Experimental Plots

Both exhausting, in-the-full-Virginia-heat sampling sessions are over for the summer, so now I finally have time to talk about the interesting things I’ve learned and come across during my research this semester! For those who don’t remember my abstract, I am studying the effects that deer overpopulation is having on plant communities in the College Woods. To do this, I’m comparing the number of individuals and the types of species present in deer excluded plots versus deer open plots.

To start off with, I thought I’d explain a little more what I mean by “plots.” In the College Woods are 32 10mx10m plots. Half of them are surrounded by 7ft fencing to keep out deer. Within each plot are four subplots, but I only sample two of the four subplots in any one plot. There are large PVC pipes in the center of the two subplots I sample, and smaller pipes designating the corners of all the subplots. Before I sample each subplot, I set up four poles aligned to the cardinal directions and attach the “ring-a-ma-jig” (a 1m length of chain with a screwdriver at the end) to the center pole. Below is a picture of one of the subplots after all the equipment has been put in place. Knowing the cardinal directions of each plot helps us to find specific plants later if need be. I use the ring-a-ma-jig to designate a circle 1m in diameter, which is the section I actually sample. By “sampling,” I mean that I identify every single individual in the subplot down to the species (if possible, some are more difficult than others) and record that plant’s height. It’s a bit of a long process, but the more data we have, the more we can learn!

This is what my field research generally looks like!

This is what my field research generally looks like!

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