First things first, upon landing in Manchester and driving out to Wales- I stopped by the Rhizotron experiment. Like a parent picking up their kids from summer camp, I was anxious to see how the trees have been growing. Certainly the experiment has been well looked after this summer thanks to Nigel, and the Friends of Treborth team. You can see I'm still functioning on adrenaline reserves after the long flight back from Australia, and I'm very excited to see that not only have all of the trees survived (Mortality rate of zero!), but everything is very green and lush.
Most noticeably, the red alders have really taken off! In the photo above, there is a great contrast in height between the sycamore and oak plot to the left of where I am standing, in comparison to the lofty alders that have attained my height. All this, despite some persistent caterpillar herbivory activity. I cannot really blame the caterpillars for selecting this highly nutritious (and nitrogen-rich) alder leaves for food. I am still waiting for these caterpillars to develop so I can identify them.
I also ventured in to London for the British Ecological Society's Ecological Ambassador training day. I took the earliest train in, waking up at 4 AM that morning, and while I did spill my coffee I did manage the journey otherwise unhindered. It was my first time in London, and I think I had forgotten how to function when popping off trains in big cities. I was being outpaced by businesswomen in stilettos as the masses swarmed towards the exists at London Euston (photographic evidence that I made it out of the station without being trampled, below). I saw the famed red double decker buses, and passed by Kings Cross station on my way to the Charles Darwin House for educational outreach training with my fellow cohort of PhD students. We spent the day discussing objectives and outcomes for outreach education projects, and walked through a nearby city park to discuss working with the surrounding environment wherever schools are located. By the end of the day everyone departed with a clear lesson plan and new ideas about future lesson planning to extend the wonder and rigor of ecological sciences to young biology students throughout the UK.
Relena is a forest ecologist and researches how trees and soils interact. She also likes to run through areas populated by trees.