Thursday, September 20, 2018

What's New Woolly Bully? New teachers, students, resources to track the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Harvard Forest Ecologist, David Orwig has begun his 15th year of training teachers to bring their students outside their schools to help contribute to tracking a giant tree killer.
That is a tiny insect that can bring down giant Hemlock trees. 

Dr. Orwig shows  Mass. Audubon Educator Kristen Steinmetz and Innovation Academy Charter School teacher Katharine Hinkle how to identify the white covered eggs sacs that the invasive
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid produces.  The covering is a wool-like substance that give the insect its name.   Teachers used hand lenses to view the insect in the field.


Dr. Orwig shows teachers the field sheets he has been using to track the populations of Woolly Adelgid on trees right outside Shaler Hall at Harvard Forest.  Teachers learned how to mark study branches with flagging tape and how to collect and report the data for this citizen science project.


Teachers were able to view the Adelgid under a microscope to see it much more clearly.  Dr. Orwig reviewed the life cycle of this unusual organism.

 J.R. Briggs Elementary teacher, right, shared her 13 years of experience leading this field study with teachers who will begin this study for the first time this season.   Tara DiGiovanni from the Greenfield Middle School is one of the many teachers who have been supported by Kate's mentoring through the years.


Teachers were able to see the impact the woolly Adelgid has had on a variety of Eastern Hemlock Trees at Harvard Forest, both in a landscaped area near Shaler Hall and in a Hemlock dominated forest stand.

Looking at annual growth scars to see how  much growth occurred this past year. 

Teachers practiced measuring new growth so they can go back to their schools and train
students how to collect and report data according to the scientific protocol for the Woolly Bully and the Hemlock Tree Schoolyard Ecology project.  Their data will later be shared online using the HF Schoolyard Online Database.

Explore More:

Project Connections with Next Generation Science (NGSS)  

NGSS Core Discipline: Life Science:

LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment

  • Elementary School (3-5) 
Reproduction is essential to the continued existence of every kind of organism. Plants and animals have unique and diverse life cycles.
  • Middle School (6-8)
Organisms reproduce, either sexually or asexually, and transfer their genetic information to their offspring.
Animals engage in characteristic behaviors that increase the odds of reproduction.
Plants reproduce in a variety of ways, sometimes depending on animal behavior and specialized features for reproduction.
Genetic factors as well as local conditions affect the growth of the adult plant.

Elementary School

NGSS Standard LS2-1

Middle School

  • Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • Next Generation Science Standard: MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

High School

  • Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
  • Science and Engineering Practices

The practices describe behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world and the key set of engineering practices that engineers use as they design and build models and systems. The NRC uses the term practices instead of a term like “skills” to emphasize that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also knowledge that is specific to each practice.
Scientists and engineers plan and carry out investigations in the field or laboratory, working collaboratively as well as individually. Their investigations are systematic and require clarifying what counts as data and identifying variables or parameters.
Scientific investigations produce data that must be analyzed in order to derive meaning. Because data patterns and trends are not always obvious, scientists use a range of tools—including tabulation, graphical interpretation, visualization, and statistical analysis—to identify the significant features and patterns in the data. Scientists identify sources of error in the investigations and calculate the degree of certainty in the results. Modern technology makes the collection of large data sets much easier, providing secondary sources for analysis.
In both science and engineering, mathematics and computation are fundamental tools for representing physical variables and their relationships. They are used for a range of tasks such as constructing simulations; statistically analyzing data; and recognizing, expressing, and applying quantitative relationships.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Athol-Royalston Middle School Experiences Our Changing Forests Field Trip Style


Athol-Royalston Middle School Seventh Graders in Mr. Sautter's Science classes visited Harvard Forest this Spring to learn about how forests change over time.

Our Changing Forests Field Work

Students measured the diameter of trees
in  10 x 10 meter study plots at Harvard Forest
 for the Our Changing Forests
Schoolyard Ecology project. 

Some interesting discoveries near the study plots included a tree frog, mushroom, Red Eft Salamander and oak gall.


We learned about major changes happening in this part of the forest.  In looking up to estimate the percent of canopy cover for the field survey, we saw that many of the biggest trees in the plot were dying.  This was an old Red Pine plantation that was planted when Harvard Forest was a Forestry School.  As the the old plantation trees are dying and other species are finding enough light to sprout and grow

 Hemlock and Oak are some of the new species growing as the dying Red Pine open up the forest floor.


We looked at the difference between red and white pine cones and needles.

We recorded whether we saw snapped trees and/or uprooted trees as indicators of weather damage in our study plots.

