Campus Updates

Visit the Campus Updates page for information on Mount Holyoke’s response to the global pandemic. The Opening the Gates website contains the plan for the spring semester.


Project Stream

Photo of a student performing research at the Restoration Ecology site

A real-life restoration project, the Project Stream site is used to measure change over time and under different restoration methodologies and environmental conditions.

Tidmarsh Restoration

Photo of two students doing Tidmarsh research

Potential development trajectories and biogeochemical cycling of retired agricultural (cranberry bog) sites

Assistant Professor Kate Ballantine is a principal investigator for a 250-acre restoration project taking place at Tidmarsh Farms, a retired cranberry farm in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This project involves dozens of academic, state, federal, and non-governmental partners working within the non-profit learning initiative of the Living Observatory, and is serving as a “gold standard” for the thousands of acres of cranberry farms that are projected to be eligible for restoration in this region in the coming decades. Background research has been taking place at the site since 2000, and active restoration work began in the summer of 2015. Ballantine is leading the effort to understand how biogeochemical functions at this site change over time with restoration, and how these functions differ under different land use trajectories. Current work compares soil-based functions among an active cranberry farm, a recently restored cranberry farm (now a wetland), an in-progress cranberry farm restoration, and a natural reference site.


Photo of a researcher working with Biochar

The influence of biochar on wetland development and functions

Biochar is pyrolyzed organic matter (very similar to charcoal), and has been shown in many studies to improve soil function. The Restoration Ecology lab has been investigating the influence of biochar on the development and functions of restored wetlands through two projects. The first project examines the effect of biochar loading rates on the water quality and vegetative functions in a series of restored vernal pools. The second project compares the ecosystem functions of wetlands restored with different types of biochar and other soil amendments. Both wetlands and biochar are considered potential long-term carbon stores, but much remains to be learned about the influence of biochar on wetland structure, function, and development over time.

Soil Microbial Communities

Photo of a researcher working in a restored wetland

Metagenomics of soil microbial communities in restored wetlands

Assistant Professor Kate Ballantine and collaborator Jason Andras are working to characterize the microbial community of restored wetlands soils using a metagenomic sequencing approach. This project is intended to illuminate if and how functional groups of microbial communities vary with restoration methodology, and how these communities change over time.

Aging Wetlands

Photo of an aging wetland

Effect of aging on soil characteristics and microbial-based functions in restored wetlands

An ongoing project to understand the long-term development of restored wetlands based on the data from a chronosequence of 56 restored wetlands ranging in age from new to more than 70 years old.

Restoration Methodology, Vegetative Composition, and Ecosystem Function

Photo of a restored wetland

Long-term development and ecosystem functions of wetlands restored with different soil amendments

This project uses a series of four replicated wetlands amended with soil treatments that range along a gradient of carbon lability to understand how different initial soil properties influence vegetative and soil characteristics of restored wetlands over time.

Wetlands in a Changing Climate

Photo of instruments used in a laboratory mesocosm experiment

Water quality and biogeochemical cycling in wetlands under different climate scenarios

Assistant Professor Kate Ballantine and Postdoctoral Researcher Todd Anderson are establishing a laboratory mesocosm experiment to inform field experiments both on and off campus. The first set of experiments investigates the influence of soil properties on desirable water quality functions and undesirable greenhouse gas emissions under different environmental scenarios predicted by climate change models. The results of the laboratory experiments are being tested in the field by setting up a large-scale experiment at Tidmarsh Farms, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We anticipate the complementary nature of field-scale and experimental mesocosm projects will provide countless research opportunities for students to examine the development and functions of wetland soils, plants, and functions under different restoration and climatic scenarios.