2015 Summer Undergraduates

June 25th, 2015 @

The Ecosystems Center is mentoring a record number of undergraduate students this year! All of the students are working with Center scientists and are fully participating in laboratory exercises and activities. While some are working here on the MBL campus, others are working at the Toolik Field Station in Alaska, the Marshview Field Station in Plum Island, MA, and one will be off to the Tanguro Field Station in Brazil! It's shaping up to be a great summer!

Biological Discovery in Woods Hole REU Program
Jasmine Prat, University of California, Santa Barbara (Tang)

Brown-MBL LINK Awardees
Jonathan Ang, Brown University (Tang)
Lena Champlin, Brown University (Neill)
Jon Gewirtzman, Brown University (Tang)
Sarah Skelton, Brown University (Valiela)

Cornell University Visiting Undergraduate Intern
Jeanne Powell, Cornell University (Howarth)

Linton-Jefferson Fellow
Kassandra Baron, Washington & Jefferson College (Deegan)

National Science Foundation REUs
Lindsay Arick, University of Central Florida (Giblin)
Vanessa Cabrera, University of California, Santa Cruz (Neill)
Andrew Collins, University of New England (Deegan)
Emily Maness, University of Tampa (Conte)
Nathalie Moore, William & Mary (Deegan)
Levi Simmons, Utah State University (Shaver)
Kate Yuhas, University of Michigan (Shaver)

Naushon Island Summer Research Program
Luke O'Brien, Boston College (Neill)

Metcalf Summer for Undergraduate Research
Ruby An, University of Chicago (Vallino)
Eva Kinnebrew, University of Chicago (Neill)
Jonathan Michelsen, University of Chicago (Tang)
Caroline Owens, University of Chicago (Valiela)
Leonard Shaw, University of Chicago (Conte)

The Woods Hole Partnership Educational Program (PEP)
Camila Fishtahler, William & Mary (Tang)
Wyntin Goodman, University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (Foreman)



Toolik Field Station, North Slope, Alaska

June 17th, 2015 @

Research assistants for the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research project collect water from lakes in the foothills of the Brooks Range. Since 1975, this project has tracked nutrient fluxes and water chemistry to study ecosystem dynamics in the rapidly changing Alaskan arctic.

1 Toolik North Slope

Photo by Sarah Nalven (click for larger image)


Fazendo Tanguro, Mato Grosso, Brazil

June 17th, 2015 @

A rainstorm approaches a soybean field in Amazonian Brazil. Ecosystems Center scientists conduct experiments on this working farm to study how agricultural practices alter water and nutrient cycles.

Neill Amazon soybean field

Photo by Chris Neill (click for larger image)

Plum Island Estuary, Rowley, MA

June 17th, 2015 @

Saltmarsh Pickleweed, Salicornia europaea, near the MBL's Marshview Field Station, home of the Plum Island Ecosystem Long Term Ecological Research project. This project aims to understand the response of coupled watershed, marsh and estuarine systems to changes in climate, land use and sea level.


Photo by David S. Johnson (click for larger image)

Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA

June 17th, 2015 @

Soil warming plots located at the Harvard Forest. Established in 1991, this long term project warms the soil to 5 degrees C above ambient temperature and measures changes in soil processes.

11 HF Soil Warming

Photo by Audrey Barker Plotkin (click for larger image)

Waquoit Bay, Falmouth, MA

June 17th, 2015 @

A Semester in Environmental Science student uses a dip net to collect organisms in Waquoit Bay. Back in the laboratory, students build a food web using gut contents and stable isotopes. They then consider how local policy decisions, such as increasing the nitrogen load to the estuary, will alter these food webs.

4 Waquoit Bay

Photo by Sarah Nalven (click for larger image)

Sargasso Sea, Bermuda

June 6th, 2015 @

The recovery of the 500m sediment trap from the Oceanic Flux Program (OFP) mooring in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda.  At 37 years and running, the OFP is the longest running oceanographic time-series recording temporal variability of particle flux from the surface to the deep ocean resulting from the interplay between physical, biological and chemical processes.


