Peter’s Winter Project

Peter, an undergraduate student in my lab, is interested in winter ecology – a little studied field that is more or less assumed to be of limited relevance in temperate systems, at least in comparison to warmer seasons.  In the winter, ecosystem and community functions slow or stop all together.  For example, primary productivity halts in deciduous trees, yet likely still occurs in microorganisms, and invertebrate community interactions (i.e., predation) are simply slowed due to an overall decrease in metabolic rates.  Of the multitude of processes or interactions open to investigation, Peter decided to assess decomposition dynamics of leaf litter under the snow, and address effects of snowfall on these dynamics.  To do so, five blocks with three treatment plots each were marked and sampled by removing subsamples of leaf biomass from each of the three treatment plots within blocks.  Within each block, snow from one treatment plot was removed and added to another, so that there was a treatment plot with ambient snowfall, snowfall removed, and snowfall added.  Now, if we could only find enough freezer space…

Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 11.06.59-1
Peter points out a potential area to set up a block
Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 12.13.46-1
An added- and a removed- snow cover plot
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Chris and Peter survey the finished block

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Tools of the trade

Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 13.37.05-1
A sampling area - leaf material was removed from beneath the snow
Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 13.37.29-1
Three subsamples cleared of leaf material
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Chris surveys for the next subsample to process
Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 13.38.11
Snow is carefully excised
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All in one shot

Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 14.13.14-1
Sometimes, not all the snow is removed in one shot... this leads to cold hands, since only rubber gloves were used

Peter Euclide's winter decomposition - 12.22.2010 - 14.13.37-1
Peter cuts a cake of snow

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