Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Field Season Begins

While carrying out my field work in the past I've often thought, "Hey, it would be nice to document some of the thoughts that pop into my head while standing out here measuring plants." Most of these thoughts have been related to the process of trying to figure out how exactly to go about doing my field work. Perhaps they may blossom into something useful to me, or perhaps someone else might find them interesting. Regardless, I should write them down. And so, I thought I could use some motivation to write and the world probably has room for another blog. I have every intention of writing about ideas that are not born from my field work too, but this seems like a good place to start.  Here's a picture of how happy I look when standing in a thick patch of Glossy Buckthorn (F. alnus), a non-native plant I'm studying as part of my Ph.D. dissertation work. I'll discuss it more later, but I also have a blurb about my research here.
For now, let me explain this blog's logo, the image to the right that reads 'Ecologist at Work'.  As an ecologist, I'm working towards being many things: a conservation biologist, a quantitative ecologist, a plant ecologist.  It is in working towards the latter that I get to do my field work.  My field sites are generally pretty close to hiking trails.  There are a few reasons for this that I can think of: 1) non-native plants generally grow closer to places that are disturbed, such as roads and trails; 2) many of my sites are in fairly developed areas (e.g. Long Island, NY and southern New Hampshire), thus every plot of woods is either near a trail or a road or someones backyard; and 3) ok, I admit it, access to sites near trails is much easier.  However, even though I'm am near trails, my plots are still off into the woods a bit.  So, while someone is out enjoying a walk in the woods or a jog through the park, they may stumble upon a scene in which a relatively dirty looking man is thrashing around the bushes, just off the trail, with a long stick (a measuring pole) or a saw (to take samples).  Or perhaps they may see a man quietly crouched behing a tree (measuring the basal diameter of a plant).  In any case, the hiker usually appears pretty sketched out.  Last season I had the thought that I needed a folding sign that said 'Ecologist At Work' to put out in the middle of the trail, something to let hikers know that there may be someone just off in the woods cursing about falling into a black berry bush, again.  Mostly this thought was in jest, but during my first field day this year, I looked up from my measurements just in time to see a young jogger come around a corner, see me, and promptly turn and run back the way she had come.  I thought, "I really need that sign".  So I enlisted the help of my awesomely talented sister-in-law, Andrea Sorrentino, and she put together this awesome designe.  Next step, get it printed out on a folding construction sign! So if you see such a sign in the woods, just say hi to the ecologist off in the woods.

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