Photo by Alice Carter (click for larger image)


Winter Impressions

March 12th, 2015 @

Even though the winter conditions have been unusually harsh this year, Ecosystems Center scientists carry out monthly water sampling campaigns in the watersheds contributing to Plum Island Sound. This effort is part of the Plum Island Ecosystems Long-Term Ecological Research project that studies the coupling between ecosystems upstream and the estuary downstream. This winter not only the freshwater is frozen over, but even the salt marsh areas and tidal creeks.


Sam Kelsey and Tyler Messerschmidt, Ecosystems Center Research Assistants, preparing to take water samples. Photo: Inke Forbrich


Frozen tidal creek in salt marsh. Photo: Inke Forbrich.


Ipswich River dam in Ipswich: sampling site for the PIE LTER project. Photo: Inke Forbrich.


Peregrine Falcon Visits MBL

March 11th, 2015 @

A peregrine falcon, the world's fastest bird—and quite simply one of the planet's most awe-inspiring raptors—made its second appearance at MBL on the same cliff-like perch on the Lillie Building on the afternoon of March 9. It had spent parts of two previous days there on February 26 and 27.

Local photographer and bird enthusiast Mike Schanbacher of Woods Hole climbed into the old library stacks and took this picture (click photo for full resolution).

Photo: Mike Schanbacher

Photo: Mike Schanbacher

Peregrines follow their waterfowl and shorebird foods sources along the east coast in winter. It no doubt had its eye on the small flock of Mallards that are eeking out a living in the small remaining patch of open water in Eel Pond. The ledges on the back of the Lillie Building are the nearest thing Woods Hole has to peregrines' preferred habitats. "The nearest thing to a cliff in Woods Hole," said MBL Marine Resources Manager David Remsen, who originally spotted the bird.

Schanbacher commented that it's appropriate that this majestic bird sits within stone's throw of the life-sized bronze statue of Rachel Carson that was dedicated in Woods Hole's Waterfront Park on June 12, 2013. I agree.

Rachel Carson, a marine biologist who worked at MBL from 1925-1929, authored Silent Spring, a 1962 best-seller that documented the damage that persistent chemical pesticides did to birds and the environment. One of the chief culprits—DDT—was banned by in US in 1972.

We in Woods Hole reap the rewards of what former MBL Director Gary Borisy called Rachel Carson's journalistic "kicking the hornet's nest."

Peregrine falcons, because they sit atop coastal food chains, were among the most vulnerable of all birds to DDT, which accumulated in their fatty tissues and caused their eggshells to become thin and breakable. Eastern US peregrines were extinct when Carson penned Silent Spring. Ospreys suffered a similar same fate, although their numbers did not drop to zero. Both species have recovered. The US Fish and Wildlife Service removed peregrine falcons from the endangered species list in 1999.

While this bird's visit to Lillie is a chance to see a peregrine up close, thanks to Silent Spring and subsequent scientific investigations into pesticides in the environment, it's now possible to find peregrines cruising the Falmouth and Cape Cod coastlines.

Thanks, Rachel.

Using instrumented towers to measure CO2 exchanges in Plum Island marshes

February 19th, 2015 @

A major focus of research at the Plum Island Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research site is to determine whether salt marshes can survive rapid changes in climate, land-use, and sea level.

A shadow of two researchers on an instrument tower used to measure carbon dioxide exchange between the marsh and the atmosphere falls across a Plum Island Estuary marsh in early spring.

A shadow of two researchers on an instrument tower used to measure carbon dioxide exchange between the marsh and the atmosphere falls across a Plum Island Estuary marsh in early spring.

The persistence of salt marshes, and the ecosystem services they provide, depends upon their ability to keep up with sea-level rise. Marshes may do this by accreting inorganic sediment, and by accumulating carbon as plant material. PIE scientists are carrying out detailed studies of the carbon budget using instruments mounted on towers to measure the exchange of carbon dioxide between the marsh and the atmosphere, and by measuring tidal exchanges of carbon and inorganic sediments. Additional studies monitor sediment accretion on the marsh surface, and examine how salt marsh grasses respond to nutrient inputs and water levels.

PIE scientists work closely with governmental and private organizations to implement policies that will help protect the marsh in the face of rising sea-levels and human development. K-12 education programs focus on hands-on activities for students that include contributing to a long-term data base monitoring the impact of marsh restoration activities.