows off some plant matter buried in the marsh mud

When you think of Phoenix, Arizona, a lush wetland is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. If you’re like me, you imagine soaring desert mountains dotted with saguaro cactus, a hot valley in colors of stone, now glittering with lights from downtown. Yet, there I was, knee deep in mud in the… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: Music and Art Meets Science at Hubbard Brook

WaterViz artistically represents a live-stream of data from Hubbard Brook.

Envisioning Data at Hubbard Brook It’s not every day that you walk into a forest and find musical instruments set up carefully next to a gurgling stream.  Yet melding art and science together is a regular part of the day-to-day operations at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Imagine the way that scientific data is normally… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: A Look into the future with DroughtNet

One of the DroughtNet plots seen from above.

Visiting DroughtNet The canopy of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest glowed in the afternoon light. Sun filtered through the leaves, forming a patterned roof over the forest floor. I walked with Hubbard Brook team leader, Dr. Lindsey Rustad, past several research plots and up a small hill. Peeking at us through the tree trunks was… Read more »