Tag Archives: forests

Out in the forest, and out on a limb

Images: A field crew disappearing into the forest; field sites and gear for our soil-carbon project.  All © Stephen Heard CC BY 4.0

Warning: long and detailed – but the details are really the point, so don’t give up too quickly.

I called this blog Scientist Sees Squirrel in recognition of my lack of an attention span.  For 25 years, I’ve been bobbing and weaving academically, shifting research focus as collaborators, funding, access to systems, and just my idiosyncratic curiosity have favoured new projects asking new questions in new systems.  This has benefits and, no doubt, costs (so I’m definitely not claiming it’s right for everyone or even that it’s optimal for me), but it’s kept me excited about science for a quarter of a century.

And I’ve done it again.

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Tree trunks, game theory, and the invisible hand

Image: Me, collecting foliage from balsam fir trees in Quebec.  Photo courtesy Cameron Rugo.

Last month I spent a week in the field, as part of a team collecting soils and foliage for a project assessing carbon sequestration in spruce budworm-defoliated forests*. The soil was always easy to reach, conveniently located right at ground level (funny how that works, isn’t it?) – but the foliage, not so much. As is true in forests the world around, the bulk of the foliage is way, way up in the air. That pole I’m wielding in the photo above? It’s a “pole pruner”, and it has a cutting head at the end of a series of interlocking pole segments – seven segments in the photo, which means I’m balancing a wobbly, bendy pole and manoeuvering it through snags and branches to snip samples about 12 metres (40 feet) from the ground. This is hard, and as I was doing it I found myself thinking that the whole thing would be simpler if the trees could just get their act together and grow at bush height.

Now, that’s pretty stupid thing to think, I admit; but it’s also an interesting thing to think. Continue reading