Ecosystems


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.

Citation:

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

 

 

The first annual Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC) Fellows Retreat is being held this week at MBL’s Marshview Field Station near Plum Island, off the North Shore coast of Massachusetts.  Sixteen graduate and postdoctoral fellows from eight states are learning about climate challenges to coastal and salt marsh habitats and meeting with federal and state managers, including stakeholders from the nearby Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the State of Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management office, and Division of Ecological Restoration.

NE CSC Consortium leaders, including Jimmy Nelson and Christopher Neill from the MBL Ecosystems Center,  are facilitating interactive exercises in which Fellows practice science communication and engaging stakeholders in the research design process. The MBL is a founding member of the NE CSC consortium.

Jimmy Nelson of the Ecosystems Center explains results from a Plum Island, Mass., marsh nutrient enrichment experiment to Northeast Climate Science Center fellows at a retreat at MBL's Marshview Farm field station. Credit: Chris Neill

Jimmy Nelson of the Ecosystems Center explains results from a Plum Island, Mass., marsh nutrient enrichment experiment to Northeast Climate Science Center fellows at a retreat at MBL’s Marshview Farm field station. Credit: Chris Neill

The NE CSC, established in 2012, is part of a network of eight regional CSCs created to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques that managers and other parties interested in land, water, wildlife and cultural resources can use to anticipate, monitor, and adapt to climate change.  It is hosted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and also works with a consortium of institutions: the College of Menominee Nation, Columbia University, Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, Columbia, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In addition to the host and consortium institutions, the NE CSC will also collaborate with other important partner institutions.

An  Arctic LTER greenhouse in peak autumn. Credit: Sadie Iverson

Arctic LTER greenhouses in peak autumn. Credit: Sadie Iverson

In 1989, MBL Senior Scientist Gaius Shaver and his colleagues set up a series of small experimental greenhouses on a hillside above the Toolik Field Station at the National Science Foundation Arctic Long Term Ecological Research site in northern Alaska. The clear plastic-covered greenhouses increase ambient soil temperatures by up to 2°C and are used by Shaver and other scientists to observe the effects of sustained warming on the Arctic environment. Today, the test plots are the longest-running climate warming study in the tundra.

New research from Seeta Sistla, a doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a graduate of the Brown-MBL Partnership and Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences, her adviser, Josh Schimel, Shaver, and their colleagues reports the results the long-term warming experiment at the site.

The study reveals that decades of slow and steady warming have not changed the amounts of carbon in the soil, despite changes in vegetation and even the soil food web. Whether or not this phenomenon—no net loss of soil carbon despite long-term warming—is a transient phase that will eventually give way to increased decomposition activity and more carbon release, remains to be seen.

 “This work demonstrates why long-term ecological research, and especially long-term whole-ecosystem experiments, are a good thing,” says Shaver. “The experiment on which this paper is based was set up in 1989, when Seeta Sistla was about 6 years old.  There is no way she could have produced such a nice thesis if we had not set up these experiments so many years ago, not always knowing exactly how they would be used.”

The paper appeared in the May 15, 2013 Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature.

Other researchers participating in this study include John C. Moore and Rodney T. Simpson from Colorado State University, Fort Collins and Laura Gough from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Funding came from the National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, DOE Global Change Education Program Graduate Fellowship, a Leal Anne Kerry Mertes scholarship, and Explorer’s Club.

 

 

 

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) last week delivered its annual report to Congress for fiscal year 2013: Our Changing Planet.

The report highlights recent activities by 13 federal agencies to strengthen our scientific understanding of global changes including climate change, the threats and opportunities they present, and how they are likely to evolve over time.

In addition, Our Changing Planet showcases tangible results of work carried out by USGCRP agencies, including, for example, some of the most detailed, data rich maps of Alaskan permafrost ever generated; the most precise map ever produced of carbon stored in Earth’s tropical forests; critical information about the number and magnitude of extreme weather events in the United States; and updated maps that help gardeners and growers plan for harvesting seasons.

This report anticipates the USGCRP’s comprehensive Third National Climate Assessement, which will be released in early 2014. MBL Distinguished Scientist Jerry Mellilo chairs the advisory group that is preparing the National Climate Assessment, which presents the latest science about the current and projected effects of climate change across the United States.

billion-dollar-disaster-map-2012

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is announcing preliminary information that the U.S. experienced 11 disasters each costing over a billion dollars in losses in 2012. Of these 11 events, seven were severe weather or tornado events, and two were related to hurricanes/post tropical cyclones. The remaining two were the year-long drought and associated wildfires.

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