Students Actively Involved in Authentic Research through Citizen Science: Coweeta LTER Schoolyard Program
Schoolyards can serve as an extension of the science classroom and provide authentic research opportunities for students. Schoolyard science illustrates that science does not have to take place in a lab or an exotic location – it can take place wherever questions are asked and answers are sought. As extensions of the science classroom, schoolyards are also cost-effective as they are available on demand to students and teachers, and require no access fee or transportation costs.
The MIRADA project was launched in the fall of 2007 to establish a Microbial Biodiversity Survey and Inventory across all 13 of the major aquatic (marine and freshwater) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites in the NSF US LTER Program. The long-term objective of our study is to document and describe baseline diversity and relative abundance data for both common and rare members of microbial communities and to relate this diversity to the underlying physical and chemical environment.
Climate change, insect defoliation, and management practices alter species composition and hence plant water use and catchment water yield.
Non-native plant invasion modulated by land-use history and contemporary landscape patterns in the southern Appalachians
Some non-native invasive plant species are well suited for spread in forest-dominated landscapes and may pose a threat to forest communities. We determined the local and regional factors which the distribution of such species, in order to better understand the invasion process and to identify areas that are particularly susceptible to invasion. We conducted roadside surveys to determine the presence/absence and abundance of 15 non-native plant species known to invade forests in western North Carolina.
Changes in biodiversity are predicted to have a major impact on ecosystem processes. A fundamental challenge for ecologists is to determine the influence of species on ecosystem processes prior to declines or losses, and to determine whether there are species that may compensate for the loss of other species.
Landscapes in the southeastern U.S. are expected to change profoundly in the next five decades. Changes in climate and land use will especially impact the rural and quasi-rural lands that still characterize much of southern Appalachia. Coweeta LTER research between 2008-14 will extend long-term measurements, field experiments and interdisciplinary modeling from small watershed studies to regional-scale analyses so as to account for increases in resource demand and competition from adjacent and more distant areas.
Parcel-level data provide fine grained information concerning the role of human activity in changing the quantity and quality of ecosystem services. Coweeta’s synoptic sampling program seeks to understand anthropogenic sources of ecosystem change by focusing on a range of distinct landscapes. Comparative views of these landscapes reveal correlations between changes in the flowpaths, habitats, and human communities.
Thinking about the land. Understand perceptions of exurban development in the Swannanoa Valley through a PhotoVoice project (Buncombe County, North Carolina)
Social scientists, policymakers, and the public need to understand how inhabitants of exurbanized areas think about and perceive their land. This study used a combination of the PhotoVoice and participatory GIS method to capture these perceptions. Our results show that while exurban development is commonly discussed as a phenomenon related to “sprawl”, people do not actually perceive development as systemic, but instead focus on development patches that are located in restricted locations.
Convergence of microbial community function in common environments is associated with loss of function in alternate environments
Soil microbial communities play a pivotal role in providing ecosystem services, given that they are key drivers of biogeochemical processes such as carbon and nitrogen cycling. As species-rich communities, made-up of populations with short generation times, it is commonly assumed that there is a high degree of functional redundancy within soil communities with respect to broad-physiological processes, such as organic carbon decomposition.
Oaks are a dominant component of many North American forests, yet in many areas oak seedling production is declining. Oaks are generally thought to be highly dispersal limited, which could hamper reaching scarce recruitment sites and limit oaks’ ability to respond to climate change via migration or local adaptation. In this study, we apply a Bayesian parentage model developed for monoecious plants to two populations of red oak (Q. rubra) in North Carolina: in the Piedmont (12 ha) and the Coweeta LTER in the southern Appalachians (7.5 ha).