2015 has been a severe drought year for Puerto Rico. For the month of July, the total rainfall at the EVFS was just 65 mm. Visible drought effects in the forest include dry stream beds, cracked soil, and wilting seedlings.The graph below shows daily average oxygen concentrations in surface soils from Nov. 24, 2014 to June 28, 2015. The most dramatic increase in soil oxygen concentrations occurred between mid March and late April, 2015, and apparent stabilization to a new equilibrium hereafter (Ruan and Silver, in prep).
USGS stream discharge graph for the Rio Grande, near El Verde.
Some estimates predict that the 2015 drought will be more severe than the 1994 drought and could last through the end of the year. We are currently working on putting together a short report with more information.
Seventh Symposium Luquillo LTER Schoolyard Program
On May 11, 2015 the Seventh Symposium for the Luquillo Schoolyard LTER was held in the Department of Environmental Sciences, College of Natural Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. With this, we have completed another cycle of research on the ecology of forests by dedicated teachers and students in the public system of Puerto Rico. We appreciate the presence of Dr. Jorge Ortiz, Director of the Department of Environmental Sciences, Eda Melendez, manager of information Luquillo LTER; and the participation of the representatives of the following high schools: School Juan Ponce de Leon in Florida, Columbus School Berdecia Paul Barranquitas, and Aurea Quiles Claudio High School Guanica.
This year's symposium was characterized by a virtual component that allowed us to interact with students and teachers of the School of Forest and Hope Academy in New Mexico. Some of the research topics presented were: Biodiversity of the Meso-Fauna at Matos Cave; Research on the secondary forest Torrecilla; Documenting the dynamics of secondary forests in the association of thorny bushes at Guanica Dry Forest from 2010 to 2015; Porcupines of North America: capturing, monitoring and calculating home range; Small mammals: capturing and estimating populations; Turtles: different species found and estimating the population, and Black Bears: examining the stool to learn what they eat. Our students demonstrated through their findings their commitment to the development of long-term research and enthusiasm to communicate them to a wider audience, which knew no bounds thanks to technology and the help of our technical staff. They accepted the challenge and carried it out excellently!
LUQ Schoolyard teachers and students participate in training week of the VT EPSCoR RACC program, June, 2015.
Elliot Lopez, together with students Kristopher Santa and Keisha Mestey from the Juan Ponce de Leon High School of Florida, Puerto Rico, and Glenda Lee Almodóvar, together with students Grecia C. Izquierdo Torres and José G. Izquierdo Torres from Áurea E. Quiles Claudio High School of Guánica, Puerto Rico, participated in the High School Student and Teachers Training Week of the VT EPSCoR Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) Program. This program integrates high school teachers and students who participate as a team in a research effort.
Both Guánica's and Florida's student-teacher teams attended a residential training week from June 22-26, 2015 at the Saint Michael’s College campus in Winooski Park, Colchester, Vermont. During this week, they were introduced to the interactions of climate, environment, society and land use policy involved in the RACC research program, learned field-based research skills, and launched their research projects, which they will carry out from July, 2015 through March 2016. The Florida team's research topic is related to macro-invertebrates as water quality indicators in a northern karst stream in PR, and the Guánica team will investigate the Presence of heavy metal in soil on the Guánica Bay. In April, 2016, the teams will return to Vermont to share their findings at the annual VT EPSCoR Student Research Symposium, where they will present a poster or an oral presentation.
LTER and CSMER
This year, the Luquillo LTER welcomed Suzette Rivera Otero, a high school science teacher from CEDIN: Escuela Laboratorio de la Universidad Interamericana, to El Verde Field Station as part of a two week intense summer research internship experience sponsored by the Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research (CSMER) of the University of Puerto Rico and the National Science Foundation. Through this opportunity she was introduced to several LTER projects conducted at the field station, with a focus on the Canopy Trimming Experiment. Suzette worked closely with Dr. Jean Lodge (USDA Forest Service), our program coordinator Sarah Stankavich, post-doctoral researcher Adriana Herrera, and field technicians Samuel Matta and John Bithorn. Suzette participated in the collection of soil and fungal mat data, and utilized the soil and water nutrient databases to develop a research question based. The experience will serve as the basis for potentially developing a student-based project in her classroom to be carried out over the course of the coming school year.
Suzette and Dr. Lodge measuring fungal mats
in the CTE plots
Photos from the poster session at the annual LTER meeting in June.