Left: We recorded signs of Wildlife such as this stash of pine cones indicating that a squirrel or chipmunk has been looking for pine cone seeds.  

Right:  We tasted the wintergreen flavor of the  inner bark of the Sweet Birch trees near the plot.  

Fisher Museum Dioramas

Students also had a chance to learn more about Land Use Change by seeing the story of how the forests were cleared in the 1700-1800s and began to grow back again  after farm abandonment later on.   First dominated by White Pine, cut again and then grew as Hardwood dominated forests. 

Thanks to ARMS PTO representative, Stacey Bellabarba and staff person, Elaine Gauthier for photo contributions.

What does the Data Show?



 Red Pine, Red Oak and Red Maple are storing lots of Carbon presently as Red Pine continue to dominate this area of the forest.  Also there is not much species diversity in these plots due to its history as a plantation.  It will be interesting to see that as the forest is left unmanaged by humans, how the species dynamics and growth will change over time.  As we collect data over time, I would expect that Red Pine bars will become shorter and shorter, and other species will become larger. I would also expect that some species not yet represented here, will begin to sprout and grow in these plots. Therefore I would expect more bars to appear on future graphs. However disease and weather can cause unexpected "disturbance" in the forest at any time, so stay tuned by checking our database over time to track future changes.

Thanks to Highstead Foundation for Supporting this field trip with funding for the Our Changing Forests Field Trip Scholarship.

Explore More:

To Graph More Data choose Our Changing Forests project and choose field sites 5-8 on our online database.

Download Data to see the data in table form. 

Check out our Interactive Field Site Map to see all Schoolyard Ecology Field Sites that are contributing to our studies. You can select Our Changing Forests to see only those schools participating in this particular study.

Go to  Our Changing Forests Project Webpages to learn more about the Our Changing Forests project and protocol.

Attend our Summer Institute for Teachers on August 22, 2018.  
To join our Network of Schoolyard Ecology, we invite teachers from throughout the North East to 

 Apply for a   Field Trip Scholarship 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Our Changing Forests Project in Lincoln

Birches School Students Got Busy in their Field Study Plot 

Teacher Katherine Parisky shared these photos showing students doing their field work after sending this update:

We look forward to beginning our spring citizen scientist unit next week! I am thrilled to be finally kicking off Our Changing Forest collaboration with Harvard Forest for our final thematic unit of the year. Although we have not yet moved locations, we plan to use our new campus and the field site plot that Josh helped us map last yr. (Project Coach, Joshua Rapp) I will send photos (and data) as the project is underway. 

Students measured Diameter at Breast Height
(DBH) of all the trees in their 10 x 10 meter
study plot.

Students identified trees using field guides and recorded diameter (DBH) and Tree ID on field data sheets to be entered onto the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology  Online Database.

In the fall, teacher Katherine P. and Harvard Forest Project Coach, Joshua Rapp set the plot site, including the initial tree identification and circumference measurements.  

Students collected the  data during their spring citizen science unit.

Data has been submitted to Harvard Forest's Online Database which allows schools from throughout New England to enter, manage, and graph student data from their site as well as to compare results across the region.

Katherine provided this background of the Birches school and their particular approach to integrating outdoor learning opportunities such as Schoolyard Ecology:

Birches School is a small independent nature-based school committed to educating youngsters about the interconnected nature of all living things. Over the summer months our faculty design three thematic units that weave each of the academic subjects around essential questions and enduring understandings. For example this fall 2017, we are planning our first unit of study to be focused on storytelling: through the lens of the natural world. The essential question for this unit will be "How do I connect to the earth?" We are looking forward to continuing our work with the LLCT People for Pollinators Project in Lincoln. This is a photography and pollinator count study, comparing two field meadows; soil treated and untreated plots, and involves students using iNaturalist to document pollinator count data.

I am now looking for additional citizen scientist opportunities for our students to be involved in, later in ...during the spring 2018 unit.  As a former research scientist myself, I am looking to provide our middle school students with exposure to and participation in current scientific research. I hope to modify any field protocols/lessons to make them accessible and age appropriate for our younger students. My science classes this year are multi-age groups ...6th/7th graders.

Graphs Showing Birches Study Trees by Density, Basal Area and Carbon Storage:  

Explore More:  

This work was featured on the school blog. Check it out at: 

 Birches School Blog/our-changing-forest

Birches School Changing Forests Data on Harvard Forest Online Database

Find the Birches School on our 

Interactive Schoolyard-field-site Map  

Choose "Our Changing Forests Project and scroll to "The Birches School". 

Learn more about this project at 

Our Changing Forests Project Webpages

Join one of our projects by registering for the

Schoolyard Ecology Summer Institute for Teachers