Dick is E.S. George Reserve’s new director; forest inventory plot to join Smithsonian Global Earth Observatory
Christopher Dick, EEB associate professor and U-M Herbarium associate curator, is the new director of the Edwin S. George Reserve. The previous director, Professor Emeritus Earl Werner, retired January 1, 2014.
“I am excited to take the reins from Earl Werner, who has left the ESG Reserve in very good shape,” said Dick. “As the incoming director, I will continue to support the varied kinds of long-term research that takes place at the ESGR, and promote its use as a field site for student projects. In addition, I would like to see increased use of the reserve for undergraduate experiential learning, and as part of a network of long-term research sites used to monitor global change.”
While the U-M Biological Station in Northern Michigan is EEB's unparalleled location for summer field courses, the ESGR is an excellent alternative. Because of its proximity, only 25 kilometers from Ann Arbor, students can commute to the reserve and still maintain their summer jobs and housing. Presently, the ESGR hosts the popular SNRE-EEB Field Ecology course taught by Professors John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto (SNRE) in the fall. This summer, Dr. Jacqueline Courteau (EEB Ph.D. 2005) will teach a new course, Field Ecology in Southeast Michigan (Environ 303/EEB 401) at ESGR.
“In order to strengthen long-term research in forest ecology, this summer we plan to modify a 23 hectare forest inventory plot, established by Vandermeer and his students, to become part of the Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory (SIGEO) network of forest inventory plots," Dick said. "This will place the ESGR forest ‘on the map’ and permit comparative and global studies of forest dynamics. For example, once our data from these trees is in a standardized format and included as part of the SIGEO network, we will be able to compare population dynamics (e.g. of oak species) at ESGR with sites in neighboring Indiana, Panama, or even in China. The goal this summer is to include the small category of trees (with a diameter at breast height (dbh) greater than or equal to one centimeter) as in the other SIGEO plots, and measure the growth and mortality of previously mapped trees.
“We are interested in knowing, at a regional scale, what kinds of forests are taking the place of the original oak-hickory forests. The oak-hickory forests dominate relatively dry forests in the eastern U.S., and have been maintained over the centuries by fires lit by Native Americans and then by European settlers. With no fires, the fire intolerant species like red maple and black cherry are taking over the trees, and the understory is being challenged by some invasive species.
“Other dynamics that are altering our forests are changes in climate, which are affecting the timing of reproduction (phenology) and competitive dynamics of species.
“At a global level, the forests will be part of a network of plots used to monitor how biomass and tree mortality change with increased CO2, and the role of forests in taking up some of the excess CO2 produced.”
Nine students will work on this project in June and July, supervised by Dr. Dave Allen (EEB Ph.D. 2011), who did his doctoral thesis in the Vandermeer plot. He is a visiting assistant professor at Middlebury College, Vermont. The students, seven from U-M, two from Middlebury, will receive salary or academic credit, and they will gain excellent field experience. Once the plot is established, they can perform further inventories of shrubs and vines, macrofungi and other organisms.
Previous EEB web news: Professor Earl Werner, "a giant of ecology," retires