Erin Frick '14

Harvard Forest - Petersham, MA 

As an REU intern at Harvard Forest, I lived on-site in Petersham, Massachusetts in a house shared by fourteen fellow undergraduate research students. There were thirty students in the program, many of whom collaborated in teams of two or three, working on a variety of ecological research projects. For my particular project, I studied phenology, which is the study of recurring biological events such as vegetation growth cycles and animal migration. As plant growth is correlated to land surface temperature, these measures are indicative of climate change trends. Remote sensing devices such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) may be used to estimate phenological trends using measures of vegetation greenness inferred from wavelengths of reflected solar radiation. A question that is often addressed using these data is where and how vegetation phenology is shifting in response to climate change. Several datasets within the MODIS archive (which differ as a result of unique processing nuances involving compositing procedures, algorithmic manipulation and incorporation of ancillary data) provide time series of vegetation greenness and it is necessary to determine which of these products provides the greatest quantity of reliable data to accurately estimate the timing of phenological events. This technology, when refined through current research, will be an invaluable tool for anyone studying climate change for a variety of applications. Each research group presented their work at a symposium at the end of the summer. Following the formal conclusion of the program, I maintained contact with my mentors and continued this research through the fall semester as an independent study project and presented my findings at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December.