Karin Klein, an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Times, and Kodi Kozacek, a reporter for Circle of Blue, are getting a good look at the life of ecosystems field scientists at a remote arctic outpost this week. They are observing the action during the short, productive summer season at Toolik Field Station, 350 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska, through Polar Fellowships awarded by the MBL’s Logan Science Journalism Program.  Kozacek’s first dispatch, “Where the Sun Never Sleeps (And Neither Do the Scientists)” is on the fellowship’s blog, A Toolik Field Journal.

River sampling near Toolik Field Station. Credit: Chris Neill

River sampling near Toolik Field Station. Credit: Chris Neill

Several MBL Ecosystems Center scientists are deeply involved in climate-change research at Toolik through the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) grant from the National Science Foundation. Led by MBL Senior Scientist Gaius Shaver, the Arctic LTER is a collaborative, multi-institutional project with the long-term goal of understanding and predicting the effects of environmental change on arctic landscapes. The arctic region has warmed significantly over the past 30 years, and arctic lands and freshwaters are changing in response.

Toolik Field Station was established in 1975 by a group led by MBL Distinguished Scientist John Hobbie and Senior Scientist Bruce Peterson; Shaver joined the fledgling arctic research group a year later. Hobbie recently co-authored Alaska’s Changing Arctic: Ecological Consequences for Tundra, Streams, and Lakes (Oxford University Press, 2014), a synthesis of findings from the Arctic LTER.

Today, Toolik Field Station is operated and managed by the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with support from the Division of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation.

Toolik Field Station is in the footholds of the Brooks Mountain Range (above) on the North Slope of Alaska. Credit: Chris Neill

Toolik Field Station is in the foothills region of the Brooks Range (above), North Slope of Alaska.                     Credit: Chris Neill



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By Chris Neill

Logan Science Journalism fellows Codi Kozacek (left), Susan Phillips and Nick Clark help Baltimore Ecosystems Study research assistant Heather Goodman collect water from trash in an abandoned lot in inner Baltimore. Tiny amounts of water in trash serve as breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The BES studies the relationship between income levels, urban habitat and the composition and abundance of urban mosquito communities. Credit: Chris Neill

MBL Logan Science Journalism Environmental fellows Codi Kozacek (left), Susan Phillips and Nick Clark help Baltimore Ecosystems Study research assistant Heather Goodman collect water from trash in an abandoned lot in inner Baltimore. Tiny amounts of water in trash serve as breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The BES studies the relationship between income levels, urban habitat and the composition and abundance of urban mosquito communities. Credit: Chris Neill

In urban West Baltimore, the mosquito Aedes albopictus is an increasing nuisance. Another species, Culex pipiens, is an important vector for West Nile virus. Both species are more common in low-income neighborhoods because they breed in ephemeral standing water created by trash, such as plastic cups and old tires.

Six MBL Logan Science Journalism Program (SJP) Environmental Fellows, led by Baltimore Ecosystems Study (BES) scientist Shannon LaDeau and BES researcher Heather Goodman, sampled larval mosquitoes and surveyed mosquito habitats in two inner-city blocks in West Baltimore last week. Back in the laboratory, they identified mosquito species under dissecting microscopes.

The SJP Environmental Fellows ventured to inner-city Baltimore to participate in one of the world’s largest coordinated studies of urban ecosystems. The BES is one of the National Science Foundation’s 26 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects.

The Baltimore Ecosystems Study examines how the human-built ecosystem of a large U.S. city influences ecological process such as nutrient flows in watersheds and plant species composition along gradients from the inner city to outlying “exurbs,” and how peoples’ attitudes to green space and other ecological features shape the structure of city neighborhoods.

The Environmental Fellows spent two days with BES scientists. They also collected water samples from streams running from the inner city to an outlying area with Peter Groffman, and from storm-water detention ponds managed in different ways by neighborhood associations with Chris Swan.

The Logan Science Journalism Program’s Environmental Hands-On Research Course is led by MBL Ecosystems Center Director Chris Neill and Ecosystems Center Senior Research Assistant Richard McHorney. The Environmental Fellows are joining the SJP Biomedical Fellows at the MBL this week to complete their fellowship in Woods Hole.

Jerry Melillo, distinguished scientist at the MBL's Ecosystems Center, leads a panel discussion of the National Climate Assessment yesterday at the White House. Melillo is chairman of the advisory committee that prepared the assessment for interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program. Screen shot by Gina Hebert.

Jerry Melillo, Distinguished Scientist at the MBL’s Ecosystems Center, leads a panel discussion of the National Climate Assessment yesterday at the White House. Melillo is chairman of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee. Screen shot by Gina Hebert.

The major messages of the Third National Climate Assessment released yesterday — climate change is already here, its impacts are being felt in every U.S. region, it is caused by human activity, and it is not too late to take action — were discussed far and wide, in thousands of news articles and broadcasts across the nation. For scientists like the MBL’s Jerry Melillo who have spent decades documenting global climate change, this is a great leap forward. This White House infographic summarizes some of the major findings of the Assessment, and outlines national plans to prepare for climate change impacts, reduce carbon pollution, and lead international efforts to address global climate change. Melillo is chairman of the federal advisory committee that prepared the assessment for the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program.


