This Thursday, the Ecology class (BIOL 210) at Sewanee visited our long-term vegetation plots in the Franklin-Marion State Forest.
I began the lab with a short introduction to the site and the study design and ended with discussion of some of the patterns seen in the data. I displayed this freshly-entered data on ArcMap in order to do some initial data exploration and pattern identification.
Dr. Evans led the class to explore the sites and formulate hypotheses about the distribution and abundance of species and lifeforms based on observations. Tip-up mounds – which are created when large trees are blown over due to wind and their roots pull up the soil, forming pits and mounds of soil – and the distribution of herbaceous plants were the focus of many hypotheses formulated by the class.
This simple exercise is the first step in formulating a hypothesis which the students will test in groups as part of the course. Franklin State Forest is one of the potential study areas, and it has the benefit of having a robust and long-term dataset.
While there, I stopped by certain plots in order to collect flowering plants, particularly some Asteraceae, in order to identify the species of the watershed. Many of these were not flowering during our summer field season, and flowers are required for the identifications down to species of certain groups.
Some other common herbs were now flowering, such as Appalachian bunchflower (Veratrum parviflorum) and Canada Horsebalm (Collinsonia canadensis), which is known for its medicinal value.