By Jane Tucker
Senior Research Assistant, MBL Ecosystems Center

Note: MBL senior scientist Anne Giblin was recently named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. This post by Jane Tucker was originally published on The TIDE Project blog, edited by MBL assistant research scientist David S. Johnson.

Anne Giblin’s recent election as an AAAS Fellow is well deserved, and if there were a companion award for outstanding achievements in kindness, generosity, and commitment to others, she would rightfully be awarded that, too. I have had the privilege of working closely with Anne for over 20 years at the MBL Ecosystems Center, and I should know.

From left, Jane Tucker, Anne Giblin, and Sam

From left: Jane Tucker, Anne Giblin, and MBL research assistant Sam Kelsey. Credit: William “Mac” Lee

Anne Giblin “speaks ” biogeochemistry, thermodynamics, biology, physical chemistry–really, all the “hard” sciences–as a first language. They seem to be part of her innate intelligence. But she is not a desk scientist. She loves to be in the lab, or even better, out in the field conducting experiments or collecting samples.

Adverse field conditions are Anne’s forte! She is not stopped by freezing temperatures or clouds of mosquitoes on the North Slope of Alaska, nor by tropical heat, “no-see-ums,” or scorpion stings in Panama. She does not let little things like utter darkness in the cold depths of Adirondack lakes or a blanket of sewage sludge on the bottom of Boston Harbor dampen her enthusiasm for collecting more mud and adding dives to her SCUBA log. She does not send her students or employees out to do this work for her: she jumps in first. She does all of this to keep adding pieces to the scientific puzzle of element cycling in sediments, particularly with respect to nitrogen, carbon, and her first love, sulfur.

Anne Giblin at Liquid Jungle Lab

Anne Giblin at the Liquid Jungle Lab in Panama. Credit: Jane Tucker

Hard work is often matched by good cheer. A long day in the marsh with Anne leading the Plum Island Ecosystem-LTER team, in itself fun, is routinely followed by a good meal (often prepared by Anne), a good local brew (often provided by Anne), and good stories (often told by Anne). Over the years, these days and stories and Anne’s optimism have become encapsulated by some memorable lines, now used affectionately by the team. Three of the classics are, “Done by noon!” (as in, “It won’t take long, we’ll be ….”); “That’s not thunder, those are jets!” (at next occurrence, accompanied by a bright flash of light); and “No herics!” (i.e. heroics. I mentioned Anne’s first language is science, not English, didn’t I? It’s really the only thing I can help her with!)

Sure, Anne has the necessary stats on her CV that attest to her accomplishments as a scientist. But the best testament to her success may be that, in an increasingly difficult funding climate, and at an all soft-money research laboratory, Anne has kept herself and her team funded for over 25 years. It is tribute to Anne as a mentor, colleague, and friend that we have all wanted to stay.

The Plum Island Ecosystem-Long Term Ecological Research project and the TIDE Project are funded by the National Science Foundation.

Anne Giblin diving in Boston Harbor

Anne Giblin and Sam Kelsey diving in Boston Harbor.


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One barometer of the weather is a plant’s seasonal cycles, such as the date when its leaves sprout in spring or drop off in fall. What these cyclic events, called plant phenology, might reveal about climate change is the focus of a long-term Brown-MBL study in a Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., forest.

An automated camera on a tower can record seasonal changes in overall leaf color, but photos might not always correspond to seasonal biochemical changes within leaves themselves. Credit: Marc Mayes/Brown University

An automated camera on a tower records seasonal changes in leaf color in a Martha’s Vineyard forest. Credit: Marc Mayes/Brown University

“Our overall goal is to understand the phenology of trees in a temperate, deciduous forest, and how it responds to climate change,” says MBL Ecosystems Center scientist Jianwu (Jim) Tang.

Tang and his collaborators have placed digital cameras on meteorological towers in the Vineyard’s Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, at the Nature Conservancy Hoft Farm Preserve, and in a private forest, and have been continuously capturing images of the trees and leaves since 2000.

They discovered recently that forest “greenness,” as captured by the digital images, does not necessarily correspond to direct measures of peak chlorophyll content in the leaves, which is an indicator of photosynthesis. (Photosynthesis levels, in turn, indicate rates of carbon absorption by the leaves, which is important information for modeling the impacts of climate change.) Their results are published online in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.

“While color of leaves is important information, we found it is not sufficient to derive the real phenology change,” says Tang. They needed to supplement the imaging data by collecting leaves on a weekly basis and measuring chlorophyll levels in the lab. “This is a warning for future study,” says Xi Yang, a graduate student in the Brown-MBL Partnership and Graduate Program and lead author on the new paper. Yi’s advisors are Tang and John F. Mustard, professor of geological sciences at Brown University.

For more information, please see this press release issued by Brown University.


Yang X, Tang J, Mustard J (2014) Beyond leaf color: comparing camera-based phenological metrics with leaf biochemical, biophysical and spectral properties throughout the growing season of a temperate deciduous forest. J. Geophys. Res. DOI: 10.1002/2013JG002